According to the United Nations, sexual abuse covers the actual or threatened physical intrusion of a sexual nature, whether by force or under unequal or coercive conditions. Although this definition is general in nature, the term is often used specifically in relation to children. According to the Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse, sexual abuse of children encompasses (a) acts of engaging in sexual activities with a child who, according to the relevant provisions of national law, has not reached the legal age for sexual activities (this does not apply to consensual sexual activities between minors), and (b) engaging in sexual activities with a child where use is made of coercion, force or threats, where there is abuse of a recognised position of trust, authority or influence over the child, including within the family, or where there is abuse of the particularly vulnerable situation of the child, notably because of a mental or physical disability or a situation of dependence.
(1) United Nations Secretary-General’s Bulletin (2003). Special Measures for Protection from Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse. 9 October 2003; (2) Council of Europe (2007). Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse, CETS No 201, Article 18.