Sexual abuse is not just about rape

Many people think that the only type of sexual abuse is rape. But, it is far more complex, and includes any form of non-consensual sexual contact or non-touching sexual behaviour. It also encompasses unwanted sexual language or exploitative behaviour. It includes rape, molestation, sexual assault, and any sexual behaviour with someone lacking the mental capacity to consent. Other types of sexual abuse include unwanted touching of genitals or breasts and forced oral, anal, or vaginal intrusion. Trying and failing to have sex with an unwilling person is also abuse. Sometimes abusers find ‘rough’ sex arousing, and enjoy the experience of domination with the rush of power and control it creates, and satisfy their urge to control through aggressive, brutish, sexual behaviour.
When the abuser makes decisions about sexual experiences, sexual abuse is taking place. This includes forcing the victim to have sex whenever and however he wishes, making her engage in sex acts with others, or enslaving her into prostitution. Abusers also impose guilt on the victim, making them feel responsible for the abuse. Ironically, they may also withdraw sexual contact in an intimate relationship to abuse and control the victim, whose sexual needs are then unmet. Despite being in sexually abusive relationships, these needs are strong, and I have met many people who complain when their abusive partner rejects them in this way.
Because intimate relations irritate them, sexual abusers are particularly interested in those with whom they have not had sexual relations. Paradoxically, they tend to place women on a pedestal and idealise them. This, however, is simply to ensure protection from real relationships.
The exploitative nature of sexual abuse is seen when perpetrators use people who are unable to make an informed decision, including someone who is asleep, drunk, drugged, disabled, too young, too old, dependent upon or afraid of the perpetrator. The abuser’s sense of entitlement incites him to invade a person’s boundaries as he wishes.
It is also sexually abusive to mock someone’s sexuality or make offensive statements about his/her body. These behaviours also fit the definition of sexual harassment, which is any unwanted sexual behaviour, gesture or comment. Jokes, insults, sexual demands and unwanted attention are also sexual harassment.

Adapted from Jim O’Shea’s book Abuse. Domestic Violence, Workplace and School Bullying published by Cork University Press
THERAPISTS IN TIPPERARY
PSYCHOTHERAPISTS IN TIPPERARY
COUNSELLORS IN TIPPERARY
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
ABUSE
DEATH OF A CHILD

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