Psychology, Department of


Date of this Version



Published in Encyclopedia of Psychology and Law, ed. Brian L. Cutler (Newbury Park, CA: SAGE Publications, 2008). Copyright © 2007 SAGE Publications. Used by permission.


Although definitions can vary across legal, clinical, and research contexts, sexual abuse is commonly defined as sexual acts between a youth and an older person (e.g., by 5 years or more) in which the dominance of the older person is used to exploit or coerce the youth. Behaviors may include noncontact (e.g., exposure) and contact (e.g., intercourse) offenses.