Child sexual abuse
involves a power relationship between an adult or older child and a child victim
. Because of the difference in power, the child feels helpless to stop the abuse. Children are expected to obey their parents and to do what adults instruct them to do. Children do not have the power
to refuse sexual abuse. If they fight, depending on how vicious the offender
is, they can get badly hurt. If the child is younger and smaller than a youth perpetrator, the same threats and fears exist.
Some children may scream or cry, but many others do not. If the abuse occurs during the night in their own beds, children may pretend to be asleep. Children usually endure
the abuse because they have no choice. If the perpetrator
is the parent or primary caregiver, a child is even more helpless because the abuser has continuous access.
The child develops coping
strategies to survive the abuse incident and to manage
some of its effects
, such as guilt, fear, depression, and anger.
Because of the imbalance in power in the relationship between the abuser and the victim, a child can never consent
to sexual abuse. Children know that adults are supposed to protect
them and take care of them. This knowledge increases their sense of helplessness.