Another form of sexual violence is Child Sexual Abuse. This crime occurs when a child under the age of 16 is used or exploited by an adult or adolescent for sexual purposes (either directly or indirectly). Examples of Child Sexual Abuse include any sexual act, voyeurism, pornography, internet child exploitation, and prostitution.
The age of consent for sexual activity is now 16 years of age. Section 151 of the Criminal Code of Canada states that touching a person under the age of 16 for sexual purposes is a crime. There are, however, two “close-in-age” exceptions in place:
- A youth of 12 or 13 can consent to sexual activity with someone who is less than two years older.
- A 14- or 15-year-old can consent to sexual activity with someone who is less than five years older than she or he
- Note that both exceptions are void, however, if the accused person is in a position of trust or authority (for instance, a coach)
What do the statistics show?
Even more so than sexual assault, child sexual abuse is a crime that largely goes unheard and unseen – often in children’s own homes. Children might not understand what has happened to them or have the vocabulary to explain their experiences of abuse to others. Children might also be afraid to disclose because they believe either that they are to blame or that nobody will believe them. Still, recent statistics include:
- In 85% of cases reported to police in 2007, children and youth under the age of 18 were most likely to be physically or sexually assaulted by someone they know7
- In the same year, girls experienced four times the rate of family-perpetrated sexual assault than boys8
- Male family members were accused in 96% of family-perpetrated sexual assaults9
Preventing Child Sexual Abuse
Keeping our children safe requires adults to remain educated and understand the risks. Keep in mind the following steps in helping to prevent child sexual abuse:
- Minimize opportunities for one-adult/one-child situations (remember that child sexual abuse, like sexual assault, is most often perpetrated by someone known to the child)
- Monitor children’s internet use and teach them not to disclose contact info on the net to minimize risk of child internet exploitation
- Insist that child and youth supervisors have complete history and criminal record checks
- Keep communication lines open and healthy with children (teach them about their bodies, use proper vocabulary, explain to them what abuse is, and ask them questions if they seem uncomfortable)
- Stay alert to changes on the child’s body or in his/her routine
- Stay educated about the issue10
2 Johnson, H., Measuring Violence Against Women–Statistical Trends 2006. Ottawa: Statistics Canada, 2006.
3 Vallaincourt, Roxan. Gender Differences in Police-Reported Violent Crime in Canada, 2008. Minister of Industry, 2010.
5 Women in Canada: A Gender-based Statistical Report. Ottawa: Statistics Canada, 2005.
6 Gender Differences.
7 Family Violence in Canada: A Statistical Profile. Ottawa: Statistics Canada, 2009.
10 The above steps have been adapted from the Little Warriors steps to prevention. Little Warriors is a Canadian charity focused on educating adults on how to help prevent, recognize and react responsibly to child sexual abuse.