Handling & Dealing with Sexual Abuse

This post is a part of our guide series to support anyone who may have been sexually abused or has questions around the topic:

What is Sexual Abuse? Definitions & Meanings
Who Commits Sexual Abuse & Why?
What are Signs & Symptoms of Sexual Abuse?
Handling & Dealing with Sexual Abuse
How to Heal and Recover from Sexual Abuse
What Impact Does Sexual Abuse Have on Victims, Families & Friends?
How to Report Sexual Abuse (and Who to Report it to)
How is Sexual Abuse Proven in Court?
Punishment & Sentencing for Sexual Abuse
How can Sexual Abuse be Prevented?
Sexual Abuse Data & Statistics
Sexual Abuse Helplines, Support & Further Reading

Sexual abuse comes in different forms and includes sexual acts or behaviours in which the perpetrator may harm the victim. This can cause physical and emotional pain for the victim, in some cases the trauma can last a lifetime. In this guide we will discuss some ways how to handle sexual abuse, remember no one has the right to harm you, there are lots of people and organisations who are here to help you.

What is a safety plan?

Safety planning is about thinking of ways to keep yourself safe from harm (sexual abuse), and helping to reduce the risk of future harm. For example, you may be in a situation where sexual abuse is being carried out by a family member and you are living with them. You may have decided that you want to leave home and be safe from the abuse, in this situation you may consider the following:

  • Wait until the abuser is out or away when getting things in place ready for you to leave
  • Do your research on places to live and what financial options are open to you
  • Use the ‘incognito’ mode when using google, this allows you to search anonymously, the abuser will not be able to trace your search history
  • Speak to a trusted neighbour, friend or family member
  • Keep an extra set of keys in a safe place
  • Ask a trusted person to hold your important documents, i.e. Passport, birth certificate, driving licence etc.
  • Set some money aside
  • Keep your car fuelled and ready
  • Prepare a bag with essential items when you leave, and ask a trusted person to hold onto this
  • Keep proof of the abuse, this will really help after you have left.

Remember you must approach someone you can trust to help you with your safety plan, if you cannot trust family or friends then consider external help. There are lots of organisations that can help with situations like this. If, however, you are in immediate physical danger, call 999, you will of course need to ensure that you are not putting yourself in further risk by doing this.

What should I do if I suspect someone is being sexually abused?

It can be difficult trying to help someone who is being sexually abused, you may not know what to say or do. This can be even more challenging when the victim is a family member or a close friend, you will be trying to deal with your own emotions too. However, it is not easy for victims to disclose or talk about the abuse so it is important that you are supportive and non-judgmental. Remember your support can make a difference to a victim of sexual abuse, how you respond to their situation is very important. The right approach and attitude can encourage the victim to talk about their experience and be willing to access resources for support. If the victim feels you are judging or criticising them they may feel too scared to talk about their experience again.

In case of an emergency call the police on 999, or 101 if it’s non-urgent. If you want to remain anonymous, call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

What should a victim try to do if they suspect a sexual abuse episode may be coming?

The victim should try to look out for the warning signs so that they can try to diffuse the situation, if they are unable to do this, then they should not attempt to fight with the abuser or do anything that will put their safety at risk. As difficult as it may be, they must stay calm knowing that they will be in a better position to plan a safe escape at a later time. If the abuser detects any sign of the victim reaching out for help or trying to leave, the situation may become more dangerous, for this reason, the victim must give priority to their immediate safety.

However, as soon as it is safe to do so, the victim should contact the police on 999 or 101 depending on the urgency of the situation. They might want to reach out to family or friends to help them escape from this situation. It is important that the victim reaches out to someone for help, they should not have to deal with this on their own.

How should a victim try and handle the emotional and verbal abuse that comes with Sexual Abuse?

Verbal and emotional abuse can leave the victim with deep lasting wounds which are not always apparent. These types of relationships often cause a breakdown in trusting other people and keep the victim isolated. However, now is the time to reconnect, it is important for the victim to know there are plenty of good people out there who are willing to help.

If the victim finds they are unable to speak to friends and family because they fear them being judgemental, then they should consider someone independent, this may be a counsellor or psychotherapist. The victim should learn to begin to set boundaries in what is and isn’t acceptable in a relationship. They should keep reminding themselves that they will not allow anyone to cross that line. Surrounding themselves with people who love and support them, can help them to regain feelings of positivity.

What should you do if you are being repeatedly sexually abused by a family member or friend?

A very harsh reality to accept, being abused by people who are supposed to be caring for you. Remember no one has the right to abuse you, as difficult as it may be, you will need to build the courage to speak to someone. You may feel anxious about approaching family members but know there are organisations and people out there who will be willing to help.

Remember your safety is priority, so take your time in deciding how you intend to deal with this situation in the long term. This means thinking about accommodation and other help that you may need. You may want to speak to the following organisations for further help and advice:

Rape Crisis is a charity that is working to end sexual abuse and violence, through education, influence and dedication to making a change. They are the membership organisation for 39 Rape Crisis centres. Rape Crisis provides support to victims of rape and all other forms of sexual violence and abuse.

  • Victim Support

0808 168 9111

Victim Support is an independent charity that was founded in 1974, it helps victims of crime and traumatic events, and this would include sexual abuse. The charity provides emotional and practical support to help people cope and recover from their experience.

  • Your local authority – for help and advice regarding housing or refuge services for immediate temporary accommodation

Please note this list is not exhaustive and there are many other organisations that can help you with your situation, including providing temporary accommodation (refuge). You may consider reporting the matter to the police, but it needs to be something you decide to do, you should not feel pressurised in to doing this.

What should I do if I am being trafficked or pimped out for sex?

The first thing you must understand is that no one has a right to sexually exploit you, the perpetrator/s is taking advantage of you. There may be various reasons for why and how you ended up being in this situation, but know that you are not to blame and that you need to save yourself from further abuse.

You should contact the police and report your situation. Remember you have done nothing wrong and the police will try to protect you. If you do not want to speak to the police, you may wish to speak with other organisations that can help you.

We understand how difficult it is to see someone you know or love experiencing abuse, sometimes trying to help is not easy. It’s important to remember that you are not alone and the first step that you should take is to talk to someone. No one should have to deal with abuse alone.

Here at the Criminal Injuries Helpline, we help victims of violent crime and abuse recover compensation. You may want to help the victim gain some justice, get in touch with us today to see if the victim would qualify.

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