What is sexual abuse?

What is Sexual Abuse?

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Walker Family Law
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Sexual Abuse & Sexual Violence Awareness Week occurs during the first full week of February, in 2023 that’s from 6th to 12th February. The aim is to raise awareness of sexual abuse and encourage people to have open conversations about it, including what sexual abuse is, how it can affect a person and where they can get help.

What is Sexual Abuse and what are the signs?

Sexual abuse means any sexual activity that happened without consent. It’s not something we talk about a lot, and many people aren’t sure what it means and whether what happened to them ‘counts’ as sexual abuse.

Rape Crisis is a national charity working to end sexual abuse and violence. Their website has some excellent resources to help people understand what sexual abuse is and, crucially, to debunk many of the myths surrounding sexual abuse that cause confusion and shame to victims.

Rape Crisis states that sexual abuse is any kind of sexual activity or act (including online) that was unwanted and involved one or more of the following:

  • pressure
  • manipulation
  • bullying
  • intimidation
  • threats
  • deception
  • force

What are the myths surrounding sexual abuse?

Many of the myths surrounding sexual abuse can make victims feel like they are somehow to blame, or that what happened to them wasn’t ‘real’ sexual abuse. Some important things to remember about sexual abuse are:

  • It doesn’t have to leave a person with visible injuries.
  • It doesn’t have to involve other physical violence or weapons.
  • If the victim didn’t scream, try to run away or fight that doesn’t mean it wasn’t sexual abuse. It’s really common for people who experience sexual abuse to find themselves unable to move or speak.
  • It can be perpetrated by a stranger, but it is very often perpetrated by someone that the person knows or even trusts. For example, a partner or ex-partner, friend, colleague, or family member.
  • Orgasming or experiencing feelings of arousal during sexual violence doesn’t mean it wasn’t sexual violence.
  • A victim or survivor of sexual violence was never ‘asking for it’. It doesn’t matter what they were wearing or what consensual sexual activity or other interaction happened before the sexual violence.

The Rape Crisis website has lots more useful resources, including guidance on what consent really means, the truth about many common rape myths and the different ways that sexual abuse can affect a person.

Where to go for help and how to support someone who is being sexually abused

Devon Rape Crisis offers confidential, professional support to survivors of rape, sexual assault and childhood sexual abuse in Devon. It runs a free, confidential, and anonymous helpline on Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 6pm – 9pm. You can call on 01392 204174 or email support@devonrapecrisis.org.uk. Or you can call the National Rape Crisis Freephone Helpline on 0808 500 2222 at any time, 24/7.

Our team of family lawyers are experienced in protecting the rights of abuse victims in all aspects of family law work, including care proceedings involving social services and disputes with an ex-partner over children or money. We handle each case with sensitivity, empathy, and professionalism. Please contact us for more information.

Ian Walker Family Law & Mediation Solicitors are award-winning family solicitors and are recognised as one of the leading family law firms in the South West of England with services covering family law & mediationdivorcechild law, and arbitration. For expert advice, please contact the team.