What is sexual abuse?

At the extreme end of the spectrum, sexual abuse includes sexual intercourse, sexual penetration, or its variations. These behaviors may only be the last step in a progressive pattern of sexual abuse. For that reason and because of their effects, exhibitionism, fondling, and any other sexual contact with children is also considered sexually abusive. Concern for safety or risk involving sexual abuse could include when a caregiver does not protect a child from being sexually abused by others.


Non-touching sexual abuse may include:

  • indecent exposure or exhibitionism
  • exposing children to pornographic material
  • deliberately exposing a child to the act of sexual intercourse
  • masturbation in presence of a child
  • making sexually provocative comments to a child
  • harrassing, encouraging, pressuring, or propositioning a child to perform sexually
  • voyeurism


Touching sexual abuse may include:

  • fondling of private areas
  • making a child touch another’s sexual organs
  • any penetration or attempt at penetration of a child’s vagina, anus, or mouth by a penis or any other object without a valid medical purpose


Sexual exploitation of a child may include:

  • engaging a child or soliciting a child for the purposes of prostitution
  • using a child in the recording, filming, photographing or as a model in the filming or photographing of pornographic material
  • denying a child access to developmentally appropriate privacy


What sexual activity between children is of concern?

Sexual activity between children should be considered a risk in most situations if an age difference of four years or more exists, if coercion exists, if one child is pre-pubescent and the other is post-pubescent, or if children are of similar age, but one child has a cognitive or physical limitation. If the acts appear to be more sophisticated than age appropriate, consideration should be given to possible sexual victimization of at least one of these children by a third party.


What does North Dakota law say about sex offenses and sexual performances by children?

In North Dakota, the criminal statute for sex offenses is NDCC 12.1-20. The criminal statute on sexual performances by children is NDCC 12.1-27.2.


What are some of the effects of child sexual abuse?

The effects of sexual abuse on a child can be serious and long-lasting.

Some of these signs may not be obvious until the child has become an adult and can include the following.


Emotional or psychological effects:

  • extreme anger
  • aggressive behavior
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • depression
  • anxiety
  • substance abuse
  • eating disorders
  • confusion about identity
  • nightmares or trouble sleeping
  • sexual dysfunction
  • juvenile delinquency
  • self mutilation
  • Borderline Personality Disorder
  • suicide ideation or attempt

Physical effects:

  • injury to the genital area
  • painful urination or stomachaches
  • sexually transmitted diseases including AIDS


Why is talking about abuse important?

The impact on the child depends primarily on the way the family responds to the situation. A child usually believes that she or he is responsible for the assault and the resulting crisis in the family. It is critical that the child receives strong family support and is reassured that the abuse is not the child’s fault.

Helping to get the child’s fears and feelings out in the open and dealing with them could do a great deal to reduce the harm the incident may have caused the child.