Answering your questions.

Here are some answers to questions we have received in the past from our survivor community. We hope these answers can help survivors, advocates, and the general public learn more about trauma and survivor healing.

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Understanding Trauma & Violence
Managing Trauma Impact
Meaning Making
Supporting Survivors
Sharing Your Story
Seeking Help After Trauma
Healing Week
Understanding Trauma & Violence

As a child, I experienced a situation where a friend pressured me into exposing my genitals, blocking the door when I tried to leave. I initially refused before eventually giving in due to them persisting and feelings of guilt. This happened multiple times. The parents intervened when they found out and then things went back to normal. We remain friends to this day. These memories have resurfaced after many years, and I'm unsure how to categorize this experience. Was this a form of sexual abuse, even without physical contact? Could this childhood experience have long-term effects on me that I have noticed, such as wariness around men especially when I feel they are trying to talk me into doing something against my will? How can I understand and process this part of my past?

I've noticed some of the questions asked involve evaluating the law and statistics in different countries. What countries would you be able to do this for if asked?

Understanding Trauma & Violence

What does the term "objectification" or "viewing someone as an object" mean, particularly in the context of social interactions and relationships?

Supporting Survivors

How can someone become an effective advocate against sexual violence?

Understanding Trauma & Violence

Can you recommend resources and books on healing from sexual abuse?

Understanding Trauma & Violence

Is it considered sexual abuse if someone started touching me without asking for verbal consent, and I reciprocated only because I felt that's what they expected and that I had to respond? I didn't really want to, but I felt obligated to participate.

Managing Trauma Impact

What are some ways to process sexual abuse experiences without immediate access to professional therapy or counseling?

Understanding Trauma & Violence

What is it called when someone is forced to assault someone else?

Sharing Your Story

I remember my cousin (a girl) engaging in sexual acts with me multiple times when we were children. She said she'd heard it felt good and framed it as fun. We were the same age, but I was oblivious and have autism. Our friendship ended soon after when she became mean. I'm unsure how to feel. Was she being abused? Was I taken advantage of? How should I process this?

Seeking Help After Trauma

I believe I was sexually harassed/assaulted by a school friend and I don’t know what to do. I believe I was sexually harassed/assaulted by a school friend in my school's theatre group. They would touch me romantically as a 'joke', starting with playing with my hair and holding my hand, then progressing to grabbing my waist and groping my thighs. I reported her to my theatre teacher, but nothing happened. The more I think about these incidents, the more pain and anger I feel. What should I do?

Understanding Trauma & Violence

Is it sexual assault if an adult touches another adult's private parts without consent, but as a joke or to upset them rather than for sexual reasons? Also, is it considered sexual assault or COCSA (child-on-child sexual abuse) if a young child pressures another child into sexual acts to bully them, rather than for explicitly sexual reasons?

Understanding Trauma & Violence

My cousin, who was slightly older, pressured me into exposing myself when I was younger (around 8-12 years old). I don't remember him touching me, but I've blocked out many memories. For years, I convinced myself it was just a dream. Now that I am older, I'm facing what happened, but I'm unsure how to label my experience. Can I say I was sexually assaulted or harassed? I don't want to use a label that isn't accurate.

Sharing Your Story

As a child, I was exposed to a highly sexualized environment by my father and experienced sexual abuse from a peer. Later, I engaged in inappropriate sexual play with my younger brother who is on the spectrum. I had a vague understanding that it might be wrong, but I didn't fully comprehend the implications at the time. I now understand it was sexual abuse. I feel guilty and hope my brother doesn't remember. Does this make me a bad person? I still feel very guilty about this event.

Managing Trauma Impact
Sharing Your Story

I recently remembered my perpetrator, who I had just started dating, sort of apologizing after he raped me. He cursed himself, calling himself a "bastard," but didn't fully admit what he'd done. He then told me I was "amazing and special." Was he feeling shame or manipulating me? Do perpetrators often use manipulation to avoid consequences? Also, when I've tried to speak out about my experience, I've gotten very negative reactions. I thought I was helping other women, but now I feel more guilt and shame for talking about it. Is this normal?

Managing Trauma Impact

I was abused as a child by a family member. Since starting trauma therapy, I'm flooded with memories - not of the abuse, but of the house where it happened. Smells, sounds, tastes, images of rooms, my drawings, TV shows I watched. They come randomly throughout the day. I keep wanting to say "NO" to make them stop. Is this normal? What's my brain trying to tell me?

Meaning Making

How can I feel comfortable in my sexuality? I'm bisexual and sometimes I feel disgusted about it.

Sharing Your Story

My grandmother's partner groomed me from a young age sexually assaulted me while I was drunk as an adult. My husband witnessed and stopped the assault. This has caused significant trauma and issues in our marriage. Now my husband is giving me an ultimatum: I must tell my grandmother about the assault and limit contact with her, or he will leave me. My grandmother is terminally ill with cancer. Is it fair for my husband to demand this of me? I'm not ready to tell my family, and I don't want to lose my grandmother before I have to. I'm also afraid that if I choose to leave instead, he'll tell my family anyway. What should I do?

Supporting Survivors

What are two core strategies that responsible citizens may use to help victims of gender- based violence?

Understanding Trauma & Violence

Can a nine-year-old unknowingly sexually assault another nine-year-old? Is it considered wrong because they were a child when they did it? Is it even assault if they didn't know what they were doing was wrong?

Understanding Trauma & Violence

A third-grade girl asks her fourth-grade cousin to engage in explicit behavior she saw in a video. Both children, not understanding the implications, partially undress and the older child lies on top of the younger one, mostly just looking. As adults, the younger child views it as a silly childhood incident, while the older one struggles with the memory. The same person who was the older cousin in the first scenario experiences unwanted touching from ankles to thighs by an older boy in fifth grade, despite crying and trying to refuse. Are either of these experiences COCSA? How does the individual deal with this? Is therapy necessary in such a case?

Understanding Trauma & Violence

When I was 7-8 years old, my friend and I engaged in a game involving clothed touching, imitating abuse that my friend had experienced from a cousin of the same age. At the time, we didn't understand the implications. I enjoyed the physical sensations, but I'm now struggling to process this experience. I'm unsure if I shared information about this game with my own cousin or asked to play it with her, though I don't think we actually did. Does this situation qualify as child-on-child sexual abuse (COCSA)? I'm concerned about how my actions might have affected my cousin. If both my friend and I were willing participants in this game, but it originated from my friend's experience of abuse, is it still considered COCSA?

Managing Trauma Impact

I was sexually groomed and abused for years as a child. Now, as an adult, I frequently have sexual fantasies about being raped, even though I know I wouldn't actually want it to happen. I've been married for 21 years to a loving, understanding husband who knows about my past trauma. However, I only find sex with him truly exciting when it feels 'wrong' or forbidden. I'm rarely turned on by my husband's loving and trauma-aware approach, though I've never told him about my fantasies. I feel like something is broken in my mind and I want to understand and fix it. Can you explain why I'm struggling with this?

Seeking Help After Trauma

Why do perpetrators of assault often try to make victims doubt their perceptions and memories of the event? Why is this tactic often successful in affecting victims' minds? Is this a common experience among survivors, or is it unique to my situation?

Understanding Trauma & Violence

I was nine when I was first abused. Can a nine-year-old assault another nine-year-old?

Seeking Help After Trauma
Sharing Your Story

When I was younger, I was sexually abused by my best friend. I was really young, only nine years old, and didn't know it was wrong until years later. We were both nine at the time. Then it happened again two years ago. How do I handle all of this? I'm doing things I shouldn't be doing to cope with all of this. This is my first time sharing my full story. I need help.

Sharing Your Story

I'm struggling with a difficult family situation. My brother has been verbally abusing me for years, and when I try to confront him, he turns it back on me. My sister isn't supportive either. They're my only family, and I feel lost and alone. I'm disabled, which makes everything harder. I see a therapist, but I don't feel like I'm making progress. Are there online support groups or clubs I could join? I've heard about the #MeToo movement - could they help me confront my brother? I'm look for guidance on how to handle this and where to find support.

Understanding Trauma & Violence

Is it considered child-on-child sexual abuse (COCSA) when a 13-year-old pressures an 11-year-old friend into a romantic relationship by threatening the loss of friendship? The older child then engages in unwanted touching (including hands, face, hair, thighs, stomach, and chest), makes explicit sexual comments, and sends sexually explicit messages. The younger child repeatedly expresses discomfort and does not consent to the touching. The situation persists for months, culminating in the older child pressuring for future sexual activity. Both children are minors, and the younger child is trans. Does this scenario constitute child-on-child sexual abuse (COCSA)?

Managing Trauma Impact

As a child, I experienced inappropriate sexual behavior from an older sibling. This included verbal comments, jokes, and expressions of romantic interest. Now, as an adult, I sometimes use crude humor, though not to the same extent. When my friends comment on my sense of humor, even lightheartedly, it triggers memories of the past abuse and makes me feel uncomfortable. I've been trying to reduce my use of sexual humor, but I'm unsure how to address this with my friends without revealing my traumatic past. How can I navigate this situation and set boundaries without disclosing information I'm not comfortable sharing?

Sharing Your Story

I was kissed by a sober person while I was drunk. When I confronted them later, they claimed I had insisted and begged for it to happen, and that I had made them uncomfortable by continuing to try after they said no. They say this is why they ended up kissing me, though they admit I didn't force them to do anything against their will. I'm fairly certain this isn't what happened, and I clearly remember taking distance at one point, after which they leaned in to kiss me again. They even put me to bed and kissed my forehead. Their account has left me very confused. At first, I thought I might have been harassed, but now I'm questioning if I was the one who pressured or coerced them. I need help making sense of this situation.

Sharing Your Story

I was kissed by someone while I was drunk. At the moment, I didn't say no and was into it. However, once the alcohol wore off, I wished it hadn't happened. When I confronted the person and told them they shouldn't have engaged sexually with someone who was drunk and that the only appropriate thing to do with a drunk person is to help them walk or get somewhere safe, they responded by saying that I was the one who approached them repeatedly and didn't let them leave, even tearing up when they tried to go. Does this justify them kissing a drunk person? Does it make them less at fault and me more responsible?

Sharing Your Story

I'm wondering if what I experienced at a party was sexual assault. I was extremely drunk, having downed half a bottle of vodka. While drunk, I got flirtatious with someone I met at the party. We held hands, and I touched their face and waist after asking for consent. We then kissed. The person was completely sober and aware of how drunk I was, as it was noticeable to everyone in the room. At one point, they said they were uncomfortable because there were too many people around, so they tried to take me somewhere alone, and we kissed there. I remember feeling dizzy, anxious, and nauseous. After the first kiss, they told me they didn't want to engage in anything sexual or romantic, so I took some distance. However, they then leaned in to kiss me again. The next morning, I regretted what happened and felt like I wouldn't have wanted to make out with that person if I were sober. I felt the aftermath of an unwanted sexual act. The person was avoidant the next morning, but I decided to get over it. Days later, I started dating my ex and told them about that night. My ex said it was assault because I was too drunk to give consent. They then told other people without my permission. The person who kissed me found out and verbally attacked me, almost threatening me and accusing me of spreading lies. They said it was my fault for getting too drunk, that I asked and begged them to kiss me, that I made them uncomfortable, and even accused me of things I didn't do. I'm confused about who's in the wrong and if it was assault or not. Is it my fault?

Meaning Making

I'm struggling to determine whether what I experienced was sexual assault or if I'm just upset that it didn't go as I had hoped. I met a guy from a dating app who asked me to study with him at a public library. I agreed, thinking that was all that would happen. When he asked to kiss me, I didn't say no, but I didn't really enjoy it. Later, he asked me to meet him in the bathroom, and although I didn't want to, I felt like I had to go through with it. I didn't like it, and he didn't have a condom, but I didn't say anything. Since I never explicitly told him no, I feel like it doesn't count as assault because he might have thought I was consenting. Afterwards, he blocked me, and we never spoke again, but I had a pregnancy scare that caused me a lot of stress. I have panic attacks when I see people who look like him, and I can feel him touching me. I haven't worn the outfit I had on that day because it makes me feel gross. The encounter happened around 3 AM when I hadn't slept for at least two days and was going through a breakup with an abusive partner. I wasn't in a good state of mind, but he didn't know that. As an autistic person, I may have missed some signals, but I didn't expect things to happen in public. I'm doubting if it was sexual assault because I felt fine at the time, but since then, I've had no positive or neutral feelings about it. I've never had sex with a guy before, so I wonder if I'm just disappointed and trying to find a reason to be upset because it wasn't the fairy-tale experience I had imagined.

Meaning Making

When I was a child, between the ages of 7-9, I remember an instance where I made my sister engage in a sexual act with me. Although I don't believe I was sexually abused by any adults, I did have cousins around my age who did sexual things to me, such as pulling down my pants while playing and repeatedly exposing their genitals to me. Additionally, my mother would share detailed stories of her own sexual abuse from a young age. I feel guilty about what I did to my sister and wonder if she remembers it and if it caused her any harm. I did not have bad intentions, but I experience anxiety and OCD, which makes me question if I am a deeply immoral person. I know my relationship with myself and my sexuality was skewed at a young age due to my mother's stories. I became hypersexual as a child, and it persists to this day. I don't remember how many times it happened with my sister, but I think I stopped because it felt wrong, and I knew our mother would be upset if she found out. I never spoke to my mother about it because she is abusive, and I didn't want to aggravate her trauma. I'm wondering if I am an abuser or perpetrator. I don't have any inappropriate feelings towards children now that I'm 19, and I constantly question myself to ensure I am not an abuser. I'm concerned that I may be the reason for my sister's temper issues and acting out, but that could also be a result of our abusive parents. I'm not sure how much I should blame myself.

Managing Trauma Impact

I believe I was sexually abused by a friend when I was a child. She was a classmate of my brother and 5-6 years older than me. Our families were close, which led to us becoming friends despite the age difference. When I was around 6-8 years old, she made us 'play' in a way that involved oral sex. I hated it and tried to avoid doing it 'properly' without her noticing. I tried to forget about the experience, but I think it has taken a toll on me, especially when I started dating. As a lesbian, I struggled with setting boundaries and expressing my needs during sexual encounters. When I tried to perform oral sex on my then-partner, I didn't enjoy it and forced myself to continue even though I wanted it to stop. I believe that what happened to me as a child has affected me as an adult, and I'm seeking validation and information on how childhood sexual abuse can impact a person later in life.

Understanding Trauma & Violence

When I was 9 or 10 years old, my sister (who was 5 or 6 at the time) and I played an imaginary game where our characters would 'date.' The game involved a quick peck on the lips, and on one occasion, I asked her to lay on top of me. However, I quickly stopped the game because it felt wrong, and we never played it again. Now, as an adult, I feel intense guilt and shame, and I'm afraid that I may have sexually abused her. I have discussed this with my therapist and friends who have experienced abuse, and they all reassured me that I did not abuse my sister. Despite this, I can't shake the fear that I did something terribly wrong. Did my actions constitute sexual abuse?

Understanding Trauma & Violence

From ages 5-10, my slightly older sister would make me act out sexual scenarios with toys, either participating herself or watching me. She assured me it was just pretend when I expressed discomfort. She told me explicit sexual stories and reenacted them with me until our only play was sexual in nature. This stopped when she was 13-14, but she continued making sexual comments about my body and encouraging me to watch porn. I became hypersexual but repressed it, convincing myself her comments were harmless despite my discomfort. I've since cut contact but still wonder about her intentions and blame myself for participating. I feel sick thinking about it and can't feel normal about my body or sexuality anymore. I don't know if there's language to describe what happened or if it qualifies as child-on-child sexual abuse (COCSA) since she didn't touch me. I'm unsure if my discomfort is valid or if I can blame her since we were both young.

Understanding Trauma & Violence

When I was young, my younger sibling who was 6 at the time repeatedly engaged in sexual acts with me over the course of a week. I allowed it to happen because it felt good at the time and I didn't think it was wrong. Does this count as child-on-child sexual abuse (COCSA)?

Understanding Trauma & Violence

When I was 4 or 5 years old, a girl my age started kissing me. I felt uncomfortable and knew that something about the situation wasn't right, but I felt frozen and didn't know how to stop it from happening. Would this be considered child-on-child sexual abuse (COCSA)?

Understanding Trauma & Violence

When I was in middle school, my older sister, who was in her late teens, would engage in sexual activity with her boyfriends in front of me. She would claim that they weren't doing anything inappropriate because she thought I believed her and didn't want me to tell our parents. My parents often used me as a pawn to keep an eye on her, thinking she wouldn't misbehave if her younger sibling was present. She would also share graphic sexual stories with me and encourage me to be sexual, smoke, and use drugs, while simultaneously telling me those things were bad and not to do them. I often feel like I'm upset over nothing, but these experiences sent me down a dark path, making me vulnerable to grooming, sexual abuse, coercion, and even sex trafficking. Was this child-on-child sexual abuse (COCSA), or just inappropriate behavior?

Understanding Trauma & Violence

Evaluate to what extent the United States government has supported communities affected by gender-based violence.

Safety Exit

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