The term ‘sexual abuse’ includes a range of unwanted / non-consensual sexual experiences that can occur at any age. At least 1 in 6 men have experienced sexual assault or rape at some point in their lives. According to ManKind UK‘s research, 42% of men have had at least one sexual experience that is legally defined as a crime. There is no ‘typical’ perpetrator – people of any background, gender, class or sexuality can abuse boys or men.
If you have experienced something like this – it is not your fault and you are not alone.
Unwanted / non-consensual sexual experiences can include:
Child Sexual Abuse (CSA): when an adult or older adolescent forces or entices a child or young person into any form of sexual activity. It can include sexual contact (kissing, touching and/or rape). It can also include showing children sexually explicit material (e.g. videos, photos or in person), making explicit photographs, encouraging children to act in sexual way or grooming a child in preparation for abuse.
Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE): a type of child sexual abuse. In CSE a child or young person may be given something in exchange for engaging in sexual activities. This might include gifts, money, drugs and/or affection. Abusers are often skilled in coercing children and young people, leaving them feeling like they have no choice or that they ‘owe’ the abuser something. Some may feel like they’re in a loving relationship – a process known as grooming. Some abusers also use violence, intimidation and/or financial abuse to retain control. CSE can happen online, when a child or young person is persuaded or coerced into sending explicit images of themselves or having sexual conversations.
Rape / Assault by penetration: Penetration without consent. The offender can be male or female. It can involve part of someone’s body or the use of an object.
Sexual assault: Being touched sexually without freely given informed consent.
Revenge porn: Someone sharing private sexual photos or footage without your consent.
Sexual harassment: Unwanted behaviour of a sexual nature that occur in the workplace or a learning environment (e.g. university). Sexual harassment ca leave you feeling intimidated, degraded or humiliated. It can include sexual comments or jokes and unwelcome sexual advances. It can include sending you emails with a sexual content or displaying photos or pictures of a sexual nature.
A note about ‘consent’
Consent means actively agreeing or saying ‘yes’ to something. Children cannot consent to any form of sexual activity. Young people under the age of 16 cannot consent to sexual activity with an adult.
Consent has to be voluntary
Consent must be freely given. It’s not consent if someone feels frightened, threatened or forced into a sexual experience. It’s not consent if someone is under the effects of drugs or alcohol that affects their ability to say ‘yes’. It’s not consent if someone is unconscious or asleep. It’s not consent if the other person is in a position of power (e.g. your teacher, religious leader or social worker), especially if you are in a vulnerable position.
Consent must be informed
To consent to something, you need to know what you are consenting to. For example, consenting to kissing someone does not mean you consent to having sex with them. Many different things might make it difficult to give informed consent, including: being under the influence of drugs/alcohol; having a learning disability; going through a mental health crisis.
Consent can be withdrawn at any time
Everyone has the right to withdraw consent at any time. Having had sex with someone before does not mean they are entitled to having sex again. It is OK to change your mind about having sex. Even if you’re in a relationship with someone, it is OK to say ‘no’ and this should be respected.
What if you’re not sure?
If you’re questioning whether a sexual experience was consensual, then it is likely that it had a negative impact on you in some way. If that’s the case and you feel you’d benefit from the space counselling offers to make sense of your experiences, get in touch. We prioritise you and your needs above dictionary or legal definitions.