What does the child experience?
Because of their age and level of development, children will often not understand that they have been subjected to sexual abuse. Even though the child does not understand or recognise the adult's sexual activity as wrong, the harmful consequences of the actions for the child are not reduced.
Emotions that the child experiences in an abuse situation, such as confusion and fear, and the experience of pain paralyse the child's ability to function.
Paralysis is not consent
The confusion and distress that the child experience will often cause them to not seem to visibly respond to sexual abuse. This can be misinterpreted as consent. In a shocking situation, a child is often unable to deny or prevent sexual acts.
It is quite common for a child to freeze and not be able to speak up or act to prevent what is happening. However, this never means that the child is consenting or willing to engage in sexual acts.
Physiological reactions are not consent
In the case of sexual acts, the child may also experience other sensations. Feelings of wellbeing experienced by the child related to actions such as caressing the genital area, are normal physiological and automatic reactions. It is important to understand that they do not signal consent, pleasure or desire for sexual activity.
The pleasure or orgasm experienced in connection with sexual abuse will often leave long-lasting harmful traces in the child's mind and intensify feelings of guilt and shame.
A child cannot consent
A child is never responsible for their sexual abuse, even if they had taken the initiative or initially consented to sexual activity due to not understanding the situation. A person who sexually abuses a child is always responsible for their actions, not the child.
Recording and distribution of recorded material
Recording sexual abuse as images and videos has become increasingly common. The possible proliferation of such illegal material via digital media will repeatedly put the child in the position of a victim.
Recording a child as a sexual object or acts of sexual abuse increases the child's suffering to a significant extent. Uncertainty about the proliferation of visual material featuring the child and the fear of the perpetual circulation of images online are often an untenable idea for the child. It also makes recovery very difficult.
Sexual abuse of a child is extremely traumatic for the child and for their loved ones.