Sexual abuse and sexual assault mean the same thing. It occurs any time you have a sexual experience with another person that you don’t want, but you are pressured, coerced, forced or threatened to participate.
Pressure can look and feel like many different behaviours, such as peer pressure to be ‘cool’ or pressure that ‘everyone else does this’.
Coercion usually involves a threat of hurting you in some way (i.e. 'If you don’t do this then I will make sure everyone knows you are bisexual') or a promise (i.e. 'If you do this then I will make sure you get that promotion').
It can include any kind of sexual act and it can happen at any age. Sexual abuse happens to people of all sexualities and genders, and perpetrators can be of any sexuality or gender as well.
It can happen whether you are ‘out’ or not. It can happen to anyone, no matter how you identify – bi, gay, bear, queer, a top or a bottom, femme or butch or straight acting. And it can happen no matter what you are wearing, whether it is leather or drag, a business suit or shorts and jandals. Sexual abuse/assault might include:
Being watched when you are undressing or naked
Being touched or groped by strangers, or by people you know, or by your partner/s
Being forced to participate in sexual acts that you don’t want, even if you have wanted them at another time, or even if you have wanted other kinds of sexual activity
Being misled about what sexual activity you have agreed to, or who you have agreed to sex with
Being misled about what is going to happen during an agreed sexual activity – for example having a condom removed or partially removed without you knowing
Someone being sexually active with you when you are unable to agree or disagree because of drugs or alcohol, or because you were asleep or unconscious
Being forced to watch other people being sexual, or digital material of people being sexual.
What Do Pressure and Coercion Look Like?
Coercion is when you feel as if you have to participate in something you don’t want to do, because the results of not doing what the other person wants would be worse.
In Rainbow communities we are particularly vulnerable to threats from abusive people because our communities can be small, we can feel as if we ‘know everyone’ and our sexualities and genders are already so stigmatised.
Threats of being ‘outed’ if people didn’t participate in sexual acts
Threats (or reality) of gender affirming medication or clothing being thrown out or going missing
Being told that ‘everyone else does this’ so you should too
Feeling as if you have to do what your partner/s want because otherwise they might hurt you
Feeling as if you have to do what your partner/s want because there is nowhere else for you to go.
If you are feeling pushed into doing sexual things that you don’t want to do, talking about this with someone else is really important because pressure and coercion work best in secret – we are here to talk to so you don’t have to keep the secret.
If you have experienced sexual abuse or assault, it is normal to have feelings about yourself and your life that are confusing or leave you feeling numb, frightened, anxious or depressed.
Sometimes people have flashbacks to what has happened, or thoughts that won’t leave. Talking about it with someone else helps understand and sort out these feelings.