Sexual Abuse - Alberta Human Services - Government of Alberta

Sexual Abuse

Sexual Abuse is the inappropriate exposure or subjection of a child to sexual contact, activity or behaviour by a parent or guardian.

Sexual abuse can include:

  • “non-touching” activities (e.g. obscene phone calls/conversations, indecent exposure or exhibitionism, masturbation in front of a child, deliberate exposure to others engaged in sexual activities, exposure to any forms of pornographic material)
  • “sexual touching” activities (e.g. fondling a child, making a child touch an adult’s genital area, or sexual intercourse)
  • “sexual exploitation” (e.g. engaging a child for prostitution, using a child in pornography or luring a child via the Internet for sexual purposes). In Alberta, children and youth under the age of 18 who are involved in prostitution are considered to be victims of sexual abuse, and have legislation to protect them. We have more information about sexual exploitation.

A child who has been sexually abused may or may not show any behavioural or emotional reaction to sexual abuse. The most important sign of sexual abuse is a child telling someone about the abuse. Because children commonly delay telling anyone about chronic or acute abuse, all disclosures should be taken seriously.

Listed below are some possible signs, of sexual abuse or sexual exploitation.

Physical signs

The child may:

  • have a sexually transmitted disease
  • be pregnant at a very young age
  • have genital discharge, infection or bleeding
  • have physical trauma or irritations in the anal and genital areas
  • have pain when urinating or defecating
  • have problems walking or sitting due to genital or anal pain
  • have stomach aches, headaches or other psychosomatic complaints

Sexual Behavioural signs

The child may:

  • express premature or inappropriate curiosity or understanding of sexual behaviour
  • display inappropriate or aggressive seductive or sexual behaviour with peers, teachers or other adults
  • use sexually explicit language or make sexually explicit drawings
  • masturbate compulsively
  • have poor hygiene or bathe excessively
  • abuse alcohol or drugs
  • be unable to concentrate
  • have school problems or have a significant change in school performance
  • start to display regressive behaviour (e.g. wet or soil their pants, wet the bed, thumb-sucking)
  • become withdrawn, anxious, fearful or depressed
  • resist diaper changes or going to the bathroom
  • have eating disturbances (e.g. overeating or under-eating)
  • have sleep disturbances (e.g. nightmares, afraid to go to sleep, sleeping long hours)
  • lack social skills and have trouble making friends

Call 310‑0000 to obtain the telephone number of your local office or call the Child Abuse Hotline: 1‑800‑387‑5437 to report a concern.

Modified: 2012-11-13
PID: 15392