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What is Sexual Abuse?

Below, we provide insights into what constitutes sexual abuse, offering a guide to recognising key signs and addressing common concerns.

Sexual abuse is any non-consensual or coercive sexual activity, including any sexual act, or attempted sexual act, that you didn’t consent to, unwanted advances, and trafficking.

Sexual abuse can be physical, verbal, visual, or anything that forces a person to join in unwanted sexual contact or attention. It can occur within any relationship, and environment, including intimate partnerships, family members, and in the workplace.

Examples of behaviour that may be considered sexual abuse include:

Journey Planning

Non-consensual Sexual Activity

Any form of sexual activity imposed on an individual without their explicit and voluntary consent.

Forced Sexual Acts

Coercing or pressuring someone into engaging in sexual acts against their will, even within an established relationship.

Sexual Harassment

Unwanted and offensive sexual advances, comments, or requests that create a hostile or intimidating environment, either in the workplace or in personal relationships.

Exhibitionism

Exposing genitals or engaging in sexual acts in public or in a private setting without the other person’s consent.

Sexual Coercion

Using manipulation, threats, or intimidation to force someone into engaging in sexual activities against their wishes.

Sexual Exploitation

Taking advantage of someone’s vulnerability or dependency for sexual purposes, often involving power imbalances.

Child Sexual Abuse

Any sexual activity with a minor, including molestation, grooming, or exposure to explicit material.

Sexual Intimidation

Creating an environment of fear or intimidation through unwanted sexual advances, gestures, or comments, causing distress to the victim.

Sexual Objectification

Treating an individual as a mere object for sexual gratification, disregarding their autonomy and humanity.

Revenge Porn

Sharing intimate or explicit images of a person without their consent, often as a form of revenge or control.

Non-consensual Sexual Activity

Any form of sexual activity imposed on an individual without their explicit and voluntary consent.

Forced Sexual Acts

Coercing or pressuring someone into engaging in sexual acts against their will, even within an established relationship.

Sexual Harassment

Unwanted and offensive sexual advances, comments, or requests that create a hostile or intimidating environment, either in the workplace or in personal relationships.

Exhibitionism

Exposing genitals or engaging in sexual acts in public or in a private setting without the other person’s consent.

Sexual Coercion

Using manipulation, threats, or intimidation to force someone into engaging in sexual activities against their wishes.

Sexual Exploitation

Taking advantage of someone’s vulnerability or dependency for sexual purposes, often involving power imbalances.

Child Sexual Abuse

Any sexual activity with a minor, including molestation, grooming, or exposure to explicit material.

Sexual Intimidation

Creating an environment of fear or intimidation through unwanted sexual advances, gestures, or comments, causing distress to the victim.

Sexual Objectification

Treating an individual as a mere object for sexual gratification, disregarding their autonomy and humanity.

Revenge Porn

Sharing intimate or explicit images of a person without their consent, often as a form of revenge or control.

Consent is a fundamental aspect of healthy sexual interactions.

Any sexual activity without explicit and enthusiastic consent from all parties involved is unacceptable and considered sexual abuse.

If you or someone you know is experiencing sexual abuse, you are not alone. Talk to us.

Looking for support? Call our helpline today.

Frequently Asked Questions

Signs of sexual abuse may include changes in behaviour, unexplained anxiety or depression, avoidance of specific people or situations, difficulty forming intimate relationships, and sudden shifts in self-esteem. It’s essential to note that signs can vary, and that not everyone exhibits the same indicators.
Decision Making
If all parties involved freely and willingly agree to participate in sexual activities without any form of coercion, manipulation, or pressure, it is consensual. Any sexual activity without explicit and voluntary consent is non-consensual and may be considered sexual abuse.
If you suspect someone may be experiencing sexual abuse, approach the situation with sensitivity and without judgement. Encourage open communication, express your concern, and offer support. Encourage the individual to seek professional help and give them the space to do so in their own time. 

At Freeva we offer confidential support to anyone who has suffered abuse. You can read more about our services here, or you can call us anytime on our helpline: 0808 802 0028.

Supporting someone who has experienced sexual abuse involves validating their feelings, being empathetic, and listening without judgment. Encourage them to seek professional help and respect their decisions regarding disclosure and recovery. Never pressure them.
Sexual abuse can manifest in various forms, including physical, emotional, psychological, and verbal abuse. It is not limited to physical acts; coercive control, manipulation, and emotional trauma are also forms of sexual abuse that can be just as damaging as physical abuse.
Absolutely, sexual abuse affects individuals of all genders. It’s important to acknowledge and support survivors regardless of gender or sexuality.

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