Sexual Abuse

People don’t usually talk about sexual abuse, but it is very common. Sexual abuse is a term used to talk about unwanted sexual situations. Understanding sexual abuse may help you identify if it has ever happened to you, avoid abusive situations whenever possible, and seek help.

Sexual abuse happens when one person forces another to engage in any sexual behavior. Sometimes abusers use physical force, but other times they may use threats, bribes, psychological games, or any power or influence they may have.

Sexual abuse can involve touch such as kissing; an abuser touching a person’s body in a sexual way; a person being made to touch an abuser’s body in a sexual way; a person being made to touch their own body in a sexual way; or a person being made to engage in oral, vaginal, or anal sex.

Sexual abuse involving touch is sometimes considered sexual assault. When assault involves penetration of the vagina or anus it is defined as rape. Both men and women can be abused, assaulted, or raped.

Sexual abuse can also happen without touch such as being shown pornographic movies, magazines, or websites; taking photos, videos, or other recordings; or watching sexual acts.

Everyone who has been abused, assaulted, or raped needs to know that it is not their fault.

When sexual assault or rape occurs between people who know each other socially it is sometimes called date rape or acquaintance rape. Date rape often happens in social situations like at a party or after a date. It can happen between two people who have just met or couples who have been together for awhile.

The most important thing to remember is that no one has the right to have sex with another person without his/her express permission. You have a right to say no to anyone at any point— even if you have had sex with them before or are in the middle of sexual activity — and to expect that your partner will listen. And anyone has the right to say no to you and expect you to respect their decision.

Not all date rape situations can be avoided, but there are some things you can do to minimize your risk.

  • Use common sense— avoid situations that seem like they might be dangerous.
  • Avoid situations where you are alone with anyone you don’t know very well.
  • Always tell someone where you are and when you will return.
  • Use a buddy system, have friends check up on each other at parties or other social gatherings.
  • Learn self-defense techniques.
  • Avoid drugs and alcohol which can cloud your judgment.
  • Trust yourself — if a situation feels unsafe, get out.