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  • Writer's pictureBritt

What is Sexual Abuse?

A picture of a woman behind tied back as a show of control

Before we get into the gritty details of sexual abuse, we need to have an understanding of what sexual abuse is. Sexual abuse is first and foremost about control and power for the abuser. This control over an individual gives them a sense of power and there is always the thrill of possibly being caught and being able to get away with it (I will be discussing this in another post). To properly define sexual abuse, I am going to pull from several great resources I have read and listened to over the years. The main book I use for this post is Rid of My Disgrace by Justin S. Holcomb and Lindsey A. Holcomb.

Rid of My Disgrace is a great book for those who have been abused either as a child or an adult; however, it is also a wonderful resource for family members, advocates, friends, pastors, and anyone else who wants/needs to learn more about sexual abuse. It talks about the prevalence of sexual abuse, but it mainly focuses on the darkness and the grief experienced by the survivors. It is a resource that covers the whole body since it is the whole person that was and is affected: physical, psychological, emotional, and spiritual. It also talks about how to move from the darkness into light with hope and healing. This is a book that I read shortly after learning the truth of what was done to my mother at a young age and a resource that I will recommend 100% of the time to anyone wanting to learn or struggling with their own experiences. I will be using their book, among others, as a resource throughout many different posts.

This book starts with the exact topic I want to cover in this post: the definition of sexual abuse. The authors state that “One definition of sexual assault is any type of sexual behavior or contact where consent is not freely given or obtained and is accomplished through force, intimidation, violence, coercion, manipulation, threat, deception, or abuse of authority.” This definition includes three parts. The first being “any type of sexual behavior or contact”, the second, “where consent is not freely given”, and the third is the list of how it can be accomplished" (Page 28).

Sexual assault is a “display of power and control by the perpetrator”

They state this definition so clearly, that it really does not need any further explanation. I absolutely love that they broke their definition down into three parts. This dismisses any confusion or loopholes people might come up with if they read it as a whole. However, the authors go into even more detail discussing these three points, making any points that a person makes against this definition count for nothing.

Sexual assault is a “display of power and control by the perpetrator” (Page 29). Sexual assault is more about the violence, the control, and the power they hold over the victim than the act of sex itself. When defining sexual assault as “any act or behavior”, it is important to understand that means the act can be physical, verbal, or psychological. There are technically four different types of sexual assault, and, in each type, the victim does not consent, is unable to consent, or refuses to allow the act (Page 29).

Now, this next part goes into detail about the different types of sexual assault which may include triggering words and sentences. If you are a survivor of abuse, please read with care and be mindful of your own experiences and triggers. Do not be afraid to skip the next two paragraphs. This blog is to inform and increase awareness, it is not being written to harm. Each person handles things differently and you need to take care of yourself. Click "skip the sections" if you need to skip the sections I am talking about, otherwise, I put asterisks at the beginning and end of this specific section. Remember, your health is important.


The first of those four types of sexual assault is “a completed sex act that is defined as contact between the penis and the vulva or the penis and the anus involving penetration, however slight; contact between the mouth and the penis, vulva, or anus; or penetration of the anal or genital opening of another person by a hand, finger, or other object”. The second type is “an attempted (but not completed) sex act”. The third is “abusive sexual contact that is defined as intentional touching, either directly or through the clothing, of the genitalia, anus, groin, breast, inner thigh, or buttocks of any person” (Page 29).

Finally, the fourth type is “noncontact sexual assault that is defined as an assault that does not involve physical contact. Examples of noncontact sexual assault include voyeurism (peeping Tom); intentional exposure of an individual to exhibitionism (flashing); exposure to pornography; verbal or behavioral sexual harassment; threats of sexual violence; and taking nude photographs of a sexual nature of another person without their consent” (Page 29).


This marks the end of the description of the four different types of sexual assault, however, please keep in mind that this is a sensitive topic and if it is too difficult or triggering for you to read, do not feel compelled to continue.

The authors continue their definition by saying, “Sexual assault occurs along a continuum of power and control ranging from noncontact sexual assault to forced sexual intercourse. Sexual assault includes acts such as nonconsensual sexual intercourse (rape), nonconsensual sodomy (oral or anal sexual acts), child molestation, incest, fondling, exposure, voyeurism, or attempts to commit these acts”. There are varying ways a perpetrator commits these acts. They may use force (which may or may not include a weapon, physical violence, or immobilization of the victim, among others). They might use psychological coercion and take advantage of an individual who is under duress which means they cannot give consent or make decisions for themselves. They may just wait for the victim to be weakened or in a state in which they cannot give consent but they cannot deny either such as being drugged or weakened by too much alcohol (Page 29-31).

A lot of people think sexual abuse cannot and will not happen to them, to people they know, or in the churches and schools they belong to. Rid of My Disgrace shows the prevalence of sexual assault well and the statistics are both astonishing and horrible. However, people still have trouble believing it truly is such a big problem. In the next part, I will go over statistics that this book covers and are found anywhere on the internet. I am also going to cover several examples of sexual abuse in the Bible to prove that this is not a problem that can be ignored. It is everywhere in this world, including churches and schools (mine and yours). Sadly, no one and no place is exempt from this wretched sin.

"In the United States, someone is sexually assaulted every two minutes."

Worldwide, millions of men, women, and children are sexually assaulted. In the United States, “the prevalence is difficult to determine because the crime is vastly underreported, yet the statistics are still overwhelmingly high: One in four women and one in six men will be sexually assaulted at some point in their lifetimes.” (Page 31). Recent statistics have found that in the United States, someone is sexually assaulted every two minutes. Most victims of sexual assault are female, in fact, between 88-92 percent are female and 8-12 percent are male. Women sixteen to nineteen years old have the highest rate of sexual assault victims than any other age group. The National Center for Juvenile Justice reports that one of every seven victims of sexual assault (14 percent of all victims) reported to law enforcement agencies were under age six and that approximately 70 percent know their offender. (Page 32).

Sexual assault can also occur in marriage and between dates and friends and families. It occurs in about 10-14 percent of all marriages and incest is experienced by 10-20 percent of children. There is an age breakdown of sexual assault: 15 percent are under twelve, 29 percent are twelve to seventeen, and 80 percent are under thirty. The highest risk years are twelve to thirty-four. Most victims of child sexual assault know their attacker; 34.2 percent are family members, 58.7 percent are acquaintances, and only seven percent are strangers. Children who are sexually assaulted are at a higher risk of adult revictimization (Page 33).

"Approximately 70 percent of survivors know their offender."
"The highest risk years are 12 to 34."

There are several examples of sexual assault in the Bible. Religion is not safe from this sin and yet churches tend to deal the worst with this painful murder of their flock.

The first example in the Bible is in Genesis 19:4-8 in Sodom and Gomorrah. This is where the men in the city wanted to have sex with or, in other words, gang rape the angels that came to warn Lot and his family. In response, Lot offered up his virgin daughters for the mob to take.

The second example in the Bible takes place in Judges 19. A Levite had a concubine. She cheated on him and then left him to go back to her father’s house. The Levite took his concubine back and they traveled to Gibeah. They were camping in the middle of town before an old man offered them lodgings. Men came to the door and demanded to see the Levite. They wanted to have sex with him. Instead, the older man offered up his virgin daughter and the Levite’s concubine. The men would not listen, so the Levite went out and brought them his concubine. They raped her and abused her throughout the night and then left her there in the morning. She dragged herself to the door and then died from the abuse.

The third example is probably the most common one. It is found in 2 Samuel 13:1-22. It is the story of Amnon and Tamar. Absalom, the son of David, had a beautiful sister Tamar, and Amnon, the son of David, lusted after her. They probably had different mothers, but the same father so they were step-siblings. Amnon pretended to be sick and asked for Tamar to come into his room to feed him. When she did he refused to eat until everyone but she left his room. He told her to lie with him and she refused. He ignored her refusal and forced himself on her. When he was done he commanded her to leave, the servant had to kick her out of the room. Tamar was desolate and distraught, which is something many victims feel.

I hope this post helped grow understanding and awareness. I hope that it showed this despicable sin is everywhere. I pray that it opens your eyes if you do not believe. I pray it shows you are not alone if you are going through something like this.

This is the first of many posts that will discuss sexual abuse. I hope you continue to read and share this information with anyone who will listen. Sexual abuse can no longer be swept under the rug like it doesn't matter. It is time to speak out, to stand up for yourself and the survivors. This is a sin that murders. This is a sin that destroys every part of a person. This is the sin that Jesus was talking about when He said it would be better for a millstone to be hung around a person's neck and they drown in the sea than for them to hurt one of His little ones (Luke 17).

Please comment with any questions or topics you would like to discuss!

For the suicide and crisis lifeline, dial 988.

— Live well and laugh often, Ravens. Signing off for now, Hyperactive Raven <3

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