The Challenge of Defining Child Sexual Abuse

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Although child sexual abuse has been a concern for many researchers, therapists, and advocates for the past 3 decades, several fundamental issues regarding child sexual abuse remain unresolved. In particular, the term child sexual abuse has never been unequivocally defined. The lack of a commonly accepted definition of child sexual abuse continues to inhibit research, treatment, and advocacy efforts. Early researchers used broad and inclusive definitions of child sexual abuse—definitions that often continue to be used today. The consequences of these definitions are discussed, and strategies for developing other definitions of child sexual abuse are suggested.

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