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What Is the Difference Between
Sexual Assault and Sexual Abuse?


Sexual crimes are a sickening aspect of society. Modern, civilized society should be better at preventing and prosecuting these crimes, but the numbers are still appalling. Every 73 seconds, someone in America becomes a victim of a sex crime.

Not all sex crimes are the same -- there is a difference between sexual assault and sexual abuse. Despite these differences, sex crimes leave a lasting impact on their victims that is difficult to heal from. Many feel guilt and shame which makes it hard to feel shame or even may make them blame themselves.

If you or someone you know has experienced sexual trauma, keep reading to learn more about the differences between sexual abuse and assault.

What Is Sexual Assault?

Sexual assault is a criminal offense that covers a range of various unwanted physical contact. The #MeToo movement has helped to remove the stigma of talking about experiences of sexual assault and illuminate the diverse nature of sexual assault.

What Is Sexual Abuse?

Sexual abuse is a term commonly used to describe sex crimes acted upon children before they reach the age of consent. The crimes may take various forms other than just sexual penetration. The situation with the Catholic Church is an infamous example of such abuse.

Although people around the world started becoming aware of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church in the 80s and 90s, it was not until the early 2000s that it was formally investigated. Now, those who experienced sexual abuse are finally receiving justice thanks to advocates like those at

Difference Between Sexual Assault and Sexual Abuse

It is difficult to differentiate between sexual assault and sexual abuse because people, the media, and even the law use these terms interchangeably. It seems, however, that sexual abuse is something experienced by underage persons, while sexual assault is experienced by adults.

Of course, these differences are not static. A child can experience sexual assault when they are sexually abused. Additionally, an adult can experience sexual abuse.

Healing From Trauma

Healing from sexual trauma is not just physical healing, but primarily emotional healing. It requires the victim to confront their overwhelming or detached, feelings about the event. They have to relive the assault or abuse and transform from a victim to a survivor.

Healing from sexual trauma is a very long process, and it is likely that survivors will never fully move on from the event. They are likely to experience episodes of depression or anxiety, but the key is to know how to manage them.

More Health Guides

Sexual trauma is one of the worst things anyone can experience, yet it is also one of the most common. It's not a surprise that many people do not know the difference between sexual assault and sexual abuse because of the guilt and shame victims feel. It is very difficult to relive that trauma by reading about it.

For more health guides to better yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally, make sure to check out our page.

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