What is child sexual abuse?

What is child sexual abuse?

According to German law, sexual abuse of children includes every sexual action against the child’s will or to which they cannot knowingly agree because of physical, mental, intellectual or linguistic inferiority. Thereby, the offender exploits his position of power or authority to still his needs at the child’s cost.   

Concerning children below the age of 14, it is assumed that they cannot knowingly agree to sexual acts with adults. This means that an abuse also exists even if the child verbally agrees.

(Website of the Federal Commissioner for questions relating to sexual abuse: http://beauftragter-missbrauch.de)


What are depictions of abuse?

According to German law, the possession, acquisition or distribution of depictions (such as pictures or videos) of sexual abuse against children and/or adolescents (i.e. child pornography) is a criminal act. The consumption of depictions of abuse creates an additional distance to the victims compared to direct acts of abuse. However, the basis of every depiction of sexual abuse is a real sexual abuse of children. Children whose sexual abuse was recorded, suffer additionally from the continued existence of the representation of their sexual abuse on the internet.

In addition, the consumption of depictions of abuse can lower the inhibition threshold to commit direct sexual abuse children by themselves.


Who commits these acts of abuse?

Less than half of the acts of sexual abuse (25-40%, Schäfer, Mundt & Feelgood, 2010; Seto, 2008) are committed by people who are sexually attracted by children (pedophilia). Therefore, a distinction between pedophilia and sexual abuse has to be made. There are many different reasons why people commit acts of sexual child abuse. For example the desire to exercise power or the desire to feel superior.