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Sexual Abuse

What is sexual abuse?

  • Sexual abuse is when a child or teenager is being used for sexual gratification.
  • Most of the time the children and teenagers do not fully understand and are unable to give informed consent.
  • This often occurs in the context of misuse of power, trust and responsibility by the abuser.

It includes all type of sexual activities such as:

  • Exposure to indecent acts.
  • Pornography.
  • Any intimate contact in form of fondling breast or genitalia and masturbating.
  • All forms of sexual intercourse, including oral, vaginal and anal penetration.

Where does sexual abuse normally take place?

It can take place at :

  • Home by family members or other relatives.
  • Outside the home by neighbours, caregivers, teachers or other persons who are responsible for the child / teenager or any strangers.

What are the common presentations?

  • Unexplained complaints e.g. recurrent headaches, recurrent abdominal pain, sleep problems.
  • Signs due to local trauma or infection e.g. vaginal discharge, anal bleeding.
  • Anxiety and depression.
  • Conversion disorder.
  • Presence of sexually transmitted infection.
  • Eating disorders e.g. anorexia nervosa, bulimia.
  • Significant change in behaviour.
  • Inappropriate sexual behaviour or knowledge (exessive masturbation).
  • Teenage pregnancy.
  • Substance abuse.
  • Gender identity difficulties.
    • For boys who have been sexually abused by a male, this does not mean you are homosexual.
  • Promiscuous behaviour.
  • Self-injury.
  • School refusal.
  • Behavioural problems or delinquency.
  • Deterioration of school performance or poor concentration in school.
  • Statement of a survivor (victim) e.g. he touched me.

Majority of children who have been sexually abused have normal physical examination findings. Therefore a normal physical examination does not exclude sexual abuse.


What are the effects on the survivor (victim)?

No one is psychologically prepared to cope with sexual abuse.

Effects include:

  • Anger
  • Guilt
  • Jealousy
  • Shame
  • Fear of family break up
  • Internal conflict for affections
  • Confusion
  • Low self-esteem
  • Feeling of worthlessness
  • Distorted view of sex
  • Social withdrawal and distrust
  • Suicidal tendencies
  • Personality disorders
  • Aggression
  • May end up as sex workers

What to do if you have been sexually abused?

  • Remember it isn’t your fault.
  • It is a crime by the person who lead or force you into sexual acts.
  • Remember you have your rights and responsibility towards your own body
  • Tell your parents or trusted adults (e.g. teacher, relatives). It is never too late to tell.
  • Report the abuse to the person in-charge at any one of the places below :
  • One Stop Crisis Center (OSCC) at the Government Hospital
  • Any hospital or clinics
  • Police station
  • Welfare department – your privacy and personal information will be respected by the social worker.
  • NGO’s (Women Aids Organizations & Women Center for Change)

What to do if you suspect sexual abuse has occurred?

You can :

  • Inform your teacher or school counselor or other adults that you can trust.
  • Bring the victim to OSCC (to make a police report and medical check up).
  • Inform the nearest social welfare department (Jabatan Kebajikan Masyarakat).
  • Seek assistance from the relevant NGOs ( WAO, WCC)

What can be done for the abused survivor (victim)?

  • Don’t blame the victim for the abuse.
  • Encourage the victim to report the abuse or any further abuse after lodging the report.
  • Give emotional support and shelter as necessary.
  • If possible, ensure that the abuser does not come into further contact with the victim. In incest cases, ensure that the victim is not alone with the offender.

How do you prevent sexual abuse or sexual assault?

  • Choose your friends carefully
  • Be modest in your behaviours and dressing
  • Avoid peers who engaged in risky behaviours and inappropriate social activities
  • Inform your parents about where you are going and with whom.
  • Differentiate between appropriate touch and inappropriate touch (fondling breast, thigh or buttocks) and remember your body is your responsibility! (know your circle of relationship)
  • Do not take a lift from strangers
  • Do not take a drink or open canned drinks from strangers / new friends
  • Do not take money or gifts given to you without a good reason.
  • Avoid loitering at night and in lonely area
  • Avoid pornographic materials
  • Avoid people who allure you with pornographic materials
  • When somebody shows you or asks you to touch his/her sexual organs, walk away and inform a trusted adult

What to do if you are or you know the abuser?

  • Seek help from counselors, health care providers, teachers , social workers or any trusted person

Last Reviewed : 27 April 2012
Content Writer : Dr. Hargeet Kaur a/p Basant Singh
Rviewer : Dr. Nazrila Hairizan bt. Nasir