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What is sexual abuse in teenagers?

Sexual abuse is the unwanted, unsolicited, unwelcomed and/or illegal behaviors of one person against another of a sexual nature and/or intent, from touching up to and including penetration or rape. This applies whether or not the perpetrator or victim is a teen. The age of the victim does not change the definition.

However, when teens are involved, there is an added complication called the age of consent. This is the age when people are seen as mature enough to mutually consent to sexual activity and that they no longer need to be barred from sexual activity for their own safety. That age may differ between jurisdictions but for purposes of this discussion, let's say it is 16. If the victim is under 16, and the perpetrator is over 18, charges can be laid automatically because the victim is under the age of consent and the perpetrator is too old to be a boyfriend or girlfriend. Given that teens become sexually active at an earlier age and the dating gradient may be greater today than the two years legally allowed, some sexual activity may be classified as abuse when it is not.

On the other hand, dating violence which includes all types of abuse not just sexual is as prevalent as domestic violence is for adults. So, the bottom line is, there is a range of sexual behavior in teens that is complicated to define as abuse or normal activity. As well, the risk for abuse is not just sexual.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.