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Sexual Abuse or Assault

Topic overview

​​​Sexual abuse or assault can happen to anyone. If this has happened to you, you are not to blame. The attacker (also called the assailant or abuser) may be a stranger, someone you know, a close friend, partner or ex-partner, or a family member. Many victims of abuse or assault know their assailant.

If you have experienced sexual abuse or assault, it may be hard for you to tell someone. You may feel shame or guilt and be too afraid of the attacker to say anything. But it’s important to get help. Talk to a health care professional, such as a doctor, nurse, or counsellor, the police or call your local sexual assault centre. These professionals can help you get medical treatment and tell you what you need to do to report the abuse or assault. They can also take steps to help you deal with your feelings and start to recover.

Sexual assault

Sexual assault is any unwanted sexual act or behavior forced on a person without their consent. This means you did not give consent or you weren’t able to give consent. The attacker of a sexual assault may use threats, violence, force, or use drugs or alcohol to prevent a person from being able to react to, resist or remember the assault. Sexual assault includes:

  • forced sexual intercourse (sometimes called rape)
  • forced oral sex
  • placing an object into the vagina or anus without your consent
  • unwanted sexual touching or fondling

Sexual abuse

Sexual abuse is when someone in a position of power or authority (such as a parent, teacher or coach) takes advantage of a person’s trust and respect to get them to take part in sexual activity. Sexual abuse may happen over and over or it may happen one time. It can involve any type of behavior or act that is a sexual assault. Sexual abuse also forcing a person to:

  • look at a naked body or naked genital area
  • show their own naked body
  • watch or look or take part in sexual pictures or movies
  • watch a sexual act, such as masturbation
  • touch or be touched (fondled)

Current as of: June 23, 2020

Author: Sexual and Reproductive Health Services, AHS