Sexual abuse is any sexual act which is unwanted and which has not been consented to. 

It can affect anyone, at any stage of their life . It can happen within families and intimate relationships. It can be carried out by someone you know or someone you don’t know.

It is OK to ask for help and support.

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What is consent?
Sexual consent is where someone agrees by choice to sexual activity and has the freedom and capacity to make that choice. Someone may not have the freedom and capacity to consent if they are:

  • scared for their life or safety, or for the life or safety of someone else;
  • asleep or unconscious;
  • incapacitated through alcohol or drugs;

It is important to know that sexual consent:

  • can be given to one type of sexual activity but not another;
  • can be withdrawn at any time even during sexual activity;
  • must be given each time sexual activity occurs.

What is sexual abuse?
Sexual abuse takes many forms and can include:

  • rape;
  • sexual assault touching you in a way you don't like without consent;
  • forcing or coercing you into sexual activities against your will;
  • using objects violently or in a non-consensual way during sex;
  • sharing sexual stories or images about you without consent;
  • forcing or coercing you to mimic pornography;
  • forcing or coercing you to be recorded during sex or whilst abuse is taking place;
  • sexual harassment or the use of sexual or derogatory names;
  • child sexual abuse or incest;
  • female genital mutilation (FGM);
  • forced marriage;
  • trafficking or sexual explotiation;
  • someone flashing or exposing themselves online or offline;
  • Sexual activity without consent is rape or sexual assault and is a crime. 

It is your choice whether or not to report to the police. No-one else can or should make that choice for you.

For advice get in touch with the Live Fear Free helpline.

Know the signs
Experiencing sexual abuse can have devastating and have long-lasting emotional, psychological and physical effects.  These may include:

  • depression or anxiety;
  • loss of sleep;
  • unexpected or unexplained change in behaviour;
  • sexually transmitted diseases;
  • flashbacks;
  • suicidal thoughts;
  • post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD);
  • dissociation;
  • eating disorders;
  • self-injury and self-harming behaviour;
  • low self-esteem and/or confidence.

Live Fear Free Helpline

If you, a family member or a friend, have experienced sexual abuse you can contact the Live Fear Free Helpline for 24 hour free advice and support or to talk through your options.

Live Fear Free can provide help and advice to:

  • anyone experiencing sexual violence;
  • anyone who knows someone who needs help. For example, a friend, family member or colleague;
  • practitioners seeking professional advice.

All conversations with Live Fear Free are confidential and are taken by staff that are highly experienced and fully trained.

Call: 0808 80 10 800
Available 24 hours a day 7 days a week.

Text: 07860077333
Available 24 hours a day 7 days a week.

Email: [email protected]
Available 24 hours a day 7 days a week.

If you're in danger or need urgent medical attention, you can call 999 to speak to the police or ask for an ambulance.