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I've been sexually abused

Sexual abuse is when you are tricked, forced or pressured into taking part in any sexual activity.

Three teenage girls chatting as they walk to school

Sexual abuse can involve:

  • kissing
  • touching
  • having sex. 

It can happen to boys and girls, and can leave you feeling confused and scared.

Is it my fault?

It’s important to remember that sexual abuse is never your fault, and some people abuse others because they want to have power and control over that person. They may make you try and keep it a secret, or make you feel guilty or ashamed about what has happened, but it is important to remember that you haven’t done anything wrong, and that people can help.

How can it happen?

Sexual abuse can happen in many different ways, including:

  • sexual harassment and assault – if you are bullied in a sexual way, or forced to do something sexual with someone
  • rape – if you are forced to have sex or someone has sex with you without your agreement (consent)
  • grooming – when someone falsely gains your trust to persuade or trick you into doing something sexual with them; this can be online or face to face
  • being forced to look at sexual pictures or videos (pornography)
  • being made to watch someone do something sexual, including sexual exploitation and online sexual exploitation.

It is important to remember that if it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.

What can I do?

Sexual abuse can make you feel worried, sad, scared or angry, especially if you feel like you’re trying to deal with this all on your own. However, lots of young people find that it can help if they talk to someone. Some things you can do are:

  • Tell an adult you trust – this could include a teacher, a family member, your youth worker, social worker or support worker. It can be difficult to know how to have this conversation; we have some tips on asking for help.
  • Think about reporting it to the police. If you are at immediate risk of getting hurt, call 999
  • If it is safe, and the person who is abusing you cannot find it - you might think about writing down what has happened, including times and dates, like a diary. You can show this to your trusted adult or the police if you report this.
  • With a safe adult, you could develop a safety plan that would help you choose how best to keep yourself safe.
  • Talk to your friends. A good friend will listen to you and may help you speak to an adult.

If you are worried about a friend, we have some tips on how you can start the conversation and get them the right help.

Nobody knows what happened, how can I prove it?

You don’t need any proof to talk to someone and ask for help. 

It is still important that you get help and support for yourself. Remember to save any emails, texts, and letters from the person that’s abusing you. Even if it happened a long time ago it is still never too late to get the help and support you need.

Nobody actually touched me, is this still sexual abuse?

It is still sexual abuse if you have been forced to look at or watch sexual images or videos, or been involved in creating them. If someone has touched themselves in front of you, or asked you to touch yourself in front of them (this can include over the internet), then this is still sexual abuse.

Who can help me?

You&Co – you can talk to one of our support workers on a one-to-one basis, and we can offer you help and support. We can give you advice on how sexual abuse and sexual assault can affect you and how to cope with it, what to do and what to expect if you decide to report a crime to police, and how to move on from being a victim of crime. You can find out about the support available nearest to you on this website.

Rape Crisis – this organisation provides information and support for women and girls who have been raped or experienced sexual violence; call 0808 802 9999

Rape Crisis Scotland – provides information and support for anyone in Scotland who has been raped or experienced sexual violence; call 08088 01 03 02

Survivors UK – provides information and support for men and boys who have been raped or experienced sexual abuse. 

ChildLine – ChildLine offer 24-hour support for young people, both on the phone and through online chats and message boards, on physical, sexual and emotional abuse and a range of other issues; call 0800 1111.

The Mix – this website provides information and support for 16-25 year olds on a whole range of issues, including rape and sexual assault as well as safe sexual relationships. Get confidential help by telephone, email, text or webchat, for young people under 25; call 0808 808 4994.

Asking for help

Are you thinking about reporting?