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What is sexual abuse?

Sexual abuse is when someone is forced or pressurised or tricked into taking part in any type of sexual activity with another person. This can include anything from kissing through to full sex. If you have not given your consent (= permission) for something of this kind to happen, then that is abuse.

Sexual abuse can be:

  • being kissed or touched in a way that you are uncomfortable with
  • being forced to have sex or oral sex (in the mouth) with someone
  • being forced to look at sexual pictures or videos
  • being forced to touch someone else in a sexual way
  • being made to watch someone do something sexual like flashing or exposing themselves to you

If something like this has happened to you – no matter what anyone has told you, this is not your fault. No one has the right to make you do things that you do not want to do – not your boyfriend or girlfriend, or even your parents.

NSPCC research indicates that:

  • 4% of children are sexually abused by a relative
  • 11% of children are sexually abused by someone else that they know
  • 5% of children are sexually abused by someone who was a stranger to them

That means that 1 in 5 children are sexually abused.

At Lifecentre we would like to do something to stop that and to help those people who have been hurt already.

A quarter of children who have been abused are too afraid to tell someone what is happening to them. It takes courage to speak out but at Lifecentre we would like to listen and help you. If you have had an unwanted sexual experience, or you think you might have, we are here for you.

“Play therapy has helped me let go of stuff that was weighing me down. My fears don’t seem as big anymore.”

11-year-old boy

“I feel that I have gained so much as I can say anything and not be scared. I can trust my counsellor who has helped me a lot.”

girl aged 13

Here are some questions that we often get asked:

  • No one should make you do anything that you are not comfortable with. Even if you have done it before, we are all allowed to change our minds – and we do for lots of reasons. If someone forces you to do something sexual that you are unhappy with then it is abuse.

  • Sexual abuse by a woman is not talked about very often but it happens more than people think. Sexual abuse by anyone, male or female, is wrong.

  • Telling someone is one of the bravest things you will ever do and can be very difficult. Some people do find it very hard to hear about something as horrible as sexual abuse and others may not want to have to get involved and they may not want to believe it. If you speak to someone who does not want to believe you then don’t give up – there are lots of people who want to help you very much. Lifecentre will always listen and believe you when you tell us your true experiences and we want to help you get safe.

  • No one should force you or pressurise you into having sex. Sex should always be part of a loving and trusting relationship – if someone is putting pressure on you to have sex, then they are not respecting you in the way that they should and they are not valuing you for who you really are. You deserve better than that.

    The law says that you shouldn’t be having sex under the age of 16 anyway and if you are forced when you are over the age of 16 then that is illegal too. If you are under the age of consent and having sex with someone who is over 16 then it is them that is in the wrong and you will not get into trouble if you tell someone.

It is good to talk to someone you trust about what is happening – let them help you. If you would like, you can talk to someone at Lifecentre by calling 0808 802 0808.

There are also lots of other organisations out there who can help you too, whether you’re looking for advice on sex and relationships, or you need someone to confide in about an experience you’ve had.

View some helpful websites for young people