About Sexual Abuse

What is Child Sexual Abuse?

Definition of Child Sexual Abuse according to the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA):
The employment, use, persuasion, inducement, enticement, or coercion of any child to engage in, or assist any other person to engage in, any sexually explicit conduct or simulation of such conduct for the purpose of producing a visual depiction of such conduct; or the rape, and in cases of caretaker or interfamilial relationships, statutory rape, molestation, prostitution, or other form of sexual exploitation of children, or incest with children.

What You Should Know
“Stranger danger” is obsolete. We know that in 90% of child abuse cases, a child is assaulted by someone they know, love and trust.


Grooming Process
The first stage of child sexual abuse can be a series of subtle behaviors and statements, which is referred to as “grooming.” The grooming process allows predators to desensitize children, preparing them to be tricked into sexual abuse. Children most at risk for grooming are children who have experienced a degree of emotional, social or economic disadvantage.

Watch grooming and pedophile tactics video.

Tactics of the Perpetrator

  • Paying attention to a child who appears emotionally needy
  • “Accidentally” or purposefully exposing themselves
  • Coming out of the bath, wearing shorts that allow a view of the genitals, openly praising nudity as “normal,” etc.
  • Giving gifts or money, taking the child places, providing alcohol or drugs
  • Engaging in physical contact such as wrestling, tickling, pats on the butt, etc.
  • Showing adult magazines or films, letting the child know he/she can come to them for sexual information or concerns
  • Telling the child that he/she needs to examine the child’s body for some reason
  • Asking questions about the child’s sexual development, fantasies, masturbation habits, or giving the child more information about sex than is appropriate for the child’s age or developmental level
  • Staring at the child or looking at his/her body in a way that makes him/her uncomfortable.

What to Look For

  • Child does not want to be around certain adults
  • Child suddenly acquires new unexplainable toys, money and clothes
  • Regressive behaviors (thumb sucking, bed wetting)
  • Fear of previously enjoyed people and places
  • Engaging in acting out or delinquent behaviors

Upon Disclosure

How to Respond to Disclosure of Abuse
An adult’s reaction to disclosure plays an important role in the beginning of the healing process for the child. Resist the urge to react strongly to the news or display anger toward the abuser. Instead, consider:

What to Say

  • “I believe you.”
  • “I’m really glad that you told me. It took a lot of courage to tell me.”
  • “It’s not your fault.”
  • “We will work together to get you help. I will need to tell some other people who help protect children.”

Action Steps
If you feel your child has become the victim of sexual abuse, call your local authorities or children’s advocacy center. Under Florida law, all Floridians must report suspected abuse to the DCF Abuse Reporting Hotline.