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Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse refers to any behaviour of a sexual nature that takes place without the consent or understanding of the victim. It can happen to anyone, regardless of age or gender.

Sexual abuse can be perpetrated by a stranger or someone known to the victim. It can also take place in the context of any relationship or setting, including:

  • Among family members
  • In a dating/intimate relationship
  • In a caregiving relationship
  • Within a household/domestic setting
  • Between spouses

What is Considered Sexually Violent Behaviour?

  • Forcing or threatening someone to engage in sexual activity (e.g. molest, rape)
  • Grooming a person to engage in sexual activity by gaining and maintaining sexual access with them, and preventing them from telling anyone about it
  • Engaging in sexual activity with a person who is not capable or who lacks the mental capacity or understanding to give consent (e.g. children, persons with intellectual disability)
  • Engaging in non-contact sexual activity without their consent (e.g. forcing underaged persons to witness sexual activity/pornography, indecent exposure, voyeurism, threatening to or distribution of sexual images or videos of another person, obscene messages/calls/remarks)

What is Online Sexual Violence?

  • Pressuring someone to send explicit images of themselves
  • Posting sexual comments or requests without consent
  • Distributing sexual images or videos of another person without consent

What are Some Signs to Look Out for in Victims?

  • Unexplained bruises or injuries around the private parts, genital diseases or Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)
  • Easily scared or nervous about physical touch
  • The display of unusual, sudden intense fear and avoidance of a particular person, place, or object (e.g. fear of bathing because the sexual violence occurred in the bathroom)
  • The use of non-age-appropriate knowledge or language, interest in sex or displaying sexualised behaviours (e.g. a young child might ask his/her classmate to get into positions that look sexual in nature)
  • Significant changes in mood (e.g. more depressed or anxious)*
  • Self-harm or suicidal behaviours (e.g. threatening or attempting suicide, preoccupation with death)*
  • Running away, isolating self, or withdrawing from friends*

*These may also be signs of other problems that the person may be experiencing and not necessarily due to sexual violence.