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Sexual abuse

What is sexual abuse?

Sexual abuse is any form of forced or unwanted sexual activity. The perpetrator of sexual abuse may use physical force, make threats or take advantage of a person unable to give consent.

Sexual abuse mainly happens between people who know each other and can occur in the context of domestic violence.

Sexual abuse has impacts on a woman’s physical and emotional health. It can lead to long-term mental health issues, including anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Types of sexual abuse

Sexual abuse includes:

  • rape
  • deliberately causing pain during sex
  • assaulting the genitals
  • forced sex without protection against pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases
  • forcing a woman to perform sexual acts
  • using sexually degrading insults
  • unwanted touching
  • unwanted exposure to pornography
  • sexual jokes
  • withholding sex as punishment
  • using sex to coerce compliance


Consent is key to healthy sexual experiences. Always have sex with consent. Do not pressure a woman or your partner into having sex or performing sexual acts they do not agree to.

The idea that women say “No” when they mean “Yes” is wrong. Do not ignore a woman if she says “No” or seems reluctant. Your partner always has the right to say “No” even if you are married or living together. Silence does not mean she agrees. Importantly, if a woman is under the influence of drugs or alcohol she cannot consent.

Get more information about what men can do to prevent sexual abuse.

Learn more about the other types of abuse that some men use against women.

What to do if you are experiencing sexual abuse

If you have experienced sexual abuse, you can find help now.


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