Sexual abuse is unwanted sexual activity - whether that be rape, child sexual abuse, photography or unwanted touching. Ultimately, if you are pressured to do something sexual against your will, this is sexual abuse.
The line can be crossed even when two consenting adults are engaging in sexual activity, but one then feels pressured to do something they are not comfortable with. This might be something scary or degrading.
It is also common for perpetrators and victims to know each other. They might be a relative, a friend, someone in a position of authority or a previous partner. The perpetrator may take advantage of the victim not being able to consent, or use force.
Because many sexual abuse victims are frightened to report the abuse, or are groomed to trust their abuser, many do not report the acts or even feel responsible themselves. This is why it's important to know that whether you're an adult or a young person, it isn't your fault and you shouldn't be afraid to get help. Sexual abuse is a crime.
What are the signs of sexual abuse?
- Children may run away from home
- Dropping clues and hints
- Behaviour changes
- Health problems such as sexually transmitted infections
- Refusal to see a particular person
- Problems at work or school, such as a drop in achievement
- Drug or alcohol misuse
- Attempted suicide
- Development of an eating disorder
What are the effects of sexual abuse?
- Immediate reactions may include shock, fear, disbelief
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Eating disorders
- Criminal behaviour