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Is it considered child sexual abuse if someone shows a child pornographic pictures but doesn’t actually touch the child?

Question: 

Dear Stop It Now!,

Is it considered child sexual abuse if someone shows a child pornographic pictures, but doesn’t actually touch the child? Doesn't a child need to be physically molested in order for it to be considered child sex abuse?

Response: 
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Dear Concerned Adult,

Showing pornographic pictures to a child is considered sexual abuse. Child sexual abuse can include non-touching behaviors.

Purposely exposing a child to adult sexuality is considered a form of child sexual abuse, whether or not a child is touched.  Non-touching behaviors can be just as upsetting and emotionally harmful to a child as some touching behaviors. Non-touching behaviors that are considered to be child sexual abuse include:

  • Showing pornography to a child.
  • Exposing a person's genitals to a child, or asking children to expose themselves.
  • Asking a child to interact sexually with someone else.
  • Online enticement of a minor for sexual purposes.
  • Photographing a child in sexual poses.
  • Exposing a child to sexual acts (including masturbation) either in person or through digital, computer or video images.
  • Watching a child undress or use the bathroom, often without the child's knowledge (known as voyeurism or being a "Peeping Tom").

Please note that although there may not be harmful intent, even having adult pornography or sexual toys in the home where a child could come across them has been viewed by authorities as sexual abuse in some circumstances. For complete information, see our definitions of child pornography.

Take care,
Stop It Now!

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Last edited on: March 2nd, 2015