Objective: Child sexual abuse (CSA) encompasses a variety of distinct situations, which should be differentiated. There is a need for a working classification, taking into account various parameters.
Methods: The Geneva CSA prevalence study was based on 1116 randomly selected adolescents aged 14 to 16. Secondary analyses of the 252 reported cases of abuse was carried out using a multivariate approach combining multiple correspondence analysis and automatic classification, leading to descriptive analyses and to a new classification of CSA.
Results: Global prevalence of CSA, using a broad definition, was 10.9% for boys, and 33.8% for girls. Classification of cases of abuse differentiated 5 classes: (A) exhibitionism or other abuse without contact, by an adult (proportion of cases in boys: 22%; girls: 32%); (B) abuse of an adolescent boy by a peer without contact (62%); (C) abuse of an adolescent girl by a peer with physical contact (38%); (D) abuse inside the family, repeated (boys: 10%, girls: 16%); (E) child abuse with genital penetration, lasting 2 years or more (boys: 7%; girls: 14%).
Conclusions: CSA is a complex and heterogeneous problem. Reported abuse situations can be classified into five classes, with different degrees of severity, causes, and consequences. Classification is essential in clinical research as well as in the design and conception of prevention programs.