What is sexual abuse?

You might not be sure if what has happened to you or a friend is sexual abuse. That’s why it’s important to pay attention to how you feel. If you feel uncomfortable, afraid, or upset, then something might be wrong. No one has the right to make you feel uncomfortable, or make you do anything you don’t want to do.

Is this sexual abuse?

Sexual abuse happens when someone touches another person in a sexual way, and the touching is unwanted. That includes someone touching your breasts, vagina, penis or anus without your permission. Being forced to touch someone else in a sexual way is also sexual abuse, and so is rape (putting a penis or object into part of someone’s body, such as mouth, anus, or vagina). Sexual abuse is usually done by someone who used to seem trustworthy, is older, or who has some kind of authority or power over the person they abuse.

What if there was no touching?

Sexual abuse can happen without touching. Forcing someone to look at a naked person or pictures of naked people, and being forced to watch pornography is sexual abuse. It is also sexual abuse to force someone to watch a person masturbate.

Finding hope

Sexual abuse is very upsetting. It can take a long time to recover from, even if the abuse happened a long time ago. But there is hope, and you will feel better over time. The important thing is getting help and taking things at your own pace. No matter what happened, you can move on.

People who abuse may try to shift the blame. Remember that the abuse is NOT your fault.


Last reviewed: March 2014 by the Kids Help Phone Counselling Team


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