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Sexual abuse is sex without consent. This includes any sexual behaviour that is unwanted, and/or which makes you feel uncomfortable. It can include:

  • Sexual touching (e.g touching genitals, breasts)
  • Being made to touch another person sexually
  • Oral sex
  • Sexual intercourse
  • Anal sex
  • Some non-touching behaviour (e.g being made to watch sexual behaviour, being made to watch porn)
from Auckland Rape Crisis pamphlet, 'Understanding Sexual Abuse'.


Consent = agree
It is very important that both people who are having sex, want to. Probably the best way to find that out is to ask them, not when things are all hot and steamy, but before it gets anywhere near sexual. If one of you is feeling really turned on and you ask if your partner wants to 'do it' you may not hear them properly when/if they say no.

Counselling / therapy

Counselling and therapy are different words to describe the same thing. There are many different types of counselling, most of them include talking. Sometimes a counsellor may ask if you want to try other ways of expressing the issues/concerns/problems you bring. You don't have to do anything you feel uncomfortable with. The main aim of counselling is to help you make sense of those 'crazy' feelings you may be having.

When you do find a counsellor, it's important that you find one that you get on with, You don't have to stick with them if you don't like them. Don't think that all counsellors suck though if you find one you don't like.










back to topWho does it happen to?

*Research done in New Zealand suggests that around 1 in 3 girls will experience sexual abuse before the age of 16.
**American research suggests that 1 in 6-7 boys will experience sexual abuse before the age of 18. This is generally accepted in New Zealand as well.










back to topWho does it?

It is a common belief that the people you should be most wary of are strangers. Well this isn't true! Research collected from all over the world and here in New Zealand says that sexual offenders are most often the people that you already know and trust.

Sexual Offenders*are mostly male, are usually people you know and are in positions of power. Like family members / family friends / church leaders / teachers / boyfriends / fathers etc. In a smaller number of cases also female family members / family friends / girlfriends / mothers etc.

Where does it happen?

Sexual abuse happens everywhere. If you look at who the offenders are (mostly people you know) then the places where sexual abuse takes place are in the places you hang out like, home, friends' houses, school, work, in town, at parties...










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*Anderson, J., martin, J., Mullen, P., Romans, S., & Herbison, P. (1993). Prevalence of Childhood Sexual Abuse Experiences in a Community Sample of Women. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 32(5), 911-919.
**Finkelhor,D., Hotaling, G., Lewis, I.A., & Smith,C. (1990). Sexual Abuse in a National Survey of Adult Men And Women: Prevalence, characteristics and risk factor. Child Abuse and Neglect, 14, 19-28.




back to topMyth Busting

There are a whole lotta stories out there that can make it hard to know what's true, following are some facts about sexual abuse. (Facts = what we do know for sure, Myth = a load of crapola)

"Mostly people are raped by people they don't know"
As mentioned under 'Who does it' most of the people who sexually offend are people you know. According to statistics collected from National Rape Crisis in 1999, 80% of offenders were friends, acquaintances or family members. (32% friends or acquaintances of the survivor, 44% were family members (29% were blood relatives, and 16% were related by marriage). Only 3% of offenders were strangers.

"If you don't try and fight them off, it's not rape"
There are many reasons why someone does not try to struggle or fight. One reason may be that they were scared at the time and froze. Another reason may be that they thought that if they didn't say anything it would be over more quickly and they could find someone to help. Maybe the offender is in a position of power and they didn't feel like they could say "stop". Even if someone does not yell and scream and try to fight the offender off, it is still rape.

"What you wear can determine whether you get raped or not"
There are many reasons why people wear different types of clothing. We all have the right to express ourselves however we want with our clothing, it is not a signal to be raped! If someone is unsure about the messages they are getting from someone due to the way they have dressed it is their responsibility to ask! Do not ASSUME!

"You have to be mentally disturbed to rape someone"
This may be easy to think to make sense of why someone would do such a horrible thing. But statistics show that most sexual offenders are normal everyday human beings with no diagnosable mental illness.

"Men who abuse other men must be gay"
It is a fact that a large majority of offenders (82%) are living in heterosexual relationships at the time they offend. Research shows that only around 3% of males who abuse males identify as homosexual (Jenny et al, 1994).

"All sexual abusers have been sexually abused"
If this were the case there would be more female offenders because most victims of sexual abuse are female.

"If you like the offender it is not really rape"
Just because you like someone doesn't meant that they cannot hurt you. If someone you like abuses you this can be confusing as you wonder how someone you like could do this. If anyone makes you do something sexual against your will this is sexual abuse. (Look at the definitions for more detail).











back to topEffects

Everybody who has an unwanted sexual experience reacts and deals with it in their own way. Some may want to forget it ever happened, some may want to talk about it a lot, others might pull away from friends and family, not wanting to be near anyone. If your friend isn't acting upset, this may be his or her way of dealing with it, it doesn't mean nothing happened.

Whatever way your friend responds offer them some info off this site about effects and how people feel after these experiences. It may help to make them feel more normal about what's going on.

How long till things get back to normal??

Feeling better / recovering / healing / working through these experiences takes time. There is no set time! It can sometimes take years, so if a month after it happened the survivor (a person who has experienced sexual abuse/assault) isn't back to normal, THAT'S NORMAL. Don't give them a hard time.

What are some things your friend might be feeling?

Your friend may be going through some of the following. This list comes from what young women have said about how they have felt after and unwanted sexual experience.

  • Not able to concentrate
  • Getting into arguments
  • Not wanting to be touched
  • Feeling like hurling
  • Not able to eat
  • Not able to sleep
  • Feeling bad about self, changing the way they dress, perhaps dressing in baggy clothes
  • Feeling really down / depressed / sad
  • Crying a lot, maybe without knowing why, just at anything
  • Feeling really scared
  • Having nightmares
  • Having flashbacks, vivid memories of what happened, unable to control them
  • Feeling totally out of control, not knowing what's happening
  • May get the flu really easily, getting sick more often
  • Getting angus at others
  • Disbelieving, how could this happen
  • Wanting to forget completely what happened
  • Not wanting to talk about it
  • Taking drugs or alcohol to help numb out the pain
  • Cutting / burning self to make the hurt stop
  • Getting really trashed at parties
  • Having sex with lots of different people

If there are things that you have heard about or experienced that you would like added to the list click here.









back to topWill your friend feel like crap forever?

No!!! There are things though that they may have to do to help this along a bit. Things won't change overnight! Sometimes it can take ages to "not feel like you're going crazy". Some people just try to forget about it, this works for a short time, but usually something happens and it all comes up and bites you (HARD)!

The most important suggestion to survivors from young people who have talked to a counsellor is,

"If I had a friend who this happened to I would make them talk to someone, coz it really does help."

This is from people who didn't think that to begin with, but when they tried it were thankful they did.

If you look at the possible effects you can see that there are a lot of things that can contribute to someone feeling 'insane', encouraging them to talk about it does help! Following is a list to help deal with crazy feelings, maybe print it out and give to your friend.

Some helpful hints on dealing with the 'crazy' stuff include:

  • Writing stuff down that goes round and round in your head can help. You don't have to keep it, you can burn it or throw it away.
  • Ringing a friend when things get a little 'out of control' can be useful too.
  • Having people around you that you trust and feel safe with is important.
  • If you're having memories of what happened try something like, stamping your feet, listen to loud music, make a safe place in your room. Like a pile of cushions, mags, books, photos, posters, a blanket. So when you sit there you're surrounded by all the things you like and feel safe with.
  • Drawing, painting etc
  • Talking to someone about what's going on in your head.
  • Doing things that you like doing, like, having a bath with lots of smellies, listening to music, reading books, spending time with friends, having hot milky milos. Treat yourself.
  • You can get more ideas from a counsellor you choose to see.









back to topPrevention / Keeping Safe

There are some things that people can do when they're going out, talking on the net or in relationships to keep themselves safe from sexual abuse. Some ideas are listed below, you may already do some of them.

Going out?

When going out there are a few things you have to watch out for, so make sure you've got a plan, go with friends and go to places you know well. Following are some more things to think about when going out.

  • Who's picking you up?
  • Have you got enough money to catch a bus, taxi? Remember not to spend it! Stash it somewhere safe so you don't get tempted.
  • Do you know who you're going out with? Have you made a plan that you're going to stick together? And a back up plan?
  • Is there going to be a person who stays sober? This helps if someone gets into trouble, as the sober one can make clearer decisions.
  • Gr8mates stick together, make sure you know where everyone is, arrive and leave at the same time.

*Drugs / Alcohol?

  • Are you going to be taking drugs or alcohol? Do you know that mixing them can be dangerous, the effects being unpredictable.
  • Drinking heaps of water during and after alcohol can help prevent hang overs.
  • You can always fake being 'out of it' if you feel uncomfortable with taking drugs / alcohol or unsure about the people you are with.
  • Take turns to watch over each other
  • Go to places you know well
* information taken from 'Out with the girls, check this out!'. Produced by Regional Alcohol and Drug Service, Waitemata Health

Drug rape?

  • Keep your drink with you all the time
  • Don't accept drinks from others, you don't know what's in it
  • Drugs in drinks can be colourless and tasteless, you may not know if someone has spiked your drink
  • Don't drink your drink if it tastes weird
  • Stay with friends
  • Some drugs can just make you look really drunk and others don't know that you're in danger, make sure that your group of friends stick with the plan you made at the beginning of the night, always watch out for each other and go home together.

Date rape information

If you have an unwanted sexual experience with someone you date this is called date rape.

  • Date rape is unwanted sex, or sex without consent with a person that you know. The reason for not giving consent may be because the abused person may not have wanted to or could not due to being drunk, drugged, scared or out of it, at the time.
  • Date rape can happen with some one that you have just met, dated a few times, or even some one you are in a stable relationship wtih.
  • Date rape can occur when you're by yourselves, or at a party.
  • Date rape often occurs when 'seduction' fails and one person chooses to force sex on the other person anyway.
  • Date rapists are usually known and trusted by the survivor. Because of this, survivors often have conflicting feelings of anger, self-doubt and self-blame.

*taken from "Date Rape" pamphlet written by Auckland Rape Crisis

To keep safe from this happening check out the going out checklist, for some helpful hints.

Safety on the net

Just as there are things to do to keep you safe when you go out partying, there are also things that you need to do when you're on the net to keep safe. The Internet Safety Group have an excellent website that you may want to check out. They have a section relevant for youth under the heading young adults. Here are some things they say you should not do when using the net.

  • Don't give out your photo...
  • Don't give out personal information...
  • Don't arrange to meet with someone you've met on the Net...

Unless you discuss it with someone first. It is important that those close to you know what you are doing, in case there is a problem.

What if things don't go as planned?

Sometimes interactions on the Net can take a bad turn. If you feel worried or uncomfortable about something, it is important to talk with someone about it. Maybe you've run across some images that were upsetting. Maybe you gave personal information out to someone who is starting to get very aggresive with you. Maybe you are spending most of your waking hours on the Net and can't seem to stop yourself, or perhaps you are worried about a friend's online actions. You can send a confidential query from If you don't feel you can talk to your parent or caregiver, and you are at school, there may be a teacher or counsellor there you can talk to, or a local group you can call that supports young people. You are not alone, and help is available.

What about sexual offenders on the net?

Those who are intent on abusing people sexually are well aware of how to use the anonymity of the Net to gain people's trust. What are some of the ways a 45-year-old sex offender could gain a young person's trust on the Net? He could say:

"I'm a 16 year old girl."
"I'm doing school C this year and I hate maths."
"I'm saving up for a new pair of shoes to wear out clubbing."
"I'm a member of our Baptist church youth group."
"I'm a peer support person at my school so you can tell me what's bothering you."

  Although this person would sound promising as a new friend, you would not know the truth until you meet face-to-face, and that's why you want to meet in a public place and have friends or a parent with you.

If a contact from the Net wants to meet you and insists on meeting alone, don't be flattered - be suspicious. Any new friend worth having would be cautious themselves about meeting you for the first time, too.

Information collected from

Communication between partners (Girlfriends & Boyfriends)

When you hook up with someone and you think that things are heading toward having sex, talk about it!!! Everyone has different ideas about sex and what other people want/don't want. How are you gonna know what they want and vice versa if you don't talk about it? Yeah sure it can be a bit awkward, but if you really want to have sex with them don't you want it to be good!?

There are some good pamphlets that Family Planning (FPA) have put out aimed at teenagers, about having sex and forming relationships, called The Word and Your Choice. You can either get them from your school health or counselling office or give FPA a call and they will send one out to you.

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