Blog: What is Sexual Abuse?

In today’s society, there is still a misconception of what sexual abuse actually is.  Too often people who have been sexually abused, have been dismissed, ignored or their abuse has been minimised, leading to them not having their voice heard and underreporting.  At Nexus, we want to #breakthesilence on sexual abuse and help victims & survivors find their voice.  We call for more training and education for all of society on what is sexual abuse and where to go if it has happened to you. 


The definition of sexual abuse; “Sexual violence and abuse is any behaviour thought to be of a sexual nature which is unwanted and takes place without consent. Sexual violence and abuse can be physical, psychological, verbal or online. Any behaviour of a sexual nature that causes you distress is considered sexual violence or abuse.” (

As stated in the definition, sexual abuse is any behaviour: physical, psychological, verbal, financial and online.  Some examples of sexual abuse include; rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment, upskirting, downblousing, spiking, intimate partner violence, child sexual exploitation, grooming and sexual coercion.  Sexual abuse can happen to anyone, regardless of age, ethnicity, religion, gender, class, sexuality.  By raising awareness and education about sexual abuse, we will open up conversations that will help victims and survivors of sexual abuse reach out for help and support.    

 PSNI statistics, from March 2021 – February 2022 recorded 4006 sexual offences, and what I always say, that is only what is recorded.  Sexual abuse is massively underreported for many reasons.  As already mentioned, through a lack of awareness people may not know it is sexual abuse and do not report the abuse to the PSNI.  There are many myths in society that stop victims & survivors from reporting.  Myths can include, “If it was that bad, they would have shouted or hit back”, “If they didn’t say no, then it is not rape”, “If you are in a relationship, it is not rape” or “Men can’t be sexually abused”.  These are all myths, meaning they are NOT true.  Remember, these are only some examples of myths surrounding sexual abuse.  It is myths like these in society, which stop victims & survivors from telling others about their sexual abuse. 


An important message we all need to be aware of, sexual abuse is NEVER the victim’s fault, the blame lies solely with the abuser.  Sexual abuse is about gaining power and control over another – the abuser knows what they are doing!  By starting to open up conversations about abuse, we are breaking the silence on abuse and taking away the power and secrecy from the abuser – #BREAKTHESILENCE 


It is essential that victims & survivors have a place to go to tell their story, be SUPPORTED, BELIEVED and HEARD.   If you have been affected by this blog, please contact Nexus on 028 9032 6803 or contact the 24hr DSA Helpline on 0808 802 1414. 

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