Difference between sexual assault and sexual abuse?

In newspapers and media reports, it’s sometimes stated women were violated and “sexually assaulted” or “abused”. Although I’m cognizant that abuse is traumatic regardless, “assault” covers such a broad range.

My point here is, are the public aware of the seriousness surrounding the most horrific assault cases.  I located information below on the Gov’t of Western Australia Department of Health  (Sexual Assault Resource Centre) website.

What is sexual assault?

Sexual assault can be a violent, unexpected, traumatic and sometimes life-threatening event or series of events. Sexual assault is ANY unwanted sexual act or behaviour which is threatening, violent, forced or coercive and to which a person has not given consent or was not able to give consent.

Sexual assault is a crime
Examples include:

  • Putting a penis, object or other parts of the body into someone’s mouth, anus or vagina.
  • Being forced to give or receive oral sex – putting a penis into someone’s mouth.
  • Being forced to masturbate or forced to watch someone masturbate.
  • Unwanted sexual touching – on private parts of the body.
  • Sexual harassment – making inappropriate sexual comments.
  • Voyeurism – someone exposing themselves to you.
  • Making someone watch a sexual act or pornography.

The term ‘sexual violence’ is often used to describe sexual assault and sexual abuse.

What is sexual abuse?

Sexual abuse is when someone in a position of power or authority takes advantage of a person’s trust and respect to involve them in sexual activity. It can involve any of the examples above.

Sexual abuse is a crime

Sexual abuse can occur between:

  • A child and an adult
  • A child and an older child
  • A patient and a doctor
  • A student and a teacher
  • A parishioner and a priest

More on this article explaining violent abuses:


6 thoughts on “Difference between sexual assault and sexual abuse?

  1. Jami Carder says:

    I had the hardest time forgiving myself because I didn’t fit neatly into any of those categories. My abuse wasn’t violent, and it wasn’t by an older child. It was my step brother, who was the same age as me. I kept reading “older child on younger child” and couldn’t accept it for what it was.


    • cherished79 says:

      I’m sorry you had to go through that. Sexual or emotional abuse is abuse regardless of whom it came from, and never forget that none of this was your fault. Pat yourself on the back for being a survivor. I’m proud of you. Hugs, Deb 🙂


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