Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science

Living Edition
| Editors: Todd K. Shackelford, Viviana A. Weekes-Shackelford

Sexual Abuse

  • Natacha Godbout
  • Cloé Canivet
  • Martine Hébert
Living reference work entry

Latest version View entry history

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-16999-6_2486-2



Sexual abuse (SA) is defined by the involvement of a child in sexual activity the child cannot fully comprehend, for which the child is unable to give informed consent or is not developmentally prepared, or that violates the laws or social taboos of society. Sexual aggression endured in adulthood is termed sexual assault. Perpetrators of SA may be an adult or another child who by age or developmental stage is in a relationship of responsibility, trust, or power with the child. SA also includes the inducement or coercion of a child to engage in sexual activity or the sexual exploitation of a child (WHO 1999). In the USA, statutory rape laws assert that sexual activities with a minor under the age of consent (varies from 16 to 18) are illegal and therefore considered SA.


Research and clinical work indicate that exposure to SA can result in a wide variety of immediate and long-lasting...
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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Natacha Godbout
    • 1
    • 2
  • Cloé Canivet
    • 1
  • Martine Hébert
    • 1
  1. 1.Département de sexologieUniversité du Québec à MontréalMontrealCanada
  2. 2.Unité de recherche et d’intervention sur le TRAuma et le CouplEUniversité du Québec à MontréalMontrealCanada

Section editors and affiliations

  • Carey Fitzgerald
    • 1
  1. 1.University of South Carolina – BeaufortBlufftonUSA