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Sexual abuse in children and adolescents: review of 100 years of literature

Child and adolescent abuse, as described by Ambroise Tardieu about a century ago, became a subject matter in the last forty years. Sexual abuse, one of the most damaging forms of maltreatment, has been known since Antiquity, but very little has been attained as to the prevention and attenuation of its consequences. Cultural differences, as well as legal questions and those regarding procedures from the involved professionals would perhaps explain the difficult to establish public polices for the world wide prevention and resolution of problem. The present study has achieved a literature review of medico-legal and psychiatric publications on the sexual abuse of minors, comprehending the last five years. The search, in addition to scientific papers through the Medline/PubMed and Scielo databases, has employed textbook chapters as well as loose texts, located either in the Web or in libraries. All the sources unanimously agreed as to the noxious effects of maltreatments upon the victims’ mental health, social adaptation and inclusion. The importance of the medico-legal examination and police and judicial procedures stands out in the truthful determination of sexual abuse. More studies are needed to reveal the prevalence, incidence, legal developments and future consequences of sexual abuse.

Psychiatry; child abuse; child sexual abuse; forensic examination; sexual offender

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