Sexual abuse occurs when anyone behaves, or makes you behave, in a sexual manner that hurts you or makes you afraid or uncomfortable. Generally, this abuse falls into one of three broad categories: rape/sexual assault, sexual harassment, and incest. For the purposes of this article, I'll refer to sexual abuse as acts where a dominant adult forces or coerces a child into sexual activity. In the United States, one in every three or four girls and one out of every seven boys is sexually abused or molested as they grow up. Like rape, the crime happens far more often than it gets reported. Victims are distributed evenly among cultural groups, and the overwhelming majority of abusers are white, heterosexual males.
What constitutes sexual abuse and who are the abusers?
Any form of sexual behavior that is non-consensual, coerced, or forced upon you is a form of abuse. Abuse may range from inappropriate touching, kissing or emotional abuse, all the way up to sexual intercourse. There have been extreme cases of abuse where parents or relatives forced their kids to participate in sexual acts with others –hiring them out as prostitutes and making money off them.
It is also important to note that not all sexual abuse is physical. Abusers can inflict emotional abuse on their victims as well, either alone or in conjunction with the physical abuse. For example, an abuser might call his daughter a "slut" continuously, or call his son a "fag." In many cases, the physical and emotional abuse are intertwined or linked in some way.
Sexual abuse often begins when a child is at a very young age – too young to grasp or understand what is taking place. As the child grows older, what is happening to him/her seems like a normal part of growing up, and doesn't realize that what is being done is wrong. In many cases, as the child grows older and begins to realize what is happening, the abuser will use the threat of force (either to the victim or someone the victim cares about)...