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What is sexual abuse?

Updated: Dec 7, 2023

What is abuse?

Abuse is any action that intentionally harms or injures another person. The four main types of abuse are physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, neglect.

What is sexual abuse?

Sexual abuse is forcing another person - a child, young person, adult to take part in a sexual activity. There are 2 types of sexual abuse:

  1. Contact abuse - this is where the person is physically touched by the abuser in an inappropriate way and in inappropriate places.

  2. Non-contact abuse - this is where the person is not touched by the abuser but the abuser may persuade the person to take part in sexual acts over the internet, the abuser may flash their private parts, or be grooming the person.

The impact of sexual abuse on a young person's physical health may include:

  • bruises on their private parts

  • becoming involved in sexual activity at a young age

  • pregnancy if there has been penetration

  • unable to make eye contact with adults

  • jump/flinch at quick actions of someone trying to touch them

  • contracting sexually transmitted infections (STIs) - diseases passed from one person to the other through sexual contact

The impact of sexual abuse on a young person's emotional health include:

  • suffering from anxiety - as not sure what they did to deserve the abuse/attack

  • unable to sleep - wondering when the abuse may happen again

  • obsessive behaviour - as the young person tries to control what they can

  • low self-esteem - as the young person feels they deserve this abuse

  • depression - as the young person is so unhappy and cannot see a way to change what is happening to them

  • bullying others - as the young person wants someone else to feel the pain that they have

What can a young person do if they are suffering sexual abuse?

  • Tell someone what has been happening - this could be a parent/guardian, a friend, a teacher in school.

  • Consider talking to someone at an organisation that can give advice and help with the bullying experience such as:

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