Child sexual abuse can come in several forms—contact, visual, or verbal as detailed below. Child sexual abuse laws vary by state, but below are behaviors that are typically considered illegal. Even if a state's law does not considering actions such as prolonged kissing of a minor to be illegal, it is certainly inappropriate and should cause you to suspect that child may be being abused. Afterall, where there is smoke, there is usually fire!

Contact Sexual Abuse

  • Touching a child's private parts
  • Making a child touch someone else's private parts, including adults or other children
  • Oral-genital contact in either direction
  • Vaginal or anal rape or any penetration with objects or body parts
  • Kissing: prolonged or open mouth

Visual Sexual Abuse

  • Watching a child undress or go to the bathroom: voyeurism
  • Exposing private parts to a child: exhibitionism
  • Asking a child to play sexual games and expose themselves
  • Showing pornography or making a child watch sexual acts
  • Masturbating in front of children
  • Taking sexual pictures of children
  • Viewing, creating, buying, and selling child pornography

Verbal Sexual Abuse

  • Using obscene or sexual language around children
  • Discussing sex acts or sexual gratification


For our purposes, the definition of private parts includes the breasts (for girls and boys), butt, anus, penis, vagina, and mouth. This is important because a vast number of child sexual abuse cases include oral rape and we and our children need to recognize this risk and empower our children to choose what goes in their mouth. I encourage you to research your state laws for nuances. As an example in California, it is illegal to touch the intimate parts of a child for the purpose of sexual gratification - what most people don't know is that when the law goes on to define "intimate parts" it includes the inner thighs. That's important to know!

When an adult observes or becomes aware of any of the behaviors listed above, they should contact the local police and child protective services immediately. The less invasive behaviors indicated in the verbal abuse category may be a small part of a bigger picture so I recommend that you take all of these behaviors seriously and allow the professionals to investigate and determine the full extent of the abuse.