What is Sexual Abuse?

Sexual abuse is when someone with less power is tricked, trapped, coerced, or bribed into any type of sexual experience. Power imbalance may result from the perpetrator’s age, size, position, experience, or authority and includes kissing, fondling, being forced to touch the abuser’s genitals, anal, oral or vaginal sex, and non-contact acts such as exhibitionism, exposure to pornography, voyeurism or sexual comments or looks.

If, as a child, you experienced anything that felt sexual or yucky with someone who had more power than you, you were abused.

It was abuse:

  • Even if you were never touched
  • Even if you didn’t say no
  • Even if it only happened once
  • Even if you only watched
  • Even if it felt good
  • Even if you participated
  • Even if it was a “game”
  • Even if you got something for it
  • Even if it was with another child
  • Even if it was suggestive comments
  • Even if there was something about it that you liked
  • Even if you didn’t tell

It’s common to compare your experience with another’s. If someone else’s abuse seems more severe than your own, that does not diminish your own suffering. There is more to abuse than the physical act. Sexual abuse is a physical, emotional, mental and spiritual violation. Often, the most painful part of abuse does not leave visible scars. Life-devastating effects can come from years of childhood rape or five seconds of being fondled or an experience that didn’t involve touch at all. If you suffered from abuse, you deserve to heal.