Child sexual abuse includes inviting or exposing a child to sexual contact, activity, or behaviour. A child is typically understood to be any individual under the age of 16; more information about the ages of consent is included later in this section.
Child sexual abuse can include:
- All forms of sexual contact or touch, including forced oral contact (kissing), fondling, grabbing, sexual rubbing, oral genital contact (oral sex), vaginal penetration, and anal penetration
- Exhibitionism, which occurs when an adult exposes their genitals to a child
- Exposure to pornography, such as a pornographic film, online content, or magazine
- Inviting, or asking, a child to sexually touch another person or child, even if the contact or touch does not occur
- Engaging in online communication with an individual under the age of 18 to solicit sexual content, activity, or behaviour
- The production, possession, and/or distribution of images of child sexual abuse (child pornography)
Age of Consent is 16
When someone is 16 years old they are able to consent to sexual activity with a person who is 14 years of age or older. The only exception would be when the older person is in a position of power, trust, or authority (see Sexual Exploitation section below for more detail).
- Applies only to people who are 14 & 15 years old
- When someone is 14 or 15 years old they are able to consent to sexual activity with a person who is LESS than 5 years older than them.
- Can consent to sexual activity with someone up to the age of 18
- Can consent to sexual activity with someone up to the age of 19.
Peer Experimentation Exception
- Applies only to people who are 12 & 13 years old
- When someone is 12 or 13 years old they are able to consent to sexual activity with a person who is LESS than 2 years older than them.
- Can consent to sexual activity with someone up to the age of 13.
- 13-years old:
- Can consent to sexual activity with someone up to the age of 14.
Sexual Exploitation Laws
- Sexual contact involving persons under 18 may only occur amongst individuals with whom there is no relationship of power, trust, authority or dependency.
- Sexual contact involving persons under 18 must involve relationships which are non-exploitative. “Exploitation” depends on how the relationship developed, how the partner may have controlled or influenced the young person, or if it involved luring over the Internet, prostitution or pornography.
In 95% of cases of child sexual abuse, the person using abusive behaviour is known to the child and is often known to the child’s caregivers as well.
One of the best ways to prevent and identify child sexual abuse is to talk to the children in your life about it. The following child-friendly definition of child sexual abuse is a great way to get conversations started:
It’s not okay for anyone to touch your private parts when you don’t want them to. Private parts are the parts of our bodies that a bathing suit covers (penis, testicles, bum, and breasts). It’s also not okay for anyone to ask you to touch their private parts, show you their private parts, or ask to look at your private parts. If somebody makes you feel unsafe, uncomfortable, alone, frightened, or sad by something they have said or done to you, it is not your fault and you should tell a grown-up so they can help you.
This article by Everyday Feminism also provides more ideas about how to talk to children about child sexual abuse.
Let the children in your life know that they can come and talk to you anytime an adult asks them to keep a secret that makes them feel scared or alone, or whenever something doesn’t feel “right”.
It is incredibly rare for a child to lie about experiencing sexual abuse. If a child tells you they have been sexually abused, let them know that you believe them and that they did the right thing by telling you. Recognize the courage and bravery this took. Learn more about responding to disclosures of child sexual abuse here.
In Alberta, if an adult suspects someone under the age of 18 is experiencing any kind of abuse, it is that adult’s responsibility to report the suspected abuse to Child and Family Services. Reports can be made anonymously through the toll-free Child Abuse Hotline at 1.800.387.KIDS (5437).
More information on child sexual abuse, including how it is defined, can be found within the Child, Youth, and Family Enhancement Act.
Children and youth are also protected from sexual exploitation through the Protection of Sexually Exploited Children Act (PSCEA). If an adult believes a child is currently being exploited, or is at risk of being exploited, it is that adult’s responsibility to report this information to PSECA. Reports of suspected exploitation can be made toll free to 1.800.638.0715.
If you have any questions about child sexual abuse please call our 24-Hour Support and Information Line at 780.423.4121.