FamilyLife Blog

How Do I Know if I’ve Been Sexually Abused?

by | Mar 16, 2020 | Mental Wellness, Sex

Sexual abuse has a broader definition than we may assume. There are four types of sexual abuse: verbal, visual, physical, and psychological.

Verbal sexual abuse includes sexual threats, sexual comments about your body, lewd or suggestive comments, and inappropriate sexual conversations with children.

Visual sexual abuse includes exposure to pornographic, sexually explicit material or scenes, exhibitionism, and voyeurism.

Physical sexual abuse is much broader than intercourse. It also includes touching that is intended to arouse the victim or abuser. It can include forced, unforced, or simulated sex, sexual touch, and/or intercourse.

Psychological sexual abuse is less obvious, and more difficult to discern. It usually involves having an adult who violates a child’s privacy during bathing or dressing activities, especially an older child who is capable of doing this on their own.

An example of psychological sexual abuse is an adult who walks in unasked or unannounced while a child is in the bathroom or getting dressed in their room and proceeds to inappropriately watch them. It is much harder to discern because to do so, you’d need to know the intent of the adult. But even when children or young adults sense that the intent of the intrusion is sexual in nature, they would have a hard time proving it, especially as the adult could deny any inappropriate intent. Another form of psychological sexual abuse is when a parent uses the child or young adult as a surrogate mate, sharing their intimate needs or desires with them, or using the child to meet their emotional needs rather than a spouse.

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