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Sexual Abuse


The term sexual abuse refers to the forced involvement of a young person below the age of sixteen in sexual activity with an adult or significantly older child. The abuse is never the fault of the child even if they appeared to welcome or encourage it – a person under the age of sixteen is not considered to fully understand the implications and therefore not capable of consent. Sexual abuse can also occur between two adults where one is in a much more powerful position e.g. any sexual involvement between a doctor and patient.

Sexual abuse can be a one-off or recurrent event and can range from inappropriate touching to penetration. The abuser may be anyone; male or female, relative or stranger. Often the full impact of the abuse isn’t felt until the victim reaches adulthood when they are more capable of fully understanding what happened.

Sexual abuse is called incest when the perpetrator is a member of the victims close or extended family.

Sexual abuse includes:

  • Sexual touching and fondling.
  • Exposing children to adult sexual activity including pornographic movies and photographs.
  • Having children pose, perform or undress in a sexual fashion on film or in person.
  • Peeping into bathrooms or bedrooms to spy on a child.
  • Rape or attempted rape
  • Non touching – e.g. exposing a child to pornography or masturbating in front of a child.
  • Touching – can include touching a child’s genitals, oral sex, anal sex, penetration.

Long term effects of sexual abuse:

  • Insomnia.
  • Vagina and pelvic pain.
  • Eating disorders.
  • Lower back pain and chest pressure.
  • Erection problems.
  • Dizziness/fainting.
  • Self-harming
  • Chronic physical complaints.

Long term psychological symptoms of sexual abuse:

  • Anxiety.
  • Panic attacks.
  • Low self-esteem
  • PTSD
  • Substance abuse
  • Self-injury




You are here: Home What is Abuse? Sexual Abuse