4.9 Sexually Abusive Adults


Man behind computer concealing what he is doing
Photo by DESIGNECOLOGIST on Unsplash License


Sexual abuse occurs when a person uses their power over a child and involves the child in any sexual act. Online child sexual exploitation includes a wide range of behaviours and situations. Most commonly, this includes grooming behaviour of building a relationship, treating the child special, alienating the child and then breaching personal boundaries by manipulating and coercing the child to engage in illicit behaviour. Although in many cases, there is no special relationship and only threats and coercion. Children are sexually abused to produce and sell child sexual abuse material, including live streaming of child sexual abuse content (Crosson-Tower, 2020; Jonson-Reid & Drake, 2018; Rimer & Prager, 2016; Tufford, 2020).

Possible signs a caregiver may be sexually abusive include:

  • The caregiver is secretive or isolated
  • The parent indicates they are having difficulty in the area of sexual relations with their partner
  • The child’s contact with others is limited by the caregiver
  • The caregiver is very protective of the child
  • The carer may buy the child gifts or gives them money for no reason
  • The carer states that the child is being sexually provocative
  • The caregiver shows physical contact or affection for the child that appears sexual in nature (Rimer & Prager, 2016)
  • May engage in substance use to lessen guilt
  • Encourages child to engage in sexual behaviour
  • Makes excuse about being protective of child
  • Rationalizes need to inspect child (e.g., see if child is developing)
  • Seeks opportunities and makes excuses to be alone with the child
  • The caregiver uses power and control over the child
  • Discloses attraction to children
  • Manipulates family to be alone with the children

(“Child Abuse and Neglect,” n.d.; Crosson-Tower, 2020; Durrant et al., 2006; Fallon et al., 2020; Jonson-Reid & Drake, 2018; Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies, 2022;  Public Health Agency of Canada, 2012; Rimer & Prager, 2016; Sedak et al. 2010; Toronto Children’s Aid Society, n.d.; Tufford, 2020).


Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

Child Maltreatment: An Introductory Guide With Case Studies Copyright © 2023 by Susan Loosley and Jen Johnson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book