What we mean by ‘sexual harm’

Sexual offences such as rape and sexual assault should always be named for the crimes that they are, but when reporting it is also important to consider the harm which results from these offences.

‘Sexual harm’ is emotional and physical harm generated through a sexual offence or offences, including a criminal act or acts against a person or people. The harm generated by sexual offences can be experienced for weeks, months, and sometimes even lifetimes’.

Individuals who have experienced sexual harm may not associate themselves or their experiences with any terms that are often used, particularly by public sector organisations such as ‘sexual assault’, or ‘sexual offences’.

That is not to say these terms are wrong, but it is important to recognise individuals may also not associate themselves with language such as ‘violence’ particularly if they perceive that no ‘violence’ towards them has taken place. Sexual offences can take place on a spectrum of actions and behaviours that range from what may be perceived as ‘minor’ to incredibly violent.

The harm caused by sexual offences can be traumatic to those who experience it directly, and to others who may indirectly experience it such as children and other family members.

Types of sexual offences can include (but is not limited to): sexual abuse, rape, sexual assault, grooming, revenge porn, and human trafficking for sexual exploitation.

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