Child sexual abuse

Child sexual abuse

Sexual abuse embraces a wide range of forms of sexual violence against children. We refer to sexual abuse in relation to any form of sexual violence against children that involves physical contact between the perpetrator and the victim (also known as ‘hands-on’ sexual violence). Under criminal law, it is not necessary to prove that the underage victim was forced to have sexual contact. Children under the age of sixteen have not yet reached the legal age of consent, and therefore sex with children under the age of sixteen is in principle always a criminal offence, regardless of whether or not the child agrees to it.

Sexual violence against children frequently falls into the category of sexual abuse. In those cases, the child has not been forced to have sex, but the perpetrator will often have abused his or her position of authority in relation to the child. In those cases where force or violence is used against a child, we refer to rape or sexual assault.

Sexual abuse of children can take place under various circumstances and in a variety of personal relationships: within a family or in a loving relationship, at school or on a night out, by acquaintances and by strangers, by adults, but also by other children. Furthermore, a visual recording can be made of the abuse and distributed, thus introducing the element of ‘hands-off’ sexual violence (child pornography). Specifically, the law provides that any of the following forms of sexual violence against children constitute sexual abuse: sexual penetration of a child under the age of sixteen, other sexual acts with a child under the age of sixteen, sex with a child between the ages of sixteen and eighteen for payment (‘youth prostitution’), sex with a child who is in the care of the perpetrator or in a position of dependency in relation to the perpetrator, or inducing a child to perform sexual acts for remuneration.