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Forms of child sexual abuse include engaging in sexual activities with a child (whether by asking or pressuring, or by other means), indecent exposure (of the genitals, female nipples, etc.), child grooming, or using a child to produce child pornography.

Child sexual abuse can occur in a variety of settings, including home, school, or work (in places where child labor is common).

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Various studies have suggested that severe child sexual abuse may have a deleterious effect on brain development. (1998) found "reversed hemispheric asymmetry and greater left hemisphere coherence in abused subjects;" Teicher et al.

(1993) found that child sexual abuse was associated with a reduced corpus callosum area; various studies have found an association of reduced volume of the left hippocampus with child sexual abuse; used the "Limbic System Checklist-33" to measure ictal temporal lobe epilepsy-like symptoms in 253 adults.

Reports of child sexual abuse were associated with a 49% increase to LSCL-33 scores, 11% higher than the associated increase of self-reported physical abuse. (2006) found that the self-reported math Scholastic Aptitude Test scores of their sample of women with a history of repeated child sexual abuse were significantly lower than the self-reported math SAT scores of their non-abused sample.

Under the law, child sexual abuse is often used as an umbrella term describing criminal and civil offenses in which an adult engages in sexual activity with a minor or exploits a minor for the purpose of sexual gratification.

The American Psychological Association states that "children cannot consent to sexual activity with adults", and condemns any such action by an adult: "An adult who engages in sexual activity with a child is performing a criminal and immoral act which never can be considered normal or socially acceptable behavior." A study funded by the USA National Institute of Drug Abuse found that "Among more than 1,400 adult females, childhood sexual abuse was associated with increased likelihood of drug dependence, alcohol dependence, and psychiatric disorders.

The associations are expressed as odds ratios: for example, women who experienced nongenital sexual abuse in childhood were 2.83 times more likely to suffer drug dependence as adults than were women who were not abused." Child abuse, including sexual abuse, especially chronic abuse starting at early ages, has been found to be related to the development of high levels of dissociative symptoms, which includes amnesia for abuse memories.

Besides dissociative identity disorder (DID) and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), child sexual abuse survivors may present borderline personality disorder (BPD) and eating disorders such as bulimia nervosa.

In a 1998 review of related literature, Martin and Fleming state "The hypothesis advanced in this paper is that, in most cases, the fundamental damage inflicted by child sexual abuse is due to the child's developing capacities for trust, intimacy, agency and sexuality, and that many of the mental health problems of adult life associated with histories of child sexual abuse are second-order effects." Kendler et al.

(2000) found that most of the relationship between severe forms of child sexual abuse and adult psychopathology in their sample could not be explained by family discord, because the effect size of this association decreased only slightly after they controlled for possible confounding variables.

Their examination of a small sample of CSA-discordant twins also supported a causal link between child sexual abuse and adult psychopathology; the CSA-exposed subjects had a consistently higher risk for psychopathologic disorders than their CSA non-exposed twins. generated controversy by suggesting that child sexual abuse does not always cause pervasive harm, that some college students reported such encounters as positive experiences and that the extent of psychological damage depends on whether or not the child described the encounter as "consensual." Depending on the age and size of the child, and the degree of force used, child sexual abuse may cause internal lacerations and bleeding.

In severe cases, damage to internal organs may occur, which, in some cases, may cause death.

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