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Sexual abuse

Sexual Abuse is any contact or non-contact sexual activity that happens without consent or understanding, or with forced consent. It includes:

  • sexual violence, such as rape, date rape, attempted rape, groping or forced kissing
  • sexual harassment
  • indecent exposure
  • voyeurism
  • stalking
  • grooming
  • involvement in pornography without consent
  • image-based sexual abuse (known as “Revenge Porn”)
  • loss of sleep
  • unexpected or unexplained change in behaviour
  • bruising
  • soreness around the genitals
  • torn, stained or bloody underwear
  • a preoccupation with anything sexual
  • sexually transmitted diseases
  • pregnancy

If you think about any sexual behaviour that would make you feel uncomfortable, afraid or intimidated, it could fall in the category of sexual abuse.

Any sexual behaviour that makes a person feel uncomfortable, afraid or intimidated could fall in to the category of sexual abuse. If sexual abuse is happening in exchange for something – affection, food, drugs, shelter, protection or money – it’s considered sexual exploitation.

Male Case Study

Joe (not his real name) is a 25 year old male who had been sexually assaulted by a female acquaintance whom he had met on a dating website. Joe decided not to involve the Police and after speaking with a friend self-referred to the Independent Sexual Violence Adviser service that the local charity IDAS offer to victims of sexual abuse and violence.

Joe described the female as being very controlling from the off, dominant and she took the lead, he consented to the initial sexual contact, but did not want the further encounters and made it clear to which the female ignored and forced herself on him.

Joe struggled with his feelings, his friends ridiculed him saying he was lucky, and making jokes like asking him for her number and contact details, none of his wider friends realised the effect this female had on him.

IDAS arranged the following support immediately with consent from Joe;

  • an appointment with the sexual care outreach team YorSexualHealth - York Home
  • a letter was sent to Joe’s GP (This is to save explaining over and over)
  • referred Joe for Counselling
  • signposted to the Headspace website and APP


Joe struggled with the hegemonic feelings that as a male he should have been able to stop a female assaulting him. He struggled to say the word ‘assaulted’ and was scared he would ever feel intimate with someone again. Joe is doing well his mood is a lot better, he has a girlfriend who he has told about his experience and who is fully supportive of him, Joe never thought he would get to this point and is so grateful for the teams that helped him.

Female Case Study

Josy (not her real name) a 35 year old female was referred to the ISVA (Independent Sexual Violence Adviser) service offered by IDAS by the Police following a report from Josy who had suffered Child Sexual Abuse by a family member. The Police opened a case against the suspect. Josy didn’t think she would be believed, she had struggled over the years with severe self-harm and drinking used as coping mechanisms a consequence of never being believed as a child. Josy was unfamiliar with the criminal justice system and was scared, anxious and at times hesitant whether she was doing the right thing.

The Police and the ISVA service work together in supporting victims, ISVA’s are trained in Sexual Trauma and have access to Court approved counsellors. ISVA’s understand the court process and can reassure and update victims when required.

Josy was a difficult client initially, she struggled to engage and the ISVA used many different approaches. Finally Josy chose to engage, as she didn’t drive and lived in a remote area the ISVA arranged to meet initially in a nearby tranquil park and then weekly at Josy’s home, if Josy needed support in-between this was done via What’s App, Skype video calls and Zoom, the ISVA helped Josy with installing these on her phone.

Josy could not believe that she was being taken seriously and really started to open up with the right help from the ISVA and other agencies.

Josy received the following support;

  • counselling
  • referral to Survive for emotional support
  • 1:1 Work on sleeping problems
  • 1:1 Work on healthy coping strategies
  • 1:1 Work on sexualised trauma and normalisation of feelings
  • support confidence building
  • court Support

There was an additional set back with the case as more family members came forward to disclose abuse from the same Male.

The Male was found guilty two years later after all the evidence and statements had been collected and received a substantial prison sentence.

Josy expressed a belief that if it hadn’t been for the support from everyone involved she would not have continued with the criminal justice process. Josy is in a much better place, coping more positively and still remains a client of IDAS.

Victims of Rape and Serious Sexual Assault can access the York Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) this can be as a self-referral (No Police involved) or a referral by Police / Social Care.

The SARC can conduct a forensic medical and support victims who may be undecided in taking their case to the Police for investigation. They can advise and signpost to other agencies for ongoing support.