Sexual abuse

Sexual abuse including rape, indecent exposure, sexual harassment, inappropriate looking or touching, sexual teasing or innuendo, sexual photography, subjection to pornography or witnessing sexual acts, indecent exposure and sexual assault or sexual acts to which the adult has not consented or was pressured into consenting.

It includes penetration of any sort, incest and situations where the person causing harm touches the abused person’s body (e.g. breasts, buttocks, genital area), exposes his or her genitals (possibly encouraging the abused person to touch them) or coerces the abused person into participating in or looking at pornographic videos or photographs. Denial of a sexual life to consenting adults is also considered abusive practice

Any sexual relationship that develops between adults where one is in a position of trust, power or authority in relation to the other (e.g. day centre worker/social worker/residential worker/health worker etc.) may also constitute sexual abuse (see section on position of trust).

Possible indicators

  • Adult has urinary tract infections, vaginal infections or sexually transmitted diseases that are not otherwise explained;
  • Adult appears unusually subdued, withdrawn or has poor concentration;
  • Adult exhibits significant changes in sexual behaviour or outlook;
  • Adult experiences pain, itching or bleeding in the genital/anal area;
  • Adult’s underclothing is torn, stained or bloody;
  • A woman who lacks the mental capacity to consent to sexual intercourse becomes pregnant;
  • Sexual exploitation.

The sexual exploitation of adults with care and support needs involves exploitative situations, contexts and relationships where adults with care and support needs (or a third person or persons) receive ‘something’ (e.g. food, accommodation, drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, affection, gifts, money) as a result of performing sexual activities, and/or others performing sexual activities on them.

Sexual exploitation can occur through the use of technology without the person’s immediate recognition.  This can include being persuaded to post sexual images or videos on the internet or a mobile phone with no immediate payment or gain, or being sent such an image by the person alleged to be causing harm. In all cases those exploiting the adult have power over them by virtue of their age, gender, intellect, physical strength, and/or economic or other resources.