What is sexual abuse?
Sexual abuse can come in many different forms across the whole life span and can be perpetrated by trusted people in our lives, total strangers, and anyone in between.
Broadly defined, sexual abuse is: any sort of unwanted sexual advance or act in which the perpetrator used force, threat, coercion, or took advantage of an existing relationship, emotional closeness, or vulnerability to cause sexual/emotional harm to the victim. Sexual abuse can happen to boys and girls, men and women.
Types of sexual abuse can include: childhood sexual abuse, molestation, incest, rape, sexual assault, unwanted touching or exposure, intimate partner rape, being forced to perform sexual acts, sexual harrassment, threats of sexual harm, being filmed without consent or knowledge, being coerced into commercial sex, and more.
So, how does sexual abuse occur?
Sexual abuse may not be easily identifiable as abuse. It can be perpetrated by anyone, however, it is most often perpetrated by a trusted individual. This can make it even more confusing and challenging to identify sexual abuse as it often involves emotional manipulation and coercion of some sort.
Typically, a perpetrator builds trust and creates an emotional bond with the victim, even showing them particular care and affection before any unwanted sexual advances occur. Perpetrators will also slowly introduce sexualized content and advances into the relationship, desensitizing the victim. This process of building trust and preparing a victim is known as grooming. Perpetrators will commonly blame the victims for the abuse and will make threats or false promises to keep the victim silent. They may even show the victim more kindness and affection after the abuse occurs.
This cycle of violence and abuse often leaves victims feeling confused, alone, and blaming themselves. It can leave the victim vulnerable to more abuse by the same perpetrator or others. Each story is different and everyone responds to sexual abuse differently as well.
No matter your story, we want you to know that we believe you!
If you are reading this and it sparked some memories, sounded familiar, or described experiences that you have had – please know that you are not alone. Due to the complicated and secretive nature of sexual abuse, it can be challenging to identify abuse and to seek help. Here at The Geode Project, we know that each story and situation is different. We firmly believe that no victim caused their own abuse and strive to create a safe and shame-free environment where participants can heal from the many and varied effects of sexual abuse.