What do we mean by ‘experiences’?
You will have your own language to describe what happened to you. If you have people who are supporting you who use definitions you don’t like then you can tell them what words you would prefer them to use.
We include some legal definitions here because it helps some people to have that language.
Others won’t like it, particularly if you are not reporting to the police so it can feel irrelevant.
What matters is that you have language which works for you.
Another reason we use the term ‘experiences’ is because some people worry that what happened to them ‘doesn’t count’ or isn’t ‘serious enough’ to use legal terms which are based on crime types.
Whatever has happened to you, you deserve the help and support that you need to help you manage the consequences.
This list is by no means exhaustive because your experience is as unique as you are.
As defined by the law this includes a variety of acts which don’t involve touch:
- indecent exposure or flashing
- sexual harassment
- inappropriate looking
- sexual teasing or innuendo
- sexual photography or ‘revenge porn’
- being forced to watch pornography or sexual acts
- online sexual harassment
Abuse against children (up to the age of 16) is generally referred to as Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) and happens when an adult or older adolescent uses a child or younger adolescent for sexual stimulation.
Any sexual act done by an adult to a child (under 16) is sexual abuse whether it included touching or not.
CSA can take many forms including asking or pressuring a child to engage in sexual activities, exposure of the genitals to a child, displaying pornography to a child, actual sexual contact with a child, physical contact with the child’s genitals, viewing of the child’s genitalia without physical contact, or using a child to produce pornography.
CSA often involves less obvious forms of coercion, such as emotional manipulation or threats.
Under the Sexual Offences Act 2003, rape is defined as a male penetrating with his penis the vagina, anus or mouth of another person of any gender without their consent.
When a person of any gender penetrates the vagina or anus of another person without their consent this is referred to in law as sexual assault by penetration.
The offence is committed where the penetration is by a part of the body (for example, a finger) or anything else (for example, an object) for sexual intent.
This is the term used in law for when a person intentionally touches another person sexually without their freely given informed consent. This is used where the unwanted touching didn’t include penetration of the mouth, anus or vagina.
Where there is no touching it is referred to as sexual abuse.
This can include things like:
- being bullied or ‘teased’ about your genitals or sexuality.
- ‘Flirting’ which feels aggressive or becomes upsetting.
- inappropriate innuendo or ‘humour’ which feels intrusive or shaming.
It is the duty of the perpetrator to judge whether their behaviour is appropriate. If people are doing this, they are at fault not you.
It can often feel very difficult to challenge them, particularly if there is a power dynamic at play.
Unfortunately our society also minimises the impact of inappropriate sexualised language and behaviour on men.
This is a term which refers to people sharing private sexual photos or footage.
You may or may not have given consent for the photo or footage to be taken at the time. If it is shared or viewed without your consent then this is a crime.
This is referred to as ‘revenge porn’ due to a concerning trend for ex sexual partners to share images after a relationship has ended.
"It was during marriage counselling that I realised that my anxiety about sex can be traced back to being teased by a friend at school about being circumcised. That experience which I know he will have totally forgotten about, has blighted my sex life and I didn't even know it was related until now."