What is sexual abuse?

By Matt Bulkley | Blog Education Series

STAR Guides Wilderness - What is sexual abuse

Defining sex abuse

We are often asked by parents and other professionals about what behaviors constitute sexual abuse. Due to the variety of sexual behaviors that parents encounter that involve the use of technology, it sometimes becomes confusing to know what behavior is considered sexual abuse, what behaviors need to be reported to the authorities and what behaviors should be treated with professional intervention.

In summary, sexual abuse is unwanted sexual activity, with the offender using force, coercion, manipulation or making threats or taking advantage of victims not able to give consent. Contrary to popular belief, most victims and perpetrators know each other. In the case of teens and children, often the sexual abuse occurs within a family setting. In some cases, sexual abuse occurs via technology in the form of exposing children and teens to sexual explicit images, content and using coercion and manipulation to entice a child or teen into seeking sexual contact.

Increasingly there is a form of sexual abuse wherein the offenders identity is concealed behind a false on-line identity and the abuse involves attempts to expose a youth to sexual explicit content online and then to coerce the youth into cybersexual activities or meeting up in person.

All of these behaviors also are considered a crime and should be reported to law enforcement. In some cases, these behaviors are prosecuted and lead to a conviction. In other cases, law enforcement may choose to not pursue a case. Regardless, any sexually abusive behavior should be treated seriously and both the offender and the victim should be provided guidance and intervention. Untreated sexual abuse with either the victim and the offender can lead to future emotional, mental health, relationship and sexual problems in the future.

At STAR Guides, we focus on helping youth, both victims and offenders of sexual abuse heal from these issues and move forward in life with the hope of achieving healthy sexuality. If you have a child who has experienced sexual abuse as either an offender or victim and you need direction, call us today. We can help!

About the Author

Matt is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has been working in the field of youth treatment and psychotherapy since 1995. He did his undergraduate work at BYU and earned his M.S.W. at the University of Utah. He has worked in a variety of treatment setting in his career ranging from wilderness therapy and residential treatment to outpatient treatment and state government.

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