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You are here: Home >> Resources >> Handouts >> Sexual abuse continuum

September, 2004

Sexual abuse covers a wide range of behaviors.  Regardless of where the abuse falls on the spectrum, no one type is "less" abusive than any other; all abuse has traumatic consequences to the victim.

Sexual abuse may be a one-time isolated event, or it may occur regularly over a period of time.  Sexual abuse does not have to involve physical contact between the victim and the abuser.

Covert sexual abuse Sexualized relationship
Sexualized interest in victim's body
Sexualized jokes, comments, harassment
"Romantic" relationship
Discussion of sexual activity
Overt sexual abuse Pre-touching phase
Inflicting pornography on victim

Sexualized kissing and fondling

Victim is passive recipient
Victim activity is forced

Oral-genital contact

Digital penetration of vagina or anus

Vaginal rape with penis

Anal rape with penis

Vaginal/anal rape with objects


Sadistic activity

Ritualistic abuse

Adapted from material developed by H. Ramsey-Klawsnik.

See also:
The effects of child sexual abuse
Understanding the sexuality of children

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