What is Covert Sexual Abuse and Why Does It Matter?

Compassionate Love Blog: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   (c)2017  Nancy Virden, Always the Fight Ministry

baby children cute dress
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Children deserve respect. 

Children deserve respect for who they are at each developmental stage.

As adults our responsibility is to protect children from what they are not emotionally or physically able to handle. 

Covert sexual abuse is the sexualizing of children through a variety of means outside of actual molestation. Covert sexual abuse is harmful and can deeply and negatively affect a child’s psyche and worldview. 

This type of abuse can include dressing children to look sexy, exposing them to sex via television or movies, and discussing bodies in a disrespectful way. Covert sexual abuse is not limited to these three. 

I saw a father teaching his son who couldn’t have been more than 9 years old, how to check out a full-grown woman’s body and telling the boy what was good and not so good. This was done where the woman could hear. The boy learned that disrespect toward women is alright.

At the same time, the emotions of a nine year old are focused on pleasing dad. He likely quickly picked up on these lessons. Of course I do not know the end result for this particular boy. However, by sexualizing his son, the dad stole the boy’s chance to learn to like girls in his own time, and to set his own standards. 

I know of a teen girl whose father taught her to check out women’s bodies, and like the boy’s dad, pointed out what pleased him and what did not. Girls learn from their dads how to be with boys and men. This girl was taught that her value depended on men’s approval and of course, that approval had to be sexual. 

Covert sexual abuse can take many forms. It is always damaging. Sometimes it is traumatic. 

Jesus set the tone for respect of children when he said we adults must become more like them to enter the kingdom of heaven.  It is only when we take on the innocence of children, and the trusting hearts of children that we can experience the strongest relationship with our Heavenly Father.

Today’s Helpful Word

Matthew 18:2-4

He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.


NOTE:  I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental and behavioral health challenges.  In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental or behavioral health care.

If you are feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, in the U.S. call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or for a list of international suicide hotlines, go here.

If you are suicidal with a plan, immediately call 911 in the U.S. or go to your nearest emergency room. (for international emergency numbers, go here ). Hope and help are yours!

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