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 adult that walks in unasked or announced while a child is in the bathroom, or getting dressed in their room and who proceeds to inappropriately watch them, is a form of sexual abuse. 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.

You don’t have to face this alone: Email a mentor.

For further reading in this series:

Childhood Sexual Abuse: How the past affects the present
Why do I feel this way?
How do I know if I need healing?
Why do I struggle with sexual intimacy?
How can I heal from my sexual past

Recommended reading:

On The Threshold of Hope by: Diane Langberg
The Wounded Heart: Hope For Adult Victims of Childhood Sexual Abuse by: Dan Allender
Barbara’s Books – Barbara covers many issues in her books including Sexual Abuse and much more.

Written by Barbara Wilson Psy.D.

Barbara Wilson Psy.D.

Dr. Barbara Wilson is an author, Doctor of Clinical Psychology and the founder of Freedom Bound Communications, an organization that brings healing and hope to those with a sexual past. She speaks internationally to youth and adults with her message of sexual bonding and healing. Released from a past of her own, Barbara combines neuroscience and Scripture, with her own story of healing to explain what sexual bonding is and how to move freely into your future in her books, The Invisible Bond: How to Break Free From Your Sexual Past and Kiss Me Again; Restoring Lost Intimacy In Marriage. Dr. Wilson’s study guide, Free, Finding Freedom and Healing from your Past, available in women’s, men’s and young women versions, is being used locally and nationally to walk men and women through an empirically-based, trauma-focused approach for healing from past abuse, sexual trauma and destructive relationships. You can view or purchase any of her books here. Barbara and her husband have been married over 30 years.