Sexual abuse refers to any type of illegal or coerced sexual conduct against another individual. A wide range of offenses fall into this classification, which is not constrained to physical contact alone. Sexual abuse can include acts of sexual touching, rape, indecent exposure, forcing another individual to view or participate in pornography, and contributing in any way to the commercial sexual exploitation of children. Incidents can occur in a single episode or repeatedly over time.
Reporting incidents of sexual abuse or harassment can be difficult because many people may not believe what happened to them is considered assault in the eyes of the law or they feel the authorities will not believe them. Survivors of sexual abuse should know that it is never the victim’s fault and should work with police to pursue criminal charges against the attacker. As part of both a criminal and civil case, it will be important for the victim to preserve evidence but also seek help from medical and mental health professionals as they work through the trauma.