Family doctor


Children's Health



Sexual abuse of children is a tragedy. This article by DSAC (Doctors For Sexual Abuse Care), outlines where to turn and provides a list of doctors in different regions who can help.

What is child sexual abuse or assault?

Sexual abuse, assault and rape all involve an older person imposing sexual acts on a child. Sexual assault and rape often involve the use of physical force and may happen on only one occasion. Sexual abuse is more likely to be repeated over a period of time.

All involve misuse of an older person's power over a child. A child is not equal in physical strength or understanding, and cannot legally give consent. Child sexual abuse, assault, and rape are all criminal offences.

What children are at risk?

Any child, boy or girl, from any background of any age, can be a victim. Children who have less chance to tell are most at risk - for example, children who are very young, have some handicap, or who lack close family support or supervision.

What sort of person does this to children?

Most child victims are sexually abused by a close family member or by some other trusted adult. Most, but not all, abusers are male. Rape and sexual assault may involve either a person known to the child or a stranger.

What help is needed?

  • Help to stop sexual abuse: Caring adults need to listen to and to take seriously any possibility of sexual abuse or assault of a child.
  • Help for physical problems: The child may suffer physical injury or contract a sexually transmitted disease. The adolescent girl is at risk of pregnancy.
  • Help for emotional problems: All children who have been sexually abused, assaulted or raped should be offered counselling later in life.

Who can give this help?

  • Protection and intervention: The Department of Social Welfare (DSW) and the police have legal powers to protect the child.
  • Physical care: The reason for a medical examination is to find and treat any problems. Often there are none, but reassurance is very important. It can be essential as the first step in the healing process. Medical examination of the children very seldom requires the use of instruments.
  • Emotional care: Trained counsellors are available, and the ACC will usually pay the cost. Families and caregivers and local support groups can also help.

Where to seek help?

Seek medical help or advice from your family doctor, or a DSAC doctor. A child should be examined by a doctor with special training and experience in this work. Any DSAC coordinator will be able to refer you to such a doctor in your area.

Seek help or advice on child protection from your local Department of Social Welfare. Special social workers are trained to help with child abuse.

Seek help or advice on intervention from the DSW or your local police. Many police units and DSW social workers acting together run a sexual abuse team. The team will help.

Seek help or advice on counselling from HELP centres, rape crisis centres, and the ACC. These organisations have specific counselling centres, and child and family units. Your local Citizens Advice Bureau has a list of them and will be able to help.

Visit the Website of DSAC(Doctors for Sexual abuse care) .There is detailed patient information and you can find local doctors throughout New Zealand under the Liaison Directory.

See also:

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