What is the sexual abuse of boys?

Our team’s extensive research, training and social work experience continues to provide us with a unique and growing insight into core issues relating to the abuse of boys and young men within the Cambodian context. This page contains key information that everyone needs to know.


  • Information about the sexual abuse of boys

Our research and experience tells us that people often get confused about what is and what isn’t sexual abuse and exploitation, especially where boys are concerned. In one sense sexual abuse can be described as:

“Any sexual act in which one partner is not free to refuse”

In order to guide our work at First Step, we use the following definitions, which are a little more descriptive.

Sexual abuse: Child sexual abuse is any form of sexual activity with a child, by an adult, or by another child (male or female) where there is no consent or consent is not possible; or by another child who has power over the child. By this definition, it is possible for a child to be sexually abused by a child who is younger than him/herself.


Sexual abuse includes, but is not limited to:

Sexual abuse includes, but is not limited to:

  • Exposing a child to adult sexual activity or pornographic materials; (e.g. having sex in front of a child, masturbating in front of a child, making or allowing them to watch pornographic films)
  • Placing the child’s hand on another person’s genitals or sexual parts of their body or anus, or touching a child’s genitals, sexual parts or anus.
  • Sexual kissing and oral sex.
  • Penetration, including by the penis, fingers or any object, of the vagina, mouth or anus.
  • Making sexual or rude comments about the child’s body; (e.g. telling a child you think they are sexy and describing what you would like to do to them in a sexual way; asking boys how big their penis is.)
  • Having children pose, undress or perform in a sexual manner—either for the purpose of taking photographs or film, or in person.
  • Voyeurism—spying on children for sexual gratification. (e.g watching a child undress or take a shower for sexual pleasure)
  • Any sexual activity involving animals and children. (There have been some reports that children have been sexually abused involving animals).

Sexual exploitation

Sexual exploitation

The use of a child for sexual purposes in exchange for cash or in-kind favours (this may include shelter, food, drugs, transportation etc.

The identity of the exploiter is not limited to, but may include family members (including other children), customers, and intermediaries or agents who benefit.
Sexual exploitation can include but is not limited to the sexual activities outlined above.


Important notes

Important notes

  • Many children may not identify themselves as victims of abuse or exploitation for a variety of reasons, including sophisticated “grooming techniques” and use of bribes that are designed to confuse them about the reality of what is happening. Sexual abuse is often therefore disguised as love, caring or friendship.
  • Quite often children who are sexually abused or exploited are described as “selling sex”, “sex workers” or “prostitutes”. This can dilute the perceptions of such abuse as harmful and obscures the criminality of the exploiter or abuser, encouraging the view that such transactions are consenting on the part of the child.
  • An abuser of any child, may be an adult or another young person and can also be male or female. People often find it hard to believe that females can be abusers but it does happen. Abusers may be foreign but in most cases, are Cambodian. The First Step training curriculum and workshops explores all of these issues in more detail.
  • Definition of a child: For the purposes of our research, training curriculum and to guide our work at First Step, a child is deemed to be any boy or girl under the age of 18 years. This is in keeping with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and many other definitions used by different organisations throughout Cambodia and the world.

Latest News

Working in partnership for positive change

  • mloptapang.org
  • refugeelawproject.org