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What is Sexual Violence & Abuse?

Sexual violence and abuse is when someone persuades, forces or tricks a child or young person to see, show or do sexual things. This can be touching or not touching, online or offline. Sometimes you may not recognise that what is happening is abuse, abuse often involves lies and manipulation. It’s important to know that anything sexual that happens between an adult and child is illegal and not ok. It’s important to know that anything sexual that happens without your consent is illegal and not ok.

If you have been subjected to sexual violence and abuse, you are not to blame. It’s not your fault. At RSVP, we believe you.

Examples might be:

  • Being touched in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable
  • Being shown something sexual, like porn or someone showing their private parts
  • Doing something sexual with an adult
  • Being asked to show your private parts for a sexual reason

About sexual violence and abuse

It’s not just ‘stranger danger’

Lots of people believe that they’re most at risk from sexual violence and abuse from people they don’t know. Actually, over 90% of sexually abused children were abused by someone they knew.

You can’t agree to sexual violence, abuse or exploitation.

There is nothing anyone can do to invite sexual violence and abuse, by definition, it happens when someone takes your right to ‘choose’ away. The violence and abuse isn’t the fault or responsibility of anyone except the abuser. No one ever ‘asks’ to be abused by the way they look or the way they act.

There isn’t one kind of victim.

It’s true that abusers are mostly men and victims are more likely to be girls. However, the abuse of boys and young men happens more than people realise, and it’s just as serious. Women can be abusers too. Abusers and victims come from all groups of society with all sorts of identities.


There are lots of types of sexual violence and abuse

Rape is a type of sexual abuse, other things, like non-consensual touching, adults touching children, flashing, or an adult showing a child porn are also abuse. Sexual abuse can happen online too, where no touching has happened.

Sadly, sexual violence and abuse happens a lot

Sexual abuse of children and young people is deliberately kept secret by abusers, which makes it very difficult to know how many children have been affected. The NSPCC says that 1 in 20 children has been sexually abused.

Feelings and Actions

Being subjected to sexual abuse is traumatic and it’s normal to learn a variety of techniques that make you feel emotionally and physically protected. Below are some thoughts you may be having, and ways they could be coming through in your life.

  • Not wanting people’s attention, as attention from adults has been harmful in the past.
  • Being rebellious at home or at school, which can be a way of releasing your anger or frustration.
  • Taking the blame for what you have been subjected, believing that you were subjected to sexual abuse because of something you said or did. This really affect your confidence and the way you connect with life in general.
  • Finding it hard to accept that the abuse happened at all
  • Having difficulty expressing yourself and your feelings

Tips for Talking

Sexual abuse can make you feel guilty, ashamed and on your own in the world. It can be really hard to talk about it, but there are people out there who can help, so you don’t have to struggle with it on your own. You might feel ashamed or embarrassed to talk about it, but try to remember that abuse is never your fault so those feelings shouldn’t stop you talking to an adult that you trust.

Talk to someone you trust

Talking about sexual abuse is really difficult and upsetting, so talking to someone you trust will help. They could be a parent, grandparent, teacher, a friend’s parent or doctor. Any adult who you feel comfortable telling.

Pick a good time and place

Picking a time where you and the adult can talk in private without interruptions

You choose how you tell them

You can take a friend with you for support. Or if you don’t want to talk about it face to face, you can write it down in a letter to give to the adult instead. If you would rather write a letter, try and include as much information as you can.

Online safety

Due to the Covid-19 outbreak, everyone is spending much more time at home and online. We are not having the same daily interactions with others outside of our household. Our digital world is therefore an excellent way to stay connected. We have become reliant on it more than ever to socialise, connect and entertain.

Technology is a fantastic tool, for which many of us are grateful for during these difficult times. Unfortunately, a rise in the use of these technologies means that people who want to target others in abusive, inappropriate or unsafe ways, such as through online grooming, might have more opportunities to do so. In light of this, we wanted to share resources around online safety.

For children and young people

Click on the links below to access free resources on life online

BBC’s Own It for young people

Childline advice on what to do if you think you’re being groomed. 

Childline’s Zipit app – respond to unwanted chat with the power of GIFs

Childline’s one-to-one online chat 

For parents and carers

From advice around the latest apps to how to report online abuse, there are many brilliant online resources and support services.

To report online abuse – www.ceop.police.uk/safety-centre

Information and advice for parents – www.thinkuknow.co.uk/parents

Net Aware by the NSPCC and O2 has all the latest advice on social networks and apps young people may be using.

NSPCC have advice around parental controls and on how to start a conversation around online safety.

Useful links

Links to other websites providing useful information and help for young people.

  • Childline  have a 1-1 chat function so you can talk with a counsellor online
  • Kooth is an online resource that has been researched by one of our young volunteers, Elly. Elly says “I think Kooth is a good platform ‘cos it provides positive self-care for many personal problems, as well as a place where you can get advice and help from. It’s anonymous and provides out of hours support”.
  • Papyrus are there to talk about suicidal feelings. They have a helpline 0800 068 41 41.
  • Women’s Aid created this online space www.thehideout.org.uk for young people affected by domestic abuse.
  • Umbrella is the sexual health service in Birmingham and Solihull, they can support with contraception and STI testing/treatment.
  • Young Stonewall have lots of advice and support for LGBTQI youth.