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Sexual abuse

Sexual abuse is when you're forced into any sort of unwanted sexual contact

Written by SpunOut | View this authors Twitter page and posted in health

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Sexual abuse can be any action or behaviour that pressures someone to do something sexually they don’t want to do.

Abuse has nothing to do with love. It’s about aggression, control and power – the power of one person over the other.

A person of any age or gender can be sexually abused. Abusers can be anyone of any gender or age.

Rape Crisis Centres throughout the country provide support to victims both male and female of rape, sexual assault and child sexual abuse. They can accompany you to the Gardaí or police, arrange a medical forensic examination, give you information about what happens next and offer you specialist. There is also professional help available through the HSE National Counselling Service.

If you've experienced any form of sexual abuse it can be very difficult to talk about it. People often describe feelings of uncertainty, guilt, shame, anger, disgust and even disbelief. There can be worries about what will happen to you or the person involved if you speak out. It is unbelievably difficult for any young person who is the victim of incest (when the abuser is a family member). People who have been abused will often fear that they won't be believed if they tell someone or that it wasn’t serious enough. However, it is very important not to let this fear stop you from getting help.

What to do if you've been sexually abused or raped

  • Don’t blame yourself; the rape was not your fault.
  • Are you safe now? If not you may need to ask for help.
  • Get medical attention right away. Visit a doctor or a clinic to be tested for sexually transmitted infections (STIs), pregnancy and to have any physical injuries treated.
  • Tell someone you trust, even if you were abused in the past but never spoke about it.
  • If you decide to report the rape or sexual assault to the Gardai or police, do not wash until after you have had a forensic medical examination because important forensic evidence might be washed away.
  • When you report to the Gardai they should take you to a Sexual Assault Treatment Unit where you can receive medical, forensic and emotional support and be offered the information you need to make any decisions you need to make. You do not have to agree to make a formal complaint to access a SATU.

  • The National 24 Helpline 1800 77 88 88 is available to anyone who has experienced rape, sexual assault or childhood sexual abuse. The telephone counsellors are available 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year, to listen, provide information or direct you to your nearest rape crisis centre where they can organise counselling if that’s what they want.
  • There are Rape Crisis Centres throughout the country where you can speak to someone confidentially if you’ve been raped or abused. The centres give support to victims of rape, sexual abuse or child sexual abuse. They will listen, offer support  in any way they can, which can include going with you to the Gardai or police and/or to the Sexual Assault Treatment Unit (SATU) for a forensic medical examination.
  • If you think you’ve been drug raped ask the medical staff to take a urine sample as soon as possible but remember some drugs can leave your system in as little as 12 hours
  • If you’ve been assaulted or raped (or think you might have been) and choose to report to the Gardai or police, don’t let being drunk or taking drugs deter you for reporting this crime., the assault is much more serious.
  • You have the right to ask for a male or female Garda, police officer or doctor.
  • When you’re reporting the rape or assault you can ask for as many breaks as you want and leave the station any time you want.
  • Reporting a crime means you’ll be asked a lot of detailed questions and should carefully read through your statement when it’s finished to make sure there are no mistakes.
  • If you think you’ve been drug raped you should contact the guards or a rape crisis centre who will arrange to take you to a SATU so that the evidence can be collected.

Your feelings after being sexually abused

How a person reacts to sexual abuse or rape is different for everyone and it can take a long time to deal with what happened.

  • You might feel disbelief, numb, frightened, powerless, ashamed, disgusted with yourself or humiliated.
  • You might feel guilty and responsible for what happened or blame yourself for letting it happen.
  • You might want to be alone and feel unable to tell anyone that you were sexually abused.
  • You might have nightmares or flashbacks about what happened and find it difficult to get involved with anyone else.
  • You might self harm or develop addictions to drink, drugs or food.
  • The effects will vary from person to person because everyone reacts differently to trauma and crisis and sometimes a person will not react in the way they themselves might have expected. Remember there are rape crisis centres throughout the country to listen and offer support.

Staff at a Rape Crisis Centre can help you work through your feelings. The 24 Hour Helpline 1800 77 8888 offer a confidential, listening and support service for women and men who have been raped, sexually assaulted, or sexually abused at any time in their lives.

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Published January 14th, 2013
Last updated April 21st, 2016
Tags sexual abuse abuse safety
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