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Rape and Abuse If you or someone you know is being abused in any way and you need support or advice, don't hesitate to reach out to us here.

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Sexual assault vs sexual abuse vs sexual harassment vs sexual trauma - June 3rd 2019, 03:37 PM

This thread has been labeled as triggering by the original poster or by a Moderator. Please take this into consideration before continuing to read.

Wondering the differences between all these words. It took me a long time to accept I was sexually assaulted but still when I'm asked if I was sexually abused, I say no. I was told about a support group for sexual abuse survivors but I didn't feel like I am allowed to sign up. I also have a hard time with this in therapy. It is similar for physical abuse, bullying and emotional abuse. Like I sometimes can't give myself that compassion of saying you are a survivor of violence.

But I want to heal. And part of it is trying to define these words. Like I want to feel that what I went through IS a violation and not just a feeling. But I don't know how to move along in that process.
   
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Re: Sexual assault vs sexual abuse vs sexual harassment vs sexual trauma - June 4th 2019, 07:18 PM

Well, it depends really. In some countries, they have different legal definitions. In mine, sexual assault is any form of sexual touching without consent (which does not include penetration, as that then becomes rape) and is used in criminal law.

Sexual harassment in contrast is used in employment law contexts and refers to unwanted sexual attention, which may be physical, verbal, or psychological, which persists after beijg rejected or the perpetrator should have known that their conduct was inappropriate.

Sexual abuse does not have a legal definition, but the word abuse generally connotes a pattern of sustained behaviour over a period of time. However, this is not a settled definition and abuse could be anything which is considered wrong

Sexual trauma is the trauma that one feels after being subjected to any of the above.

However, these definitions are honestly superficial. You can see how each of them overlap. Your experience does not need to fit in an artificial box to be valid. If you felt that it was a violation, then that is what it was. That is the common theme with all of these things: unwanted.
   
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Re: Sexual assault vs sexual abuse vs sexual harassment vs sexual trauma - June 4th 2019, 07:51 PM

That's a really difficult question, regarding the different phrases and various meanings. I'm unsure whether there is a specific definition for each one. Many people, myself included, have used these words interchangeably. Also, it depends on where you are in the world and whether you are looking at it from a legal perspective and taking into account that how one person defines these terms, may be different to another.

For example, like the above, I tend to associate harrasment as something that happens at work or in school. But this isn't actually true as it can occur anywhere.

All it comes down to is any behaviour, whether physical or not, that is sexual in nature and is violating and unconsensual, whether it happens the once or repeatedly, could fall under any and all of the above terms.

It also depends on how you personally feel about it as well as what is traumatic for one person may not be traumatic to someone else (though checking with yourself to make sure that you aren't denying, minimising or invalidating your experiences).

I understand the power that words can hold and how it can feel strange using them to describe or define your experiences. I accepted that I was sexually abused when I was a child, and yet I struggle with trying to define if what happened to me at school was bullying, and even when I feel like it is, I feel that I would struggle to use the word .

It can be very common for survivors to minimise their own experiences and think that it wasn't that bad, compared to others. This can make us feel that we aren't eligible for support. But when we do this, we may be finding it difficult to accept what happened and it can seem easier to minimise it rather than accept it.

Is it possible to talk to your therapist about how you didn't feel you were allowed to sign up to the support group? Maybe you could find out more information about it and any criteria? It may be that the group accepts anyone who has been sexually violated, regardless of the exact circumstances, and if it's something that you would like to take part in, you might want to give it a try.

I wish I could help you more with this as I understand how difficult it can be. Though it sounds like it could be good to bring up therapy too, if you can.


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Re: Sexual assault vs sexual abuse vs sexual harassment vs sexual trauma - June 8th 2019, 11:51 AM

Like Holly said I think a lot of people use some of those terms interchangeably. It can be hard to define it but I think defining the terms and your experiences for yourself will be beneficial. If you look at it in how it pertains to you only (as opposed to the broad sense) you might be able to feel that what you went through was a violation instead of just a feeling.

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