Most sexual child abuse is not intercourse

by Name Undisclosed
(California, USA)

I am tired of reading posts about sexual abuse that refer to sex between adult and child as if that is the only form of sexual abuse, or that advise parents to use the terms penis or vagina in talking with a child about inappropriate touch, as if teaching the child to say No to any act with an adult involving a sex organ will be enough to keep the child safe from sexual abuse. These things ignore a major fact: most sexual abuse is not intercourse, and often it does not involve any sex organ. Most sexual abuse is far more covert. It often occurs in public or in family gatherings.


I was abused by my father. It was never intercourse. He never used his penis. It was usually not violent. It often happened when other members of the family were present during normal family activities. He was so sneaky about it that none of my family members noticed. I saw him molest other girls or women in the same sneaky ways, in family gatherings. I have read that these more covert types of sexual abuse are actually the most common, yet I rarely see them mentioned in articles about sexual abuse. My father's abuse of me was terribly, terribly painful for me emotionally, and I am still working on recovery, decades later.

Please remember, out there, that to talk about sexual abuse and only mention the most extreme forms is to deny the majority of people who were sexually abused, since for most of us that was not our experience.

And please don't imagine that reporting sexual abuse to Child Protective Services will automatically solve the problem. I felt great hope that finally my father's abuse of minor girls would be stopped, when my therapist told me that she was now legally obligated to make a report to CPS regarding a young relative about whom I had voiced deep concerns. I later discovered to my sorrow that family denial, and the child's need for love, are far more powerful than an under-funded government agency trying to stop child abuse. If the adults in the family deny or minimize the problem of an abuser in the family, which I discovered is usually the case in incestuous families, the children will probably not face that problem either. Children long to be loved by their whole extended family. They need love so badly, and will endure inappropriate touch, even terribly violent abuse, or rationalize it away, or bury the memory of it, rather than risk losing their family's love.

I had to give up, finally, on stopping my father's continuing abuse of a beloved young family member, and just focus on healing myself the best that I could.

I wish that CPS would develop a better method for interviewing minors. At present, the child is told by his/her classroom teacher that she/he needs to go to the principal's office, and there the child finds a police officer waiting to talk to them. That experience was terribly embarrassing and upsetting for two young relatives whom I tried very hard to protect. Afterwards they were both angry at ME, not at the abuser. My whole family was angry at me, which I had expected. But I hadn't expected the victims to be angry at me too. So, don't imagine that CPS can easily solve a problem of sexual abuse within a family.

The truth is that as a child I made a similar choice to the one that my young relatives made: I chose to endure the abuse rather than risk losing the love of my family - I feared that if I spoke up and "caused" the family to break up, my whole family would hate me. It has taken many years, many hours of therapy, and many books on abuse, for me to begin to understand these things.

Darlene's comments to this Child Abuse Commentary "Most sexual child abuse is not intercourse" can be found at Comments below this submission. Depending on system activity, there are sometimes delays in comments going live on my site; but rest assured, they do eventually appear. So if you don't yet see them, I hope you will return later to read what I, and possibly others, have written. I thank you for your patience and understanding.

Email addresses, phone numbers, home addresses AND website/blog URLs in visitor comments are STRICTLY prohibited, and could result in being banned from making further comments on this site.

Comments for Most sexual child abuse is not intercourse

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Jan 16, 2009
Valid points...
by: Darlene Barriere - Webmaster

Your frustration comes through loud and clear, on all counts, and your article brings up a host of valid points. One of the challenges violence and abuse prevention educators like me face is that within any province or state, let alone within a given country, there is often not a standardized definition of what child abuse really is.

By "posts", if you are referring to this site, I must point out that there are many stories on this site that reflect non-contact sexual abuse, and sexual abuse at the hands of family and acquaintances who are NOT adults. Yes, there are more stories that reflect contact sexual abuse by adults, in part because the degree of sexual abuse effects a child abuse survivor experiences plays a role in whether or not s/he feels compelled to talk about it. And the effects are influenced by several factors, not the least of which is the type of sexual activity the child is exposed to. That does not take away from the pain you yourself (as well as others) experienced at being "covertly" sexually abused; that's not what I'm saying. Each of us is unique in how we are affected by what we endured.

Survivors are compelled to tell their stories for a variety of reasons: some read others' stories here, and find they are able to relate, and thus want to write of their own experiences; some discover that what they experienced was indeed abuse, and they now want to share what happened to them; some disclose here because they feel safe enough to do so, while others need to get it off their chests. These are but a few of the reasons survivors disclose.

The dilemma you face with regard to the sexual abuse of a family member by a family member is one I frequently hear about. In truth, intervention is not possible when the child refuses to disclose; and children do not disclose because of fear, fear on a variety of planes. You understand that fear more than anyone. Through the various elements of this website, I actively work toward tempering this fear. But child abuse is a very complex issue; and if there is any hope of even making a dent in it, it must be approached from every possible aspect of society. In short, we must ALL do our part.

Thank you for disclosing your own child sexual abuse with my visitors and me, and for offering your thoughts and opinions. I do hope the counselling you are receiving will help you along your own road toward healing and recovery. I wish you all the best.

Darlene Barriere
Violence & Abuse Prevention Educator
Author: On My Own Terms, A Memoir

Jan 16, 2009
Thank You!
by: Linda

You are not the only one who feels this way. Sexual abuse is a visiting uncle, who is 50 years old and never been married??? Who sits on the front doorsteps in the " dark " with his seven year old niece beside him with her parents sitting behind them on the porch. He is pretending to tell her a story of his many travels, while he slowly holds her little wrist in a firm grip making her stroke his penis. In her innocence, she trusts him because he is her favorite uncle. Because of the sex acts that he did to her in her young life, she is was public enemy number one. prostitution, drugs mistrust of everyone, isolation. Thanks to this website, that little abused girl woke up from that nightmare and got help. Today that little girl is a fifty-two year old woman who got help and realized it wasn't her fault and is on the road to a better life. That little girl was me.. I want to thank you for writing your view on this website it is so right!

May 31, 2009
Who wrote this?
by: Anonymous

Is there any way I can contact the author of this article? Her story is similar to mine and I would like to ask for her advice about the recovery process...

From Darlene: The only way to contact anyone who leaves a contribution on this site is through these comments; and that's only if the person is still checking those comments and is willing to reply. But I have a strict policy that does not permit any personal information to be included here: no email addresses, no phone numbers, etc. I have this policy in place in order to ensure that my visitors stay safe. If the author of this article would like to connect with you, s/he will have to do so through these comments. Thank you for your understanding.

A Video Reading by Darlene Barriere
Darlene Barriere
Webmaster: www.child-abuse-effects.com
Violence & Abuse Prevention Educator
Author: On My Own Terms, A Memoir

Dec 20, 2009
Excuse me?
by: Anonymous

Um... I think you're being a little vague. What abuse does not involve sexual organs in any way? Are you talking about grabbing someone's butt? Because to be totally fair, that sounds neither traumatizing, or like sexual abuse.

Sexual abuse, by definition involves sexual organs. Now, the touching can e done through clothing, or there may not even be any touching (indecent exposure), but it all involves sexual organs.

From Darlene: You're mistaken, Anonymous. Sexual abuse can be non-contact and it does not have to involved sexual organs. Check out the facts on the following page on this site: Definition of sexual abuse. And read the comments included above. In the future, I would appreciate if you would be more respectful of those who write on this site. Otherwise, I suggest you move on.

From Victim to Victory, a memoir
Darlene Barriere
Webmaster: www.child-abuse-effects.com
author. speaker. survivor. coach
From Victim to Victory, a memoir

Dec 13, 2014
lack of info on web about non physical but non dependent sexual abuse
by: Anonymous

I have experienced non contact or 'verbal' sexual abuse, that doesn't seem like covert sexual abuse by a dependent parent. Searching under the term non contact sexual abuse, there is little out there describing more ways that verbal sexual abuse take form, without parental dependency issues... or narcissism. It almost seems like there should be another term for it entirely. Hope you can tell me if there is any information just on study of aftermath out there, the effects of, more on forms it takes... there is no focus on it at all.

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