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Sexual harassment, abuse and violence

Trigger warning!

Topics in this section:

Trigger warning! The content in this section could be triggering for some young people as it describes acts included in the definition of sexual abuse.



What is sexual harassment?

Sexual harassment includes any kind of unwanted attention of a sexual nature. This includes making comments, jokes or gestures that are sexual, trying to get it on with you/asking or suggesting for sexual stuff to happen, or any other sexual behaviour that makes the other person feel uncomfortable or uneasy.


What is sexual abuse/violence?

Sexual abuse/violence is when a person does sexual stuff to you or makes you do sexual stuff to them that makes you feel uncomfortable or uneasy. This includes making you look at sexual stuff over online chat, in video, in photos or in person. This also includes making you do something sexual to your own body while they watch (either in person, online, in video or in photos). This may also include not using contraception when you have asked them to; forcing you to get pregnant, not allowing you to use of contraception, or forcing you or denying you to have an abortion.

These actions are NEVER OKAY and are against the law. No one ever has the right to touch you sexually or make you do something sexual that you don’t want to do. If any of these things have happened to you, are happening to you or you worry that they might happen to you soon – there is help!




Impact of sexual abuse and violence

• Fear
• No confidence
• Feeling worthless
• Increased shyness, wanting to withdraw
• Nervous, jumpy and wound up
• Zoning out - This is when someone ‘exits’ a situation and goes into their own head like they’re not present anymore. They’re not very aware of what’s going on around them - the flash word for this is ‘dissociation’. If you zone out a lot this may be because zoning out was a really good survival strategy when some bad stuff was happening to you in the past, but if it’s now stopped happening, zoning out heaps can have a not-so-good impact on you and your life. Further down in this section we talk about some ideas that might help with this. and trouble concentrating
• No trust
• Anger
• Feeling bad about yourself and self-hatred
• Sadness
• Depression
• Flashbacks: feeling like the stuff that went on is happening again. These can feel very real and very scary.
• Sleeplessness
• Shame and embarrassment
• Disgust
• Guilt
• Loneliness and isolation
• Nightmares
• Health problems
• Self-harm
• Risky sexual behaviours
• Suicidal thoughts
• Drug/Alcohol abuse
• Eating disorders
• Problems with school work
• Problems with relationships


Facts about sexual abuse and violence

• Most of those who commit sexual abuse and violence know their victims well.
• Sexual abuse and violence can happen in your relationship. If a person is pressured or forced into doing something sexual that makes them feel uncomfortable, this is NOT okay. See the ‘consent’ section of this website for more info on this.
• It can be very hard to talk about it. Some people don’t tell for many years after because they are made to feel like it is their fault or they are told no one will believe them, something bad will happen if they do tell.
• If it happened when you are young, you may not have realised until much later that what was happening is wrong or you may not have had the words let someone know what was happening.
• It is never the victim’s fault – no matter what they were wearing, how they acted, whether they were under the influence of alcohol or drugs, if they were partying, whether they had flirted or kissed the person previously or whether they had previously said they would do something sexual but then changed their mind. It is NEVER okay and NEVER deserved to be forced to do something sexual you don’t want to or didn’t agree to do. Sometimes people who have been abused feel guilty, but it's never their fault.


Where can I get help?

If you require help immediately, you should call the Police on 111.

If you want to find a sexual assault support service near you, click on this link, or call Family Services directory on 0800 211 211. Tell the operator what kind of help or service you are wanting, and they can give you the number for services that can help you. It’s free to call from your mobile and they can even connect you through to a service on your phone, free of charge!
Youthline on 0800 37 66 33 or free txt 234

If you are a female and this abuse is happening in your relationship, you can contact Women’s Refuge on 0800 733 843 for advice, support and information or or SHINE on 0508 744 633


What can I do if I am being sexually abusive?

If you are doing sexually harmful things to someone else or even thinking about it, acknowledging this is the first step to things improving. The next step is to access help.

If you are in Auckland, contact SAFE on 09 377 98 98 or 

If you are in Wellington, contact Wellstop on 04 566 4745 or                 

If you are in Christchurch, contact Stop on 03 374 5010 or

You can also contact: 

Your local Child Youth and Family service on 0508 FAMILY (0508 326 459) or visit their website


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