Skip to content

Sexual Abuse

Sexual Abuse is when you are:

  • Being forced, tricked or coerced into taking part in any kind of sexual activity with an adult or another young person
  • Being touched in a way you don’t like without giving permission or consent
  • Being forced to have sex
  • Being forced to look at sexual pictures or videos
  • Being made to watch someone do something sexual. This can include flashing or exposing themselves to you and can also happen online.

An abuser can be male or female

They can be a stranger, somebody you love and trust, a family member or another young person such as a boyfriend or girlfriend.

They can also be the same sex as you

It can happen to boys and girls.

If you are being sexually abused it is not your fault and you are not alone, it is important that you tell someone.

The Disrespect Nobody website has lots of youtube videos and quizzes to help you find out more information. 

 

wall sexual abuse

Signs and symptoms

Who does it happen to?

Any child can experience sexual abuse, any age or gender. If it happens to them, it isn’t their fault, they are not to blame.

Not all children who have been sexually abused will have symptoms, but the following is a list which may help you spot the signs or ask further questions to reassure yourself. Many adults find it difficult to believe it is happening or that the abuser could be responsible. This is a common reaction on discovering sexual abuse. It does happen and children do get sexually abused. The following list is not meant to diagnose sexual abuse, but alert you to the possibility of that it may be the source of the problem, and happening to a child you know.

Signs and symptoms

Signs and symptoms, include

  • avoiding being alone with people, such as family members or friends
  • seeming frightened of a person or reluctant to socialise with them
  • becoming sexually active at a young age
  • being sexually promiscuous
  • using sexual language or know information that you wouldn’t expect them to
  • physical symptoms such as anal or vaginal soreness, an unusual discharge, sexually transmitted infection (STI) or pregnancy.

The long term effects of abuse and neglect can include:

  • emotional difficulties such as anger, anxiety, sadness or low self-esteem
  • mental health problems such as depression, eating disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), self-harm, or suicidal thoughts
  • problems with drugs or alcohol
  • disturbing thoughts, emotions and memories that cause distress or confusion
  • poor physical health such as obesity, aches and pains
  • struggling with parenting or relationships
  • worrying that their abuser is still a threat to themselves or others
  • learning difficulties, lower educational attainment, difficulties in communicating
  • behavioural problems including anti-social behaviour, criminal behaviour.

Children who are sexually abused experience a range of short and long term symptoms. Research often focuses on physical signs and symptoms but it’s often the emotional and psychological effects that cause more harm in the long term. Children may need help to recover from sexual abuse. In York there is an NSPCC service that helps children who have been sexually abused. Their carers also get help as part of the service.

Find out more about the effects of child sexual abuse on the NSPCC’s website.

Children and young people can also develop harmful sexual behaviour. They will have usually experienced abuse and neglect themselves in some form . They can be helped and having such behaviour doesn’t mean they will grow into an adult sex abuser. 

Keeping Safe

The NSPCC developed the Underwear Rule to help parents protect their children from sexual abuse. It's a simple way that parents (and others) can help keep children safe from sexual abuse – without using scary words or even mentioning sex.

Find out more and download simple guides from the NSPCC’s website.

Read more about healthy sexual behaviour and talking about difficult topics on the NSPCC website.

Pantosaurus

The NSPCC 'Talk PANTS'  campaign helps children to understand that your body belongs to you, and that you should tell someone you trust if anything makes them feel upset or worried.

The Underwear rule tells you all about it.

There is also a quiz which also helps you to learn all about Pantosaurus!

 

For further information please visit the NSPCC website.  

Get help for sexual abuse

  • Think you or a friend might have been sexually abused?
  • Want some advice or someone to talk to?
  • Worried about your child or a young person in your care?

It’s OK to speak to someone. Abuse is never your fault.

Speak to someone

Talk to somebody you trust: If you need help for yourself or are worried about a friend or family member, you should speak to an adult or someone that you feel comfortable with and can trust.

That could be family members, teachers, doctors, nurses, social workers or other adults who work with children. They will listen to what you have to say.

Don't be afraid to talk to these people if you are worried. They are there to help you.

If you are still worried about a friend or you need help, please contact:

York MASH

Phone: 01904 551900

Email: MASH@york.gov.uk

Outside office hours, at weekends and on public holidays contact the emergency duty team telephone: 01609 780780

Police - If there is immediate danger call 999

Childline - Phone: 0800 11 11 A free, private and confidential service where you can be you. Whatever your worry, whenever you need help, however you want to get in touch. We're here for you online, on the phone, anytime.

If you think that you or someone else is being sexually abused or exploited please speak to someone. This could someone you trust like you teacher or pastoral lead at school. For support or if you’re concerned that a child has been sexually abused please contact the NSPCC 24 hour helpline Tel: 0808 800 5000 or email: help@nspcc.org.uk. If a child is at immediate risk of harm call 999.

What happens when you say...

Speaking up about sexual abuse or exploitation can be upsetting and scary. We understand that you want the abuse to stop. We also understand that you might be worried about what might happen after you tell somebody. This is normal and it’s okay to feel like this. Find out what happens when you report abuse.

Speaking up about sexual abuse or exploitation can be upsetting and scary. We understand that you want the abuse to stop. We also understand that you might be worried about what might happen after you tell somebody. This is normal and it’s okay to feel like this. 

Some things you might be worried about:

  • what people might think
  • upsetting a parent or carer
  • making the abuse worse for yourself or a brother or sister
  • getting the person who’s abusing you into trouble
  • breaking up the family.

The most important thing is that you are safe and you feel like you can talk to somebody. We don’t want you to go through this on your own.

What happens if I tell a teacher, police officer or doctor?

If you decide to report the abuse to a teacher, police officer or doctor they have a duty to report it to a social worker. A social worker’s job is to talk with you and your family to see what the best way to keep you safe is. Lots of young people worry that they will ‘take you away’ or ‘break up the family’ – but they want to make things better for you, not worse. If they can, they will always try and sort things out in the family before they think about moving anyone out of the house.

Depending on the information they have and whether they know of your family already, a social worker may do a ‘safety check’ within seven days. This usually means a social worker coming round to speak to you and your parent or carer. If the abuse is happening at home, you can tell a teacher that you’re afraid and would prefer to speak to a social worker at school instead. You could also try and plan a bit of what you want to say before you talk to them. If you have any evidence then it’s a good idea to give them that too.

The advice on this page has been provided by Childline. Childline have produced a video which shows you what happens if you contact Childline about sexual abuse.

Useful Links

Disrespect Nobody

A Home Office website which provides information and guidance on healthy relationships, and explains what is sexting, consent, and rape.

Safe Date

Whether it's relationship abuse, sexting, consent, issues on social media or forced marriage that you’re concerned about, Safe Date have all the facts, support and guidance to help you make the right decisions and stay safe.

Respect not Fear

Website providing information and guidance on healthy relationships, also contains stories and games.

Rape Crisis

Help if you’ve experienced rape, child sexual abuse or any kind of sexual violence details of local Rape Crisis services; information about sexual violence for survivors, people supporting survivors

FaceUp2It

FACE (Fighting Against Child Exploitation) is a group of young people, male and female, who are aware of the dangers of grooming and sexual exploitation. The website was developed by them to help other young people who are vulnerable or taking risks to inform them of the dangers out there and give information on how to keep safe.

Worried about a or friend or do you need some help?

Talk to somebody you trust: If you need help for yourself or are worried about a friend or family member, you should speak to an adult or someone that you feel comfortable with and can trust.

That could be family members, teachers, doctors, nurses, social workers or other adults who work with children. They will listen to what you have to say.

Don't be afraid to talk to these people if you are worried. They are there to help you.

If you are still worried about a friend or you need help, please contact:

York MASH

Phone: 01904 551900

Email: MASH@york.gov.uk

Outside office hours, at weekends and on public holidays contact the emergency duty team telephone: 01609 780780

Police - If there is immediate danger call 999

Childline - Phone: 0800 11 11 A free, private and confidential service where you can be you. Whatever your worry, whenever you need help, however you want to get in touch. We're here for you online, on the phone, anytime.#

Real Stories

The case studies on these pages are all based on the real stories of real victims from across the UK. Names and other information has been changed to protect identities.