Some may wonder what exactly sexual abuse is and if what happened to them is abuse, or something else. According to Pandora’s Project, “Sexual abuse is any sort of non-consensual sexual contact. Sexual abuse can happen to men or women of any age. Sexual abuse by a partner/intimate can include derogatory name calling, refusal to use contraception, deliberately causing unwanted physical pain during sex, deliberately passing on sexual diseases or infections and using objects, toys, or other items (e.g. baby oil or lubricants) without consent and to cause pain or humiliation.”
Furthermore, child sexual abuse can be anything sexual between a child and an adult or older child, including but not limited to: sexual touching of any body part with or without clothing, penetrating sex – including the mouth, encouraging of sexual activity including masturbation, engaging in sex acts in front of a child on purpose, showing a child pornography, and prostituting children, among other things.
With these definitions, I think rape also falls under the umbrella of sexual abuse, though it is more commonly referred to as sexual assault.
We as individuals need to understand what constitutes sexual abuse. We need to teach our children what is okay and what is not. We need to know that if something like this is happening, not only is it not your fault, but we need to tell someone about it – someone who can help it to stop (and assist you in getting professional help and taking legal action against the abuser).
*If you wake up in the night in your own home or at a sleepover or a youth camping trip and someone is touching you inappropriately – even if it feels good – it is not your fault; you have done nothing wrong.
*If someone shows you pornography, it is not your fault. If someone takes advantage of you sexually, it is not your fault.
*If someone “talks you into” sex, but you really did not want to do it, you are not to blame.
Often age is a factor. The person who is the abuser may be older, in charge of, or some sort of authority figure who uses their dominance or influence to convince the victim-often a child-to do sexual acts with them. There is usually an element of fear or secrecy or promise of gifts. Parents, please be aware of any adult who is spending an unnatural amount of time with your child or seems to have a heightened interest in them. These are red flags you should never ignore.
Sex, sexual touching, intimacy between partners is supposed to be consensual by both people. Even if you’ve consented in the past, if you did not want to at a different time and said so, this is still not your fault.
Children, as well as people who are drunk or otherwise unable to make a choice with a sound mind, cannot properly give consent to any sexual activity. If you did not or could not appropriately give your consent, this is sexual abuse.
For a little more understanding, watch this video, “Tea and Consent.” (Yes, I know us Latter-day Saints don’t drink tea as part of our health code, but let’s pretend it’s herbal tea.)
If you have been a victim of sexual abuse, or if you’re the parent of a victim, please seek help from a professional and/or church leader to start healing.