Child Sexual Abuse (CSA)

CSA takes many forms and the following information will briefly describe and define the various types of CSA as well as outlining the work around investigation of Institutional CSA currently being undertaken in the UK.



A child is sexually abused when they are forced or persuaded to take part in sexual activities. This doesn't have to be physical contact and it can happen online. Sometimes the child won't understand that what's happening to them is abuse. They may not even understand that it's wrong (NSPCC 2017).



The NSPCC further defines child sexual abuse in the following ways:

There are two different types of child sexual abuse. These are called contact abuse and non-contact abuse. Contact abuse involves touching activities where an abuser makes physical contact with a child, including penetration. It includes:

  • sexual touching of any part of the body whether the child's wearing clothes or not
  • rape or penetration by putting an object or body part inside a child's mouth, vagina or anus
  • forcing or encouraging a child to take part in sexual activity
  • making a child take their clothes off, touch someone else's genitals or masturbate.

Non-contact abuse involves non-touching activities, such as grooming, exploitation, persuading children to perform sexual acts over the internet and flashing. It includes:

  • encouraging a child to watch or hear sexual acts
  • not taking proper measures to prevent a child being exposed to sexual activities by others
  • meeting a child following sexual grooming with the intent of abusing them
  • online abuse including making, viewing or distributing child abuse images
  • allowing someone else to make, view or distribute child abuse images
  • showing pornography to a child
  • sexually exploiting a child for money, power or status (child exploitation).

Detailed information is avaiable via the following link about Child Sexual Exploitation (CSA), Child Trafficking, Grooming and FGM.

There are also official definitions from the NSPCC which differ slightly across the UK.


Further information

  • CSA information from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health – most of the resources here are free. There is a particular section on the Child Protection Companion which is password protected for RCPCH members only. The revised RCPCH CSA manual 'Physical signs of child sexual abuse' (2015) can only be purchased as a hard copy.
  • Institutional Child Sexual Abuse – the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA). This review is currently led by Dame Alexis Jay and covers just England and Wales but has links with similar ongoing work in Scotland and Northern Ireland. The remit of the IICSA is to examine past and present child sexual abuse (up to 18 years) which has occurred in an institutional setting and/or was reported to someone in authority. It will also look at abuse which occurred in children who were subject to migrant schemes historically or who have been trafficked to the UK. The inquiry will cover 13 institutions including Health, Education, Armed forces, Government departments, Local Authority, Police, Prisons, and the Church. A first Interim report is expected at the end of 2018 but already there is a considerable amount on the website which has published a report based on the experiences of the first 44 victims and survivors. This is part of the 'Truth project' which is an integral part of the review. Health professionals are encouraged to have knowledge of this project and it is suggested that patients are able to be in touch with colleagues if they are/have been a victim or a survivor of CSA in childhood. Contact can be via the website or at
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