What is Sexual Abuse?

Some sexual abuse is easy to define.  Being touched where and when you don’t want to.  Saying no, and the other person doesn’t stop.  Rape.   Adults having sex with children.  But other types of sexual abuse are not so easy to define.  At Voices for Virtue we have come up with some definitions that may help.

Sexual Abuse is:

Sexual touching between an adult and a child.

Sexual touching between youth/children where there is a significant age difference. (3 or more years)

Sexual looking, showing, or touching to meet the other person’s sexual needs.

When someone pressures, bribes, or tricks you into:

  • touching yours or their body parts,
  • watching pornographic material,
  • acting or modeling for pornographic pictures or videos,
  • using technology such as digital photos, videos, apps, and social media to engage in harassing, unsolicited, or unwanted sexual behavior, or
  • letting them watch you while showering or changing.

Any producing, distributing, or viewing of child pornography.


Sexual abuse does not have to involve penetration, force, pain or even touching.


There is a lot more to sexual abuse that you may have thought.  Probably you or someone you know has been in an uncomfortable situation and didn’t know what to do. When you think back on the situation you realize you may have been sexually abused.  Knowing what to look for is an important part of the solution to stopping sexual abuse.


Here are some real world examples that may or may not be sexual abuse.

What do you think?

  • My boyfriend puts his hand around me and slips his hand down on my breast on top of my clothes without asking.  Beth
  • At school other boys hit my groin area on top of my clothes, they call it squirrel taping. I don’t like them doing it to me. Dan
  • The boys at school flip my bra strap and make rude remarks. It really embarrasses me. I’ve told them to stop it. Carol
  • The boys play this game of slapping girls’ butts at school. It makes me feel uncomfortable. Jill
  • My older brother seems to walk in on me when I’m showering and changing my clothes. It makes me feel weird. Sarah.
  • My stepdad keeps trying to show me some of his porn on his I-pad. Darrell
  • My boyfriend keeps asking me to send him some pictures of me nude. I keep telling him no. He sends me nude pictures of him all the time. I hate it.  Cassie
  • This group of boys at school call me the “B” word and other swear words when I walk to my class. It really embarrasses me. Emmy

The reality is…

If you feel uncomfortable, embarrassed, or pressured into any kind of sexual behavior, it is probably sexual abuse.  Say NO, STOP, I’m Leaving, or whatever it takes to get out of the situation and then talk to someone.  Keeping silent makes things worse for everyone.

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