Child sexual abuse

The term “child sexual abuse” covers any and all acts that violate the sexual integrity and self-determination of a child. Child sexual abuse also serves as a generic term for sexual harassment and grooming. By “child”, we mean anyone under the age of 18.

“Sexual abuse” refers to any act or attempted act that harms another person sexually, any unwanted sexual comment or advance that takes place without the consent of the other person, regardless of the relationship between these persons. Sexual abuse is a form of violence where the boundaries of another person are violated by, for example, touching, harassing or coercing them. Sexual abuse can take place in any setting, such as in the home, in a public space or online.

Examples of child sexual abuse:

  • commenting on a child’s photo or their body in a sexually suggestive manner
  • asking for a nude photo of a child
  • sending sexually explicit photos or videos to a child
  • getting a child to act in a sexually suggestive way in front of a camera
  • directing any sexual activity towards a child

Every child has the right to be protected from all forms of violence. Child sexual abuse involves an adult or a person clearly older than the child using the child to satisfy their own sexual needs. Sexual abuse is the abuse of power. A child is never to blame for the sexual abuse they have experienced.

Sexual abuse can have a wide range of effects on the child and their development. It is therefore important that the child receives support and help from professionals to deal with what has happened. A child or a person who has been a victim of sexual abuse as a child should not be left alone to cope with their experiences.

Child sexual abuse is a criminal offence and must be addressed. This ensures that the child will receive help. The Criminal Code of Finland (39/1889) includes different terms and age limits for different forms of sexual abuse. If you suspect that a child has been a victim of sexual abuse, you should always report it to the police and child welfare services. You don’t have to be absolutely sure, and as a normal person, you don’t have to know the Criminal Code of Finland in detail. You can also ask the police and child welfare services for advice.

Please note: Professionals have a duty to notify the police and child welfare services if they suspect that a child has been a victim of sexual abuse.

The contents of this publication are the sole responsibility of Save the Children Finland and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the European Union.