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Child Abuse

Child Abuse Introduction

Child abuse is defined as a variety of harmful behaviors directed against children. It can take many forms. Child abuse in general is a psychological problem or perversion of the abuser. The abuser is referred to as the perpetrator of abuse.

  • Child abuse includes the following conditions:
    • Child sexual abuse
    • Pedophilia
    • Physical abuse
    • Child neglect
    • Emotional neglect and abuse
    • Failure to thrive
    • Munchausen by proxy syndrome

The descriptions of child abuse in the next section are intended for people who have questions about abuse, what it is, and how it may present itself. Although some cases of child abuse are obvious, many are not. Early recognition of child abuse tendencies and intervention at the point of recognition is the only way to avoid the liability of criminal prosecution.

These descriptions may help you identify abuse in its various forms. You will also find information about what you can do if you observe child abuse or if you are a parent dealing with problems that are straining your capacity to cope with the parenting experience.

If you think you are acting in an abusive way or are having a difficult time with your children or yourself as a parent, you may have identified a tendency to be abusive. These tendencies can include the following:

  • Excessive and loud verbal confrontation
  • Excessive corporal punishment
  • Sexual feelings or excessive feelings of anger about children

Tendencies can be treated more effectively than the frank abusive behavior that can evolve from a tendency. You will want to seek help early to avoid the tendency evolving into an act of abuse.

If you observe child abuse in others, you are obligated to report the abuse to the police or medical authorities.

Child Sexual Abuse and Pedophilia

Child sexual abuse includes any activity that uses a child to create sexual gratification either in you or in others. Although the touching of children as a sign of affection and for hygiene is considered normal and necessary, there is a way to distinguish normal touching from child sexual abuse. The key is the intention by the perpetrator to be sexually aroused by the activity or the intention to create sexual arousal in others. The intent to use children in any way to create sexual arousal is illegal. This is criminal behavior that is aggressively prosecuted and severely punished by our legal system.

Child sexual abuse can include a wide variety of activities. Some are obvious acts of sexual abuse and others must be evaluated to determine if they are designed to create sexual gratification.

  • Activities can include any conventional adult sexual activity with a child. Also included are acts such as touching the child's genitals or fondling with the intention of arousing sexual feelings.
  • Child sexual abuse includes prolonged kissing, cuddling, French kissing, and excessive touching. Looking at children either with or without clothes with the intent to be sexually aroused is also included.
  • Photographing, videotaping, or filming of children with the intent to create sexual stimulation is a form of child abuse as well.
  • Other forms of child sexual abuse include exposure of a child to erotic material in the form of live behavior (excessive nudity), photographs, film, or video. The collection of any photographs or images of children taken by others in suggestive poses is illegal. The collection of any excessive number of photographs of naked children in any pose may draw the attention of law enforcement.
  • Any efforts to seduce a minor into a sexual relationship, whether the act is accomplished or not, is considered a form of child sexual abuse and can result in severe legal consequences. Inappropriate intimacy with children is also regarded as child sexual abuse.
  • Most cases of child sexual abuse are ultimately discovered. Once discovered, the perpetrator faces legal prosecution. Broad and flexible laws have been crafted and are aimed at preventing child sexual abuse. These laws give law enforcement personnel and prosecutors great latitude to classify and prosecute cases of perceived child sexual abuse behavior.
  • Acceptable displays of affection or inadvertent incidents that result in exposure of a child to a sexual act or sexual material (for example, a child walking into a closed bedroom while the parents are having sex or finding an adult magazine) are not considered criminal.
  • To identify the physical signs of child sexual abuse, parents should know the normal appearance of the genitalia of their child so that they can identify if any changes occur. If a child complains about problems with his or her genitals, take the child to the family doctor for examination. Children in day care, children cared for by others, or children who spend time alone with other people may be at risk of sexual abuse.
  • Changes in behavior, including discipline problems, fecal soiling, bed wetting, insomnia, nightmares, depression, or other changes in the way a child normally acts can be signs of sexual abuse. Parents should discuss the possible reasons for such changes in behaviors with professionals who are in a position to properly evaluate the behavioral changes and explore the possibility of child sexual abuse.

Pedophilia is a form of child sexual abuse. It is a condition which is defined as an adult who has sexual interest in children.

  • Someone with an erotic interest in children may collect material that showcases a child in sexual poses. The person may seek interaction with children with the intention of satisfying an erotic or sexual desire or actively seek a sexual relationship with a child. These nonsexual forms of interaction, even if well intentioned, can be construed as sexual. Adults who seek actual physical sexual relations with children are the most extreme and deviant of the pedophiles.
  • Using children to create erotic materials or for erotic acts with other adults is another form of child sexual abuse. In this form, the intention is to arouse others and may or may not be used to arouse the abuser as well. The law does not distinguish one from the other. Both are severely prosecuted.
  • Pedophilia, although a mental disorder, if not resisted, repressed, and treated, will result in the most severe legal consequences. The law does not tolerate pedophilia. It is imperative that any person who feels sexually attracted to children to immediately seek help from a qualified therapist. People who use children to create sexual arousal for others are already involved in serious criminal activity. Report any suspicions to authorities immediately.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/10/2016

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