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Useful Definitions for Reporting on Child Sexual Abuse

Accuser: someone who imputes blame or guilt.

Affair: a sexual relationship between two adults. Affair is commonly used to denote a sexual relationship between one or more persons who are in committed relationships with another adult. This term also presumes both adult consent and actions between persons who are of legal age.

Grooming:  A process of identifying and engaging a child in sexual activity. It involves an imbalance of power and elements of coercion and manipulation. It involves motivation and intent to sexually exploit the child. It is a process of desensitization.

Illicit Sexual Behavior: Takes place between an a legal adult and a child (less than 18 years of age). These sexual activities are intended to erotically arouse the legal adult, without consideration for the reactions or choices of the child. Behaviors that are sexually abusive often involve bodily contact, such as sexual kissing, touching, fondling of genitals, and oral, anal and vaginal intercourse. Behaviors may also be sexually abusive despite a lack of contact, such as genital exposure (“flashing”), verbal pressure for sex, and sexual exploitation for pornography or prostitution.

Inappropriate Activity: Behavior, often times sexual in nature, that is not suitable considering relationship status. Inappropriate activity might take place between a college professor and a student, or a superior and his/her employee. It is generally used when referring to two consenting adults. 

Inappropriate Contact: Touching or contact that is not suitable for time and place. Often used to describe either workplace touching or extra-marital touching. This term should never be used to describe an adult touching a child. 

Indecent Liberties: Engaging in any of the following acts with a child who is 14 or more years of age but less than 16 years of age:

1)      Any lewd fondling or touching of the person of either the child or the offender, done or submitted to with the intent to arouse or to satisfy the sexual desires of either the child or the offender, or both; or

2)      soliciting the child to engage in any lewd fondling or touching of the person of another with the intent to arouse or satisfy the sexual desires of the child, the offender or another.

Molestation:  Commonly understood to be the act of an adult subjecting a child any type of sexual activity. Child molestation is a crime involving a range of indecent or sexual activities between an adult and a child. 

Poly-victimization: Having experienced multiple victimizations of different kinds…rather than just multiple episodes of the same kind of victimization. Also known as “multiple victimization” or “multi-victimization,” polyvictimization occurs when an individual experiences multiple kinds of victimization.

Rape:  The penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.

Re-victimization: The instance of a victim of a crime being subjected to either the same or a different type of crime. Many victims suffer re-victimization by a different perpetrator within a short time frame.

Sexual Abuse: A general term used to describe the infliction of some sort of sexual activity upon a person who has not given consent or is incapable of giving such consent. This can be used to refer to sexual abuse of persons who are differently-abled, a child, or an elder person. 

Sexual Relationship: A relationship involving sexual intimacy between two or more consenting adults. Can never be used to refer to a child since a child does not have the capacity to make a consenting choice to enter into sexual activity.