Sexual abuse

Sexual abuse is never your fault, if you’re experiencing it or you know someone who has then we’re here to help.

What is sexual abuse?

Sexual abuse is when someone is forced, pressured or tricked into taking part in any kind of sexual activity with another person. It could be online or in person, and it can happen to anyone.

Sexual abuse can include:

  • being pressured or forced to do something sexual or have sex
  • someone flashing or exposing themselves to you in person or online
  • being pressured or told to share sexual images or videos of yourself
  • being sent, shown or given sexual pictures and videos, including porn
  • being given things or made to feel like you owe someone something sexual
  • doing anything sexual without your consent

Rape and sexual assault are types of sexual abuse, as well as sexual harassment. Whatever’s happening, we’re here to support you. You can speak to Childline any time.

6 facts about sexual abuse
  • anyone can experience abuse, regardless of their sexuality or gender
  • sexual abuse is never your fault
  • someone can be sexually abused or assaulted by someone they know, in a relationship or by a stranger
  • sexual abuse can happen online or in person, and can involve anything sexual
  • you're not alone and there are people who can help you.

opening up

Talk to a Childline counsellor

Getting support with sexual abuse

Talking about sexual abuse can feel difficult sometimes, but you should never have to cope alone. Telling someone what’s happened can help you get support and stop what’s happening.

If you've been sexually abused and you're not sure how to talk about it, it can help to:

  • Pick someone you trust
    It could be a teacher, someone at school, an adult in your family or a Childline counsellor. We’ve got lots of advice on how to talk to an adult you trust.
  • Write a letter
    Saying things out loud can be hard, but writing it down can help. You could write a letter yourself or try using our template to help you get started. Having a letter can be a good way to start a conversation. If you’re not sure, you could write to us first.
  • Pick a time
    Think of a time when you can talk privately or ask the person you trust for some time to talk. You could also choose a safe way to give them a letter.
  • Get support afterwards
    Choose something to do after you try to tell someone, and make a plan for ways to cope if you’re struggling after talking.
  • Remember that Childline is always here for you
    Start a 1-2-1 chat, send us an email or call for free on 0800 1111.

Sexual abuse: how we can help

Coping after abuse

Abuse can have a big effect on you. Lots of young people talk to Childline about struggling with difficult memories, their relationships or with how they’re feeling.

Even if the abuse has stopped you deserve to get support, and you can speak to a counsellor any time.

You’re not alone, and we’ve got lots of advice to help:

Helping someone else

If you’re worried about a friend or someone you know, it can help to talk to them about it. Remember that someone might not feel able to share how they’re feeling or what’s happening, but showing that you care can make a big difference.

Even if someone won’t talk to you, it can help to encourage them to tell a trusted adult, or talk to us about what’s happening.

Remember, if you’re ever worried about someone’s safety then it’s important to get help. In an emergency you can always call 999, but you can also talk to Childline about anything you’re concerned about.