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What is Molestation?

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When we see instances of sexual abuse and molestation in the news, the definitions of certain things can be clouded. Over the last decade, may high profile organizations have been put in the spotlight of sexual abuse of minors, particularly religious organizations and members of the clergy.

Today, we want to define molestation and discuss how it relates to and leads to sexual abuse. If you have children, it is important to understand all aspects of child abuse in order to prevent it from happening. You also need to know what to do if you suspect your child has been abused.

Defining Molestation of Children

Sexual abuse, which we will define further in a moment, can happen across all ages. However, molestation is generally used to refer to instances of abuse that happen to younger children. When a child is very young, molestation can occur when:

  • A child is forced to touch someone in an inappropriate manner
  • They themselves are touched in an inappropriate manner
  • They are forced to perform oral sex
  • A child made to watch an adult masturbate

What is Sexual Abuse?

Sexual abuse is defined as any sexual activity or sexually motivated behavior done to someone without their consent. As opposed to molestation, sexual abuse happens over a longer period of time and involves actual physical penetration. Child sexual abuse can involve any touching of a minor’s genitals for the needs or sexual pleasure of an adult or older child.

Children cannot give permission for any sexual activity. Even if a child willingly goes along with the sexual behavior, they are not legally able to give consent. In many cases, an adult accused of child sexual abuse or molestation may say that the child initiated the sexual contact. Legally, it is always the adult’s responsibility to stop the activity.

What are Signs that Molestation is Happening to a Child?

There are signs that parents, guardians, and other adults should be on the lookout for when it comes to child molestation and sexual abuse. In some cases, there are actual physical signs and symptoms such as difficulty walking or standing, unexplained bruises, bruising or swelling in the genital area, and sexually transmitted infections. However, some signs and symptoms are not as visible and can include:

  • Sudden changes in behavior
  • Withdrawn behaviors
  • Depression
  • Self-mutilation
  • Guilt
  • Bedwetting
  • Problems in school (with grades or discipline)
  • Psychosomatic symptoms (stomachaches, headaches, trouble sleeping, etc.)

Listen to what your child talks about. If there is a sudden interest in sexual activity or sexual topics, this could be a red flag that something is going on.

How Often Does a Minor get Molested or Abused?

We know that around one out of every ten children will be abused before their 18th birthday. Abuse is more prevalent in girls (one in every seven girls is abused), though boys are still often the victims (one out of every 25 boys). In 90% of child sexual abuse or molestation cases, the victim knows their abuser.

If you suspect your child is being sexually abused or molested, contact the police right away. Make sure your child is not put back into a position where the abuse can continue and seek counseling for them. Consider speaking with an experienced personal injury lawyer to explore your legal options to help recover costs related to abuse.