Recognising sexual abuse

What is sexual abuse?

Sexual abuse is when someone is forced, pressurised or tricked into taking part in any kind of sexual activity with another person.

Examples of sexual abuse might include:

  • being touched in a way you don't like without giving permission or consent
  • being too intoxicated to give consent to have sex
  • someone flashing or exposing themselves to you online or offline
  • being forced to have sex (intercourse), look at sexual pictures or videos, do something sexual or watch someone do something sexual.

If you are worried that you or someone you know may have been sexually abused and you want some advice you can speak to us.

How can the Young People Advisor help me?

Sex without consent is rape

Consent means to agree to do something or give permission. Sexual consent means that someone agrees to that sexual activity by choice and has the freedom to make that choice without being threatened or feeling pressured. It means that they are able to understand the consequences and knowing that they have a choice.

There are some things that can affect a person’s ability to be able to consent to sexual activity. These could include;

  • if the person is under the influence of alcohol or drugs to the point that they are unable to make decisions
  • if that person has a medical condition that limits their ability to consent or communicate that consent
  • if that person has a mental health condition or learning difficulties
  • if a person is asleep or unconscious they cannot consent
  • if that person is under the age of 16 years old they cannot consent by law

It is important to remember that a person has the right to withdraw their consent at any time. If your partner withdraws consent during sexual activity you must stop immediately.


Grooming is when a person builds a relationship of trust with a young person so that they can manipulate, exploit and abuse them. Anyone can be a groomer no matter what their age, gender, race or job and it can happen over a short or long period of time. Someone might groom a young person that they know or it could happen online for example in chat rooms or on social media.

How do I know if I’m being groomed?

It can be difficult to know when someone is trying to groom you, particularly if that person is an online friend because then it is much easier for them to lie about who they are. A groomer will spend time talking to you and gaining your trust but then they might ask you to do things like:

  • have sexual conversations online or by text messages
  • send naked images of yourself, which is sometimes called sexting
  • send sexual videos of yourself
  • do something sexual live on webcam
  • meet up with them in person.
  • ask you to keep secrets
  • buy you gifts or give you money in exchange for doing something they want you to do
  • ask you to share personal information about yourself
  • try to black mail you

If you think that you may have been groomed don’t worry about getting into trouble. You haven’t done anything wrong and there are people that can help you. Talk to an adult you can trust. This might be a parent, teacher, social worker, youth worker etc. If you’re unsure about what to do or just want some more advice you can speak to us.


Harassment is the word used to describe continued and regular unwanted contact from one person to another. Examples of this could be:

  • constant phone calls, texts, or social media messages even when you have told that person you don’t want to speak to them
  • turning up at your home
  • following you around or always turning up at places where you are
  • constant insults or threats
  • being purposely targeted by someone wanting to annoy or frighten you

Sometimes harassment can be of a sexual nature. Examples of sexual harassment could be unwanted;

  • Sexual advances and touching
  • Sexual comments both in person and online
  • Objectification of you by talking about your body
  • Asking intimate questions about your body
  • Showing or sending you sexually explicit pictures or videos
  • Sexual jokes or propositions
  • Talking to you about sex and porn

Sexual harassment can be done by anyone including other young people and family members.

If someone is making you feel uncomfortable because of their unwanted behaviour, you have every right to tell them how they are making you feel and to ask them to stop. They should respect this. If they continue to harass you can report it.

If you are worried about yourself or someone you know being harassed and you’re unsure about what to do or just want some advice you can speak to us.

Worried about a nude image online?

If you're under 18 and a nude image or video of you has been shared online, you can report it to be removed from the internet. You can visit this page to find out more Remove a nude image shared online | Childline or contact us and we can help you get it taken down.

Help for you

If you need to speak to someone please don’t hesitate to contact us, we can help. Find out more

Help for someone else

If you know of anyone who is in trouble and needs help, please contact us. Find out more