Child Sexual Abuse

Warning: as stated in the title, this article discusses child sex abuse, which may cause intense emotions or stress; it is suggested that if you feel triggered by this discussion you try grounding techniques and/or find a safe person to talk to.

What is child sexual abuse?

According to the Canadian Red Cross, sexual abuse is when an adult, adolescent or older child uses a younger child or youth for his or her own sexual pleasure. This can happen to both males and females, children and youth. It also includes exploitation which could be trafficking, prostitution, and child sex abuse images (pornography).

In a world where everything seems sexualized, many people are unaware of what constitutes sexual abuse and have been desensitized to sexual content since it has become such a ‘normal’.

Children or youth can be sexually abused by being touched on the sexual parts of their body, or by being forced to touch someone else’s. But it can also be not touch related.

Here is a list of things that ARE indeed sexual abuse, without touching:
– Being shown sexual videos or pictures
– Being forced to listen to sexual talk or comments about one’s body
– Being forced to pose for seductive or sexual photographs
– Being forced to look at sexual parts of the body
– Being forced to watch sexual acts
– Being watched in a sexual way while clothed or unclothed
– Receiving intrusive written or spoken questions or comments in-person or online
(Canadian Red Cross, 2023)

Child sexual abuse has serious long-term emotional, physical and developmental consequences for victimized individuals.

How prevalent is it actually?

Because this is a sensitive topic, not many people are willing to have the conversation; but the reality is that in Alberta alone, 34% of people experience sexual abuse before the age of 18. Just under 1 in 2 girls (44%) and 1 in 4 boys (24%) in Alberta experience child sexual abuse (AASAS, 2023). These statistics are based on a survey done by the Association of Alberta Sexual Assault Services done in 2020 and does not include the many people who have not reported or were not comfortable completing the survey.

Myths regarding child sexual abuse.

Myth: Child sexual abuse is not common.
Fact: Based on many studies done across the globe, child sexual abuse is alarmingly prevalent (see above paragraph for stats in Alberta).

Myth: Children are sexually abused by strangers.
Fact: Children are far more likely to be sexually abused by someone that they know than a stranger. According to AASAS, in 2012, of the 14,000 police reported cases of sexual offences against children and youth, 88% of all sexual offences were committed by an individual known to the child/youth, leaving only 12% committed by strangers.

Myth: Children often lie about being abused sexually.
Fact: Children very seldom lie about sexual abuse. Only 10% of cases reported to Children’s Services in Canada in 2008 were considered intentional ‘false allegations’ (Lefebvre, Van Wert, Fallon & Trocme, 2012).

How can we help?

Children need a safe, trustworthy place to disclose and get help. They may struggle to come forward and talk about their experiences for several reasons, but if they feel safe to talk to someone, it is extremely important that whomever they choose to disclose to makes them feel supported, heard, and gets them the needed help.

If any person has reasonable or probable grounds to believe that a child has been or is at risk of being abused or neglected – or is aware of a parent/guardian who is unable or unwilling to protect a child from being abused – they have an obligation to report it to Alberta Children’s Services under the Child, Youth, and Family Enhancement Act.

At the Dragonfly Centre, we provide child and youth counselling, as well as other necessary supports to educate and help individuals in the community get and give help to those affected by sexual abuse/violence. If you or someone you know is or has been subject to child sexual abuse, please reach out to us to find the right supports.

Support options 

It’s important to acknowledge that there are places where you can get support.

Child Abuse Hotline at 1.800. 387. KIDS (5437)
Kids Help Phone 24-hour Crisis Line 1-800-668-6868
Dragonfly Centre Izzy Chat or 1-866-300-HEAL (4325)
CASAC 24-hour Call or Text Line 1-866-956-1099

Reporting options

Following the Mandatory Reporting Laws of Alberta, All instances child abuse must be reported to one of the following reporting sources

Child Abuse Hotline at 1.800. 387. KIDS (5437)

Kids Help Phone 24-hour Crisis Line 1-800-668-6868

Crime Stoppers 1.800.222.8477

Or your local police/RCMP detachment


Canadian Red Cross, 2023 –  Sexual Abuse – Canadian Red Cross

AASAS, 2023 – Child Sexual Abuse | Association of Alberta Sexual Assault Services ( (