Personal Safety

Child Abuse: Sexual abuse

What is Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse occurs when a person uses power or authority over a child to involve the child in sexual activity and the child’s parent or caregiver has not protected the child. Physical force is sometimes involved. Child sexual abuse involves a wide range of sexual activity. It includes fondling of the child’s genitals, masturbation, oral sex, vaginal or anal penetration by a penis, finger or other object, or exposure of the child to pornography.

How can abuse and neglect be recognised?
Behavioural or physical signs which assist in recognising child abuse are known as indicators. A single indicator can be as import- ant an indicator as the presence of several indicators. A child’s behaviour is likely to be affected if he/she is under stress. There can be many causes of stress, including child abuse, and it is important to find out specifically what is causing the stress.

Sexual abuse is not usually identified through physical indicators. Of- ten the first sign is when a child tells someone they trust that they have been sexually abused. However the presence of sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy, or vaginal or anal bleeding or discharge may indicate sexual abuse.

One or more of these behavioural indicators may be present:

  • Child telling someone that sexual abuse has occurred
  • Complaining of headaches or stomach pains
  • Experiencing problems with schoolwork
  • Displaying sexual behaviour or knowledge which is unusual for the child’s age
  • Showing behaviour such as frequent rocking, sucking and biting • Experiencing difficulties in sleeping
  • Having difficulties in relating to adults and peers

For those who are concerned about a child in relation to child abuse or neglect to making a report to child protection services in Victoria.

Protective Concerns
You are concerned about a child because you have:

  • Received a disclosure from a child about abuse or neglect
  • Observed indicators of abuse or neglect
  • Been made aware of possible harm via your involvement in the community external to your professional role At all times remember to:
  • Record your observations
  • Follow appropriate protocols
  • Consult notes and records
  • Consult with appropriate colleagues if necessary
  • Consult with other support agencies if necessary

Child abuse is a serious problem. In Victoria, if you suspect a case of child abuse or are mandated to report abuse, then you can contact Child Protection for advice. For immediate help To report concerns that are life threatening call Victoria Police 000. To report concerns about the immedi- ate safety of a child within their family unit, call the Child Protection Crisis Line 13 12 78 (24 hours, 7 days a week, toll free within Victoria) For more information visit Department of Human Services –

Understanding Child Sexual Abuse and Responding
Increased recognition of child sexual abuse has led to a dramatic increase in the number of children who have experienced sexual abuse being reported to child protection and the police.

The Department of Human Services is responsible for protective investigations where sexual abuse of a child or young person by a parent or caregiver is suspected and the child or young person is not protected from this abuse.

Professionals working with children are likely to come in contact with children who have experienced sexual abuse. They need to be skilled and prepared to recognise and respond to child sexual abuse and support child victims and their families.

This booklet will help professionals respond to this serious social problem.

Understanding Child Sexual Abuse and Responding (PDF 130.6 KB)

You and your child: Guide for parents

This booklet has been written for non-offending parents of children who have been sexually abused.

It is often difficult for a non-offending parent to know how to act when faced with the news that their child has been sexually abused.

You and Your Child: Guide for Parents (PDF 186.8 KB)


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Who to Contact

Victoria Police
Ph: 000

After Hours Child Protection Emergency Service
Ph: 131 278 (5.00pm - 9.00am Monday - Friday, 24 hours on weekends and public holidays)

CASA Crisis Line
Ph: (03) 9344 2210
Ph: 1800 806 292 - Rural free call

Domestic Violence & Incest Resource Centre
Ph: (03) 9486 9866