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What is Sexual Abuse?

Sexual abuse is when someone in a position of power or authority takes advantage of a person’s trust and respect to involve them in sexual activity. It involves ANY unwanted sexual act or behaviour which is threatening, violent, forced or coercive and to which a person has not given consent or was not able to give consent. Sexual abuse does not have to include contact, but can also include sexual harassment through inappropriate sexual comments, voyeurism (someone exposing themselves to you) or making someone watch a sexual act or pornography.


Impacts of Sexual Abuse

  • Nightmares, flashbacks, fear of the dark or confined spaces

  • Body image issues 

  • Not feeling safe in your body, with people or the world

  • Addictions, eating disorders, having to always keep busy or compulsive cleaning

  • Self-harm (cutting, burning, etc.) ; self-destructiveness; risk-taking

  • Phobias, panic, anxiety

  • Need to be invisible or perfect

  • Depression, anger, grief, guilt, fear

  • Feeling numb or disconnected from your body

  • Feeling you have to always be watching /alert for possible danger

  • Difficulty trusting yourself & others

  • Fear of change/unpredictability

  • Feeling a lack of control/power

  • Sexual issues (aversion to sex, pain during sex, sexuality confusion, struggles with intimacy/touch)

  • Feeling damaged/worthless/different or that something is wrong with you

  • Relationship issues (difficulty connecting with others or finding yourself in relationships where you may be used/abused)

  • Difficulty saying no or setting limits with others

Though the impacts of sexual abuse can often feel to the survivor as if they are never going to end, counselling is a positive step you can take in reducing these impacts and taking back the power and control of your life. It can take a lot of courage making the first step in seeking support, but it can also be the first step in reclaiming your identity and being able to move on from what has happened. As a survivor of sexual abuse, you are NOT responsible for what happened, but you are responsible for what steps you take now to recover from what has happened. Recovery from sexual abuse is possible, but it is up to you to take the first step.


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