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What Is The Definition Of Sexual Abuse?

* I generally write using the pronouns he/him when referring to narcissists, but females are just as likely to be narcissists or exhibit narcissistic traits. So please don't think just because article uses the word him or he that it could not be a woman in that same role.

Sexual abuse is an incredibly complex and nuanced form of abuse. Many people who have been subject to this kind of abuse won’t even realize that it’s happened, as it covers so much more than rape.

Educating ourselves about sexual abuse is incredibly important, as it can not only help us but others too. So, What Is The Definition Of Sexual Abuse?

What Is The Definition Of Sexual Abuse

If you’ve been searching for the definition of sexual abuse, we’ve got some answers below.

As well as this, we’ve also compiled some help and guidance for those who have been subject to this kind of abuse. 

To find out more, simply keep reading below. 

Table of Contents

What Is The Definition Of Sexual Abuse?

For those who aren’t familiar with what sexual abuse actually is, the dictionary definition is ‘unwanted sexual activity, with perpetrators often using force, making threats, or taking advantage of victims not being able to give consent.

Immediate reactions to sexual assault may include shock, fear, or disbelief. Long-term symptoms may include anxiety, fear, or posttraumatic stress disorder.

As we can see, sexual abuse isn’t limited to rape, but rather, covers any sexual activity that is unwanted. Sexual abuse can affect individuals in a large manner of different ways.

Post-traumatic stress disorder is a common after-effect for those who have undergone this kind of abuse. 

What Are The Different Types of Sexual Abuse?

As we mentioned briefly above, sexual abuse isn’t just rape. There are a lot of different types of sexual abuse that we’re going to be looking at below. 

One of the key forms of sexual abuse is sexual assault. Sexual assault can cover all manner of different unwanted sexual activity. The most obvious kind of sexual assault is rape or attempted rape. 

Assault also means any unwanted touching or fondling of an individual against their will. In addition, sexual assault also means forcing an individual to perform sexual acts on them against their will. This could be anything from penetrating the abuser to performing sexual acts on them. 

Another type of sexual abuse that is extremely common is child sexual abuse. This means the sexual abuse of a minor who is unable to give consent.

This kind of crime can have a massive psychological impact on the victim, as events like this can shape the rest of an individual’s life. 

There are many kinds of different child sexual abuse, including the perpetrator indecently exposing themselves to the victim, or masturbating in front of them. Engaging in any kind of fondling or rape, and engaging in obscene conversations. 

It is illegal to view or own any kind of sexual content depicting minors, and this is also classified as a form of child sexual abuse.

Many child abusers will actually be known to the family, and manipulate the young person into staying quiet about what’s happening. 

Incest is also classified as a form of sexual abuse, and victims often find it very difficult to express what is happening as they might feel shame about the situation.

Perpetrators will often try to convince them that what is happening is normal, and make them afraid of exposing what’s going on. 

What Is Rape?

What Is Rape

Rape is defined as any kind of penetration that happens without the direct consent of the victim. It doesn’t matter how far the penetration goes, or whether or not it is performed by a penis, fingers, or any other object, it is all classified as rape. 

This may be forced upon the victim, or, it may be that the victim has been verbally threatened or coerced into it happening.

Some abusers will go so far as to threaten a victim’s family members if they don’t comply, in an attempt to manipulate them. 

Most victims of sexual assault and rape report that they knew the perpetrator beforehand. This suggests that many acts of rape are a result of spousal abuse. 

Another common occurrence of rape is what is known as ‘date rape’. It is when the perpetrator gets the victim intoxicated, rendering them unable to give consent, before proceeding to rape them. 

Recovering From Sexual Abuse

Although it can be extremely difficult to talk about what happened to you if you’ve been the victim of sexual abuse, speaking up is the path to healing. 

One of the best ways you can start your road to recovery is simply by talking about what happened to you.

Open up to a trusted friend or family member, and allow them to comfort you and reinforce that it wasn’t your fault. 

Holding in emotions such as shame as guilt can be incredibly toxic, so opening up about such issues can help to set you free from these shackles. 

This brings us to our next point which is about dealing with feelings of guilt. Although cognitively we might understand that any abuse we suffered was not our fault, these thoughts can pop up from time to time.

Many people will blame themselves because they didn’t stop the sexual assault from taking place, or trust somebody when they ‘should’ have known better. 

You need to remember that the experience that you had was incredibly traumatic, and under the circumstances that were taking place, you did the very best you could.

As well as this, it’s not your fault for being a naturally trusting person, or wanting to see the best in people. There is nobody to blame but the person who conducted the assault. 

Naturally, when you’ve been the victim of such an awful act, there will be flashbacks that will take place afterward.

It is incredibly important to learn how to deal with these, as well as soothe yourself when they happen. 

One of the key ways in which you can learn to deal with these flashbacks is by learning your triggers.

Perhaps there are specific triggers and events that lead you to think about what happened. Once you recognize what these are, you can prepare yourself to deal with them. 

Breathing Techniques For Soothing Anxiety

One of the best ways to deal with flashbacks is by engaging in breathing exercises. 

Make sure that you are sitting in a comfortable position, and then place one hand on your stomach and one on your chest. 

After you’ve done this, take a slow breath through your nose, noticing how your hand moves on your stomach as you do so. Hold this breath for seven seconds. 

You can then exhale for eight seconds, all the while, contracting the muscles in your abdomen as you breathe out. Feel how your hand moves as you do so. Repeat this process as many times as you need. 

Final Thoughts

To sum up, sexual abuse covers a whole host of different acts. Rape, sexual assault, child molestation, and incest are all considered to be forms of sexual abuse.

Speaking to loved ones, attending therapy, recognizing triggers, and engaging in breathing exercises can all help to aid recovery.

If you need a crisis hotline or want to learn more about therapy, please see below:

For more information on mental health, please see:

If You Need A Crisis Hotline Or Want To Learn More About Therapy, Please See Below:

  • RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network) – 1-800-656-4673
  • The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1-800-273-8255
  • National Domestic Violence Hotline – 1-800-799-7233
  • NAMI Helpline (National Alliance on Mental Illness) – 1-800-950-6264

For More Information On Mental Health, Please See:

  • SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) SAMHSA Facebook, SAMHSA Twitter, SAMHSA LinkedIn, SAMHSA Youtube
  • Mental Health America, MHA Twitter, MHA Facebook, MHA Instagram, MHA Pinterest, MHA Youtube
  • WebMD, WebMD Facebook, WebMD Twitter, WebMD Instagram, WebMD Pinterest
  • NIMH (National Institute of Mental Health), NIMH Instagram, NIMH Facebook, NIMH Twitter, NIMH YouTube
  • APA (American Psychiatric Association), APA Twitter, APA Facebook, APA LinkedIN, APA Instagram

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