When one person (regardless of their level of current or prior level or familial or intimate status) imposes or forces unwanted sexual behavior on another person, it is defined as sexual abuse or molestation. Sexual abuse can come in numerous forms and it is not always overt and clear, especially to a child. It can happen through physical (touch) acts and non-touching actions. Sometimes threats, violence, and intimidation are used in the attack. The person who initiates the unwanted behavior is the sexual abuser or molester.
In adults, sexual abuse includes assault, rape, and harassment. Sexual abuse is not restricted to race, ethnicity, gender or culture, and is very prevalent in relationships effected by domestic violence. Anyone can become a victim of sexual abuse: children, women, men, elders, teens, the disabled, gays, and lesbians. Unfortunately, sexual abuse can happen anywhere - at school, at home, at daycare, at work, at a friend's house, at a park, and within any kind of a relationship.
When someone is too young to give consent and is used in sexual activities, this is defined as child sexual abuse since children are in no position to give consent to any kind of sexual activity. Therefore, when an adult or teenager engages in unwanted sexual activity with a child or uses a child for their own sexual gratification, it is described as Child Sexual Abuse. Legally, the term Child Sexual Abuse is an umbrella term, which classifies all sexual acts committed by an adult on a child or a minor, and is one of the vilest things anyone can do; yet, it happens every day.
Generally, cases of sexual abuse tend to occur in an adult-child relationship. But, abuse can happen when both the abuser and victim are children. Abuse generally happens at the hands of a family member - father, mother, aunt, uncle, cousin, step-father/mother or even a sibling. This sometimes makes it more difficult for the victim to come forward or understand that something bad is happening to them. If they do come forward, their parent or guardian may not believe them because it's easier to ignore the problem than confront something ugly.
The immediate symptoms, which may be displayed by someone following an attack, are fear, shock and a sense of disbelief that this actually happened. Long term, the psychological symptoms may intensify, and the victim may suffer from mental health issues. Common effects seen in child victims of sexual abuse can include the following: depression; accidental Pregnancy; Discrimination and social stigma; post-traumatic stress disorder and complex post-traumatic stress disorder; anxiety, low self-esteem, problems with sexual intimacy or developing relationships may also become an issue. When the first sexual experience for someone is a negative one, especially at a young age, every sexual encounter or relationship after that can lead to a negative emotional reaction, flashbacks, PTSD or anxiety. Sometimes, the adult survivor is unable to find any joy in consensual sexual experiences.
Adults and children who are victims or witnesses of sexual abuse are often unable or unwilling to discuss it. They, especially children, may feel confused, scared or unsure that something bad has happening to them, especially when the abuser is someone they love and trust. For children, the onus is often on the parents or the guardians to keep an eye out for unusual behavior and warning signs. For sexual abuse survivors to move past these trauma factors, they have to understand how each factor affects them individually. They also must understand that they were not to blame for what happened. This is why psychotherapy is a beneficial treatment method for sexual abuse survivors.