What is sexual abuse? If you were to ask that question to a sea of people, what would their answers sound like? Would they differ from each other or would all of the answers you receive sound similarly? I am sure every single one of us has a definition for the phrase that compliments our inner moral compass, but to put it into simple terms that we all cannot confuse, sexual abuse is any sort of sexual activity that one does not consent to. 

It sounds simple enough to understand right? Wrong.

Presently, one in every five women in America has fallen victim to an attempted or completed rape. That does not include all of the abuse happening behind closed doors that goes unreported. This statistic only covers the abuse of rape. Sexual abuse does not only occur through intercourse, but it also occurs wherever consent ends. 1 in 2 women will end up going through some form of sexual abuse in their lifetime.

How Does Sexual Abuse Happen

As previously stated, sexual abuse happens when someone makes any sort of sexual advance at someone else without first getting their consent. I will say it one more time, the only way sexual abuse occurs, is when somebody pushes or forces somebody else to do something they do not want to do that they did not consent to. There is no other way of explaining this. If you do not have consent, it is sexual abuse.

Where Can Sexual Abuse Take Place

Sexual abuse can happen anywhere, anytime, and to anyone. It can occur at your place of work, your school, a family member’s home, under the eyes of any God in any church, your friend’s house, and sadly in many cases, even in the comfort of your own home. Many people associate sexual abuse with a dark alley and with a stranger, whereas statistically, many victims have claimed to have known their perpetrators in real-life before the attack.

Children specifically know their abusers more often than not. It is easier to manipulate a child into not opening up about their abuse rather than an adult. That is why many abusers prey on children knowing it will be easier to silence or discredit their claims of abuse in the long run. 93% of child victims of sexual abuse know their abuser on some sort of personal level, whether it is a family member or an acquaintance of the child. Only 7% of the time is an abuser an actual stranger to the child.

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Although children are easier targets to prey on in the eyes of an assaulter, many adults suffer from sexual abuse throughout their adulthood. Sexual abuse has no age limit. One in four women experiences sexual harassment within their work environment, not including the claims that are never able to see the light of day out of fear of these women losing their incomes.

Sexual abuse does not discriminate. Many men suffer from sexual abuse as well. 1 in 33 men has fallen victim to sexual abuse throughout their lives. Within our society, it is unfortunate that the claims of male victims have not been taken more seriously into account surrounding sexual abuse.

It is possible to consent to somebody sexually one day, but not again another day. Sexual abuse happens within relationships also. If you said yes to somebody’s sexual advances once, that does not mean you are obligated to say yes every single time to them, or ever again for that matter.

Sexual abuse happens within relationships and marriages, going unnoticed for years, sometimes even lifetimes. If you are in any sort of partnership with somebody, you should never feel as if your purpose is to serve all of your partner’s sexual needs whenever they want you to. You are entitled to having the choice to say no to your partner’s sexual advances anytime you wish.

As shown, sexual abuse can disguise itself and go unnoticed everywhere. That is why we all must educate ourselves on everything surrounding sexual abuse because it comes in many different forms, some of which more unrecognizable than others. For every 2 minutes that passes, another violent act of sexual abuse happens. 

Just to put this into perspective, even more, in the amount of time it took you to read up to this point, someone in the world was sexually assaulted.

 How To Find Support

The one silver lining that continuously shines throughout all of this, is the amount of support and resources one has when dealing with sexual assault. I would suggest, first, opening up to somebody that you trust in your life. Sexual abuse is a burden far to heavy to carry on your own shoulders. Try to open up to somebody you feel comfortable with, in your life. Whether it is a family member or teacher at school, there is somebody within your community who cares and wants to help.

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I understand that not everybody might have a solid support system within their personal lives, so, if there is nobody that you feel comfortable opening up to about this, do not be afraid.  There are countless hotlines and websites that you can find with just the search of 3 words… sexual abuse support.

These hotlines will direct you to a sexual assault service provider that is located in your area who is trained to help you get through and survive your sexual abuse. I would suggest checking out www.rainn.org/get-help for more information. You can also call their hotline 24/7 as well if you need to speak with someone urgently. Their hotline number is 800.656.HOPE (4673).

When To Seek Help

If you have suffered from any sort of sexual abuse, there are a few ways you can go about dealing with it. I know it is extremely difficult and painful to relive the trauma you have endured in the form of sexual abuse, that is one of the reasons why many people never come forward with their abuse. Everybody is different about how they handle their own trauma, and there is no right or wrong way to come forward with what happened to you.

If you do wish to bring your abuse to light to get justice against your abuser, I would suggest, before anything else, seeking medical attention to ensure that you are physically alright after the attack. Although you will have the urge more than ever to bathe and clean yourself after being attacked, DO NOT.

Do not bathe, brush your teeth, or even remove your clothes before seeking medical attention. It will all be over soon, and you will have a better chance of incriminating your aggressor if a rape kit is performed, collecting all DNA left behind.

After you ensure your safety, I would suggest writing down everything you remember from the assault and filing a police report. Even the details that you believe do not matter could possibly be helpful in the long run. After writing down all of the details you remember about the assault, it would be wise to write down all of the details you know about your aggressor.

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If this person is not a stranger to you, still write down what they were wearing while they attacked you and give as many details as you can about them. More details accumulate to more evidence down the line.

How to Find a Lawyer

If you are looking to press charges against your abuser, your best move would be to find a lawyer that has extensive experience with sexual abuse cases. I would not suggest hiring anyone off of the street seeing the severity of the given situation. There are multiple websites that will connect you with lawyers in your area who specialize in your given case. Do not be afraid to see multiple lawyers until you find one that you feel the most comfortable with and confident in representing you and your case.

 A reliable website to use is www.nycbar.org or if you are unable to afford a lawyer, I would suggest using the website www.legalsupporttoday.com/freeattorneys to find a lawyer that is pro bono. The statute of limitations varies from state to state so the sooner you find a lawyer, the easier it will be bringing justice to your aggressor.

To Sum it Up

Sexual abuse in any form is severely traumatizing, but it is important to know that you do not have to go through it alone. There are multiple resources available to anybody who is going through abuse. Opening up about something as personal as this is not an easy thing to do in anybody’s eyes.

Whether you decide to report your abuse to somebody or not is a decision only you can make, but it is important to know that if you do decide to step forward and report your abuse, you have the power to do so. It is never too late to report sexual abuse, even if the statute of limitations times out for your case, you can still have a fighting chance in civil court.

If you or anybody you know is suffering from sexual abuse, you can get help by going to www.rainn.org or by calling 800.656.HOPE (4673)

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