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Information for Young People

What is Sexual Abuse?

Sexual abuse is when someone is forced, pressurised or tricked into taking part in any kind of sexual activity with another person. Sexual abuse can be physical or emotional and can happen in person or online. The information below gives you some examples of the different types of sexual abuse.

  • Rape
    • If someone forces, pressurises or tricks you into having sex with them, this is rape.
  • Sexual assault
    • If someone kisses you or touches you sexually in a way that you don’t want them to.
    • If someone forces you to look at a sexual picture or film.
    • If someone makes you to watch them or someone else do something sexual.
    • If someone gets you to do something sexual when you don’t want to.
  • Sexual Exploitation
    • If someone pressured you into having sex or doing something sexual for them in return for something e.g. gifts, money, drugs, or even affection, this is sexual exploitation. It may initially appear like the person exploiting you is being nice and they may tell you that they love you or that they want to help you out but they are actually trying to manipulate you to get what they want.
  • Sexual bullying and sexual harassment
    • If someone taunts you and calls you names in a sexual way.
    • If someone flashes or exposes themselves to you online or in person.
    • If someone pinches or grabs your private parts.
    • If someone spreads sexual rumours about you.
    • If someone says inappropriate or sexual things about the way you look that make you feel uncomfortable.
  • Grooming
    • Grooming is when someone builds an online relationship with you and then tricks or pressures you into doing something sexual.
      • Have sexual conversations
      • Send nudes
      • Send sexual videos
      • Meet up with them in person
  • Taking, sending and/or sharing sexual or intimate images - sometimes called 'sexting', 'sending a dirty' or 'nudes'
    • If someone puts pressure on you to send sexual pictures or do something sexual online.
    • If someone shares naked or sexual photos or videos of you without your consent.

The perpetrator is the person who committed the act of sexual violence. They can be anyone; a family member, friend, boyfriend or girlfriend, another young person, or a stranger.

If any of this has happened to you, then you are a survivor. We use the word survivor to describe a victim of sexual violence, because this word highlights that you have been through a lot and you are still here. When you are ready, you can take the first steps towards feeling good again.

If you think any of this might have happened to you or might still be happening then we can help. It’s really important that you have a safe space to be able to talk at your own pace about what’s happened. We can help you with things like dealing with difficult feelings, and developing healthy coping strategies as well as practical things like housing and money matters.

We want you to know: The abuse is not your fault! We will not judge you! We are here to support you!

The Impact of Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse can impact survivors in a variety of ways – no reaction, or lack of reaction, is right or wrong. These can be physical, emotional and social and can last for days, weeks or months following the incident. Here are some examples of the impacts:




Low Energy


Trust Issues

Sleep Problems

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Relationship Difficulties

Weight Loss/Gain

Anxiety and Panic Attacks

Avoiding social situations

Sexual Issues


Struggling to engage in school


Coping After Sexual Abuse and Moving Forward

Everyone has different feelings and reactions after an experience of sexual abuse/violence and/or rape. These feelings can be really different to one another and can be challenging to process, or you may feel nothing at all. Just remember, there is no right or wrong way to react or feel. Here are some ideas of how to move forward and cope after an experience of sexual abuse:

  1. Remember and believed it happened – although it may be easier to pretend the rape or abuse never happened, remembering it happened, although painful and difficult is the first step towards healing
  2. Discovering and accepting your feelings – it’s important to take time to process your feelings towards the rape or abuse
  3. Throwing away the guilt – you may feel guilty after being raped or abused but remember you are never the one to blame for it happening
  4. Express yourself – draw, paint or write about your thoughts and feelings, this can help process the muddled feelings in a way that makes sense to you.
  5. Ask for help – breaking the silence and talking about it is a vital part of the healing process.

These booklets have been produced by other Rape Crisis centres and have some useful tips for coping after sexual abuse.


Note to Self

Although we offer professional support, it is helpful for you to find ways to look after yourself when you are not with your support worker. It is important to look after yourself, recognising your own needs are important, and to feel good about yourself – this is called self-care. You may have been worrying about other’s feelings so much that you forgot about yourself. It can be useful to have your own comforting routines that you can use when you are feeling overwhelmed. Self-care looks different for everyone…. here are some ideas of self-care ideas that may work for you

Getting an early night or having alone time
Getting outdoors
Listening to your favourite music or reading a book
Meeting a friend to go for tea, a coffee or even to the cinema
Taking time away from technology and social media
Taking time out to make a hot drink, watch a film/tv show or exercise
Writing positive notes and encouragements for yourself

These are just some of many ideas that exist – you may incorporate these activities into your everyday routine or save them for when you have a challenging day. Take some time to explore what makes you feel good about you!

This is a really good website with loads of self-care tips that you can check out if you want some more ideas: