Sexual harm comes in lots of different forms

When someone has a sexual experience they don't want, or are forced into any kind of sexual act by another person, they’ve experienced sexual harm. 

Sexual harm can happen in lots of different ways:

  • It might involve physical contact or it could be online.
  • It might have happened once or maybe lots of times. 
  • It might involve one, two, or more people. 

The effects of sexual harm are different for everyone.

If you’ve been affected in any way by sexual harm, we’re here to help.

If you're unsure if what's happend to you is sexual harm, we're here to help.

Our trained specialists are available for you to contact at any time.

Sexual Harm Myths & Facts

Other things you might want to know

What else you might want to know

Sexual harm can happen to anyone of us at any time of our lives. It doesn’t matter what age, gender, sexual orientation or background you come from.

There are many different situations that can result in sexual harm.

These include acts that involve:

  • pressure
  • manipulation
  • lack of consent
  • physical force or threats.

None of them are OK and they can be harmful to everyone involved.  

Who causes harm?

All kinds of people can cause harm.

People who harm usually know the person they hurt. They may be a partner, a date, a whānau or family member, a friend, someone at work or school or a flatmate.

Sometimes people will use their position of power or trust, or even a person’s dependence on them, to cause sexual harm. This can involve control, or coercion by using force and threats, or manipulation.

Harm can also be opportunistic. This happens when a person chooses to take advantage of someone who they see is vulnerable in a certain situation. For example: taking advantage of someone who’s drunk at a party.

Sexual harm over time or a long time ago

We can help you if you were harmed a long time ago or in childhood. It may have happened only once or it may have happened often. Without support the trauma of harm can stay with you for a long time. It can be stressful and distressing and it can affect your relationships and trust in yourself and others.

Sexual harm can be experienced in a number of ways

There are lots of ways harm can happen.

Here are some examples of what might have happened to you, or someone you know.

You may have:

  • Had an unwanted sexual experience.
  • Been pressured, or physically forced, by someone to perform, or receive, sexual behaviours when you didn’t want to.
  • Had a sexual experience, of any kind, when you were unable to consent.
  • Had someone pressuring, or expecting, you to have sex in ways that you didn’t want during a consensual sexual encounter.
  • Had someone touch parts of your body that you did not want touched.
  • During sex, you wanted to stop but the other person didn’t stop.
  • Had a sexual experience with someone only because they wore you down by repeatedly asking you.
  • Experienced rape, or attempted rape.
  • Had someone threaten your personal, professional, social or academic reputation unless you had sex, or performed or received sexual behaviours from them.
  • Had sexual activity with a person under the age of 16 years.
  • Sexual experiences for which you now feel anxiety, fear, shame, anger, guilt, disgust, depression or addiction, or some other bad feeling.
  • Been forced to watch porn, or participate in sexual activities influenced by porn that you didn’t want to be involved in.

If you’re worried or have concerns that your sexual behaviour might be harming others then we’re here to help you too.

What is consent?

Consent is when someone freely and willingly engages with another person in a sexual activity.

Consent can’t be forced or assumed, and both people must feel free to say no.

Consent can be withdrawn at any point before, or during, the sexual act with the expectation that the other person stops. Any type of sexual activity without consent is considered sexual harm and is against the law.

Sexual harm involves imposing some form of sexual act on a person who doesn’t want it. This means the person does not consent.

Sometimes, a person is not legally capable of consenting, or refusing consent to a sexual act.

For example:

  • They are forced due to threats.
  • Children younger than 16 are not considered legally old enough to consent to participation in sexual activity
  • They have a physical, intellectual, or mental condition, or impairment, which prevents consent.
  • They are too drunk or drugged, to know what is happening.
  • They are asleep or unconscious.
  • They allow the sexual activity mistakenly thinking it’s with someone else.
  • When a permitted activity, such as a medical examination, is used by the professional to perform an unwanted sexual act.

Online safety

The internet is a great way to stay connected with friends and whānau and your community. But it’s important to understand it can also be used as a tool to groom potential victims for sexual harm.

The information you put online, particularly on social media can be used by predators who see you as a potential target for sexual harm. Be aware of what information about you is available online. If someone is trying to get to know you online but it doesn’t feel right it’s important to tell someone.

Remember what goes online, stays online. It’s important to be aware of all the risks the internet presents and how you can keep yourself and your family safe to avoid sexual harm.

Along with your own personal settings, it’s useful to think about what information family or friends may share about you.

Some things to think about:

  • Who can see photos you are tagged in?
  • Do your social media posts include your location?
  • Do you want people to be able to search for you using your phone number?
  • Could someone find out information about you through your family’s social media accounts?
  • Could someone guess your personal email address based on your name?
  • What information are you sharing about yourself via online dating apps or websites?

Social media providers often update their privacy settings so it is important that you check your settings often on any device you use to access social media.

More information about social media privacy is available via the following links:

Revenge porn

“Revenge porn” is the term used to describe the online sharing of private, sexual materials of another person (such as photos and videos) without consent.

The images sometimes include personal information and links to their social media profiles.

Revenge porn is sexual harassment and the Police may prosecute a person or company under the Harmful Digital Communications Act 2015.

If you’re worried about something that’s happened online, you can talk to us.

Concerning thoughts or behaviour

If you're worried, or have concerns, about your sexual behaviour, perhaps it’s time to get some help. Maybe others have raised concerns with you about something you’ve done

Maybe you’re worried about the kind of thoughts you’re having.

And, maybe you’re feeling like you’re out of control.

Concerning or harmful sexual behaviour or thoughts might include:

  • Making others feel uncomfortable because of the words you use.
  • Not respecting other people’s boundaries, like staring or standing too close, or not listening to their requests, or respecting their limits.
  • Doing any unwanted sexual touching, or forcing someone to do sexual things.
  • Any sexual behaviour with someone under 16.
  • Thoughts and fantasies about concerning and harmful sexual behaviour with children, about rape, or sexual contact with animals.

Harmful sexual behavior often begins by having thoughts or fantasies about harming someone. These thoughts can then become a reality. If you are having thoughts about sex which will be harmful it might be a good idea to talk to someone in case you start acting out these fantasies.

People can and do change their behaviour and the way they think.

If you’re looking for help for yourself, or to talk about someone you’re worried about, you’ve come to the right place.

Our trained specialists are available 24/7 and can talk you through different ways to get help.

Keep in mind when you talk to us you might need to:

  • Understand our policy of confidentiality so that you are clear about what our policy is.
  • Talk more indepth about your concerns so we can understand your situation better.
  • Be prepared to think about your own and other people’s safety. You may need to develop a safety plan and we can help you with this.

Our specialists are non-judgemental and professional, and they can connect you to local specialist services who can also help you.

Are you concerned about your porn addiction?

Spending a lot time viewing porn online, and porn addiction are big problems today. You may be worried about how much porn you watch, or that what you've seen is influencing your thoughts or behaviour.

Viewing too much porn can have many negative impacts. The type of activities represented in pornography can affect your relationships as often what you see in porn videos aren't normal, healthy or respectful behaviours.

  • You can start to believe you too should behave the same way as the porn you view which could mean you’re going to inflict sexual harm on your partner.
  • It can lead to feelings of guilt or shame and can create an unhealthy view of intimacy and sex. It can also result in unrealistic expectations of sexual partners.
  • It may affect the way you view your own body and your own sexual performance which can be very destructive in an actual relationship.
  • It may impact you at work or school and affect your interest in other activities.

Help is available if you want to discuss what is going on for you, or someone you know.

Our trained specialists are available for you to contact. They can discuss what support is right for you. They won’t make any judgments and what you say is confidential.