Sexual Abuse and Exploitation

Sexual Abuse can Include:

  • Pressuring or forcing someone to do something sexual, including ‘sextortion’ when someone is coerced into performing a sexual act via a webcam
  • Touching someone sexually without their permission
  • Unwanted sexting – sending sexually explicit texts and images to someone without their consent (including ‘revenge porn’)
  • Unwanted sexual attention – for example ‘wolf-whistling’, making sexualised comments about women’s bodies
  • Watching a sexual act take place without permission
  • Engaging in sexual acts with someone who is too drunk, or too intoxicated to give consent
  • Engaging in a sexual act with someone who is asleep or unconscious
  • Having sex with someone who cannot legally consent – for example, a boy or girl under the age of 16, or someone with disability who does not have the capacity to understand the situation
  • Making someone watch or appear in pornography against their will
  • Preventing someone from using contraception.

Sexual Exploitation

This is when a sexual act takes place in exchange for things like food, shelter, protection, or to pay bills. The person may have felt frightened if they did not do what the person wanted, and this can involve a boy or girl friend. Exploitation means taking advantage of someone.

The Signs of Sexual Exploitation

This can include: unexpected or unexplained changes in behaviour; withdrawal from social activities and cutting off ties with friends and family; obsession with a new mobile phone and a desire to hide who they are talking to. People who are being sexually exploited are often unaware that they are victims of such abuse.

There is also a link between drug misuse and exploitation because of an existing problem, or as a means of coping with problems, which can result in a vicious circle of drug misuse locking adults into exploitation.

Understanding Consent

If someone is having sex, or doing something intimate with another person, they have to be sure the other person wants to be doing it too – that they have consented. Even in a relationship it’s important to make sure both partners agree to any sexual act every time:

  • Consent is showing or verbally communicating a clear ‘yes’ to a partner. If someone is not sure their partner is consenting, they must ask
  • To be able to consent, a person must have both the capacity to say yes and must understand what is happening and what they are agreeing to do
  • The absence of ‘no’ doesn’t mean yes. Someone might have been pressured or frightened into doing something they don’t want to – this means they haven’t consented. If a person is not sure a partner is consenting, they must ask
  • Everyone has the right to say no to any kind of sexual activity, or to change their mind at any time before or during sex
  • It’s also important to remember that there are some groups of people who cannot consent under law. If someone is not physically or mentally capable of making a decision to have sex – or they can’t understand what they’re agreeing to – they cannot give consent. For example, if someone is very drunk or intoxicated when they agree to sex, the law recognises that they don’t have the capacity to give ‘true’ consent
  • The age of consent in the UK is 16.

Myths about Sexual Abuse

There are lots of myths and misinformation about sexual abuse. It is important to challenge excuses for abusive behaviour and work to bring an end to abuse.

Myth: Some women are just asking for it. If you dress a certain way you are putting yourself at risk

Women have the right to wear whatever they like – they cannot be blamed for

suffering a sexual assault, regardless of their appearance. Rape or sexual assault is never a woman’s fault. Assaulting a woman is a choice an abuser makes – it is against the law.

Myth: Women who get themselves too drunk are asking for it

Deciding to drink too much does not mean that a woman has also decided to have sex. Men who go out to get drunk do not face similar judgments about their behaviour and rarely do women take advantage of them sexually.

Myth: A rapist is someone who jumps out from a dark alley

The majority of sexual assaults are carried out by someone a woman or girl knows and trusts, often in her own home. In approximately 90% of reported rapes, the victim knows their perpetrator prior to the incident.

Myth: Men don’t get raped

Although the majority of sexual violence is experienced by women, men are also raped and sexually assaulted. The impact of sexual violence on men is just as traumatic as it is for women.

Myth: It can’t be rape if the person has already had consensual sex with the rapist

Consent must be gained each and every time someone engages in a sexual activity.

Myth: Girls might say no, but they really mean yes

If someone says no, or indicates through their actions that they don’t want to have sex, then they haven’t consented.

Myth: Women lie about being raped all the time

False rape allegations are very rare – less than 3% of reports are false. But almost 500,000 women are raped or sexually assaulted each year in England and Wales.

Myth: Sometimes a man just gets carried away and can’t stop

Everyone is responsible for their own behaviour. Respecting someone means never forcing them to engage in a sexual act against their wishes.

Did you know?

  • 1 in 5 women in the UK have experienced some form of sexual violence since the age of 16
  • It is estimated via the National Crime Survey that there were 645,000 victims (aged 16 to 59) of sexual assaults in 2016 across England and Wales.
  • There were 106,098 police recorded sexual offences in the year ending March 2016, an increase of 20% compared with the previous year. There has been upward trend in recorded sexual offences since 2002.

Office for National Statistics (ONS) February 2017

Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC)

The SARC provides 24 hour crisis intervention and support for individuals 365 days a year, with dedicated specially trained staff who are able to explain and discuss the options, providing a sensitive and dedicated service that meets the needs of Victims of Rape and Sexual Assault. SARC staff will support someone regardless of whether they want to report to the Police.

Tel: 03333 44 8283 to speak with a SARC crisis worker.

SARC is also the central referral hub for sexual offence services, with one referral ensuring that all appropriate services are put in place through agreed pathways. SARC can provide training to professionals and teams around the impact of sexual violence.

Support Services

There a wide range of Teeswide organisations who are all working to support victims of sexual abuse, and in doing so helping to prevent further abuse from occurring. These organisations can offer services, which include:

  • Advocacy
  • Befriending & counselling
  • Emotional support
  • Legal guidance
  • Practical assistance
  • Shelter & accommodation
  • Signposting
  • Training.

Domestic Abuse Prevention Information Sheet

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