Sexual Harassment and Abuse: Meaning, Myths, and Signs

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Any unwelcome sexual advance comes under sexual harassment, and any forced sexual activity comes under sexual abuse. Sexual harassment and abuse may be done through facial expressions, body language, words or actions.

Myths about sexual harassment and abuse

  • One is in greater danger of rape at the hands of a stranger

On the contrary, the victim is most often sexually abused by someone they know.

  • People are sexually abused in open spaces

No. It’s most often done indoors by someone they know, as we’ve said before.

  • Raped children are mentally retarded

No, they are traumatized by the act, no doubt. But that doesn’t in itself affect mental functioning.

  • Many women secretly want to be raped

Just typing that out made me so angry. This is just not true. Yes, sexual pleasure is appealing. But it does not make up for the shock, horror, trauma, powerlessness, pain, panic, fear and (unfortunately) shame.  It doesn’t even come close.

  • Women invite rape by dressing scantily

Men wear shorts to be comfortable all the time. They also experiment with fashion. Women have the same considerations. Fashion preferences and comfort needs. It is not the raped woman’s fault that we live in such a grossly patriarchal society. Besides this, research has shown that scantily dressed women are actually not more likely to be raped. Rape happens equally with women of all appearances and dressing styles.

  • A woman can stop rape whenever she wants

Not without putting her body and life at significant risk.

  • If a woman really was raped she would speak out

It’s not that simple. It is very traumatic for a woman to confront the experience, and it invites shame and other hostile attitudes from society.

  • Only girls get sexually abused

The precondition for sexual abuse is a disempowering environment. If the woman is more powerful than the man, she could easily force sexual activity without him being able to do much about it, and that would definitely count as sexual abuse.

  • Victims of sexual abuse must suffer silently rather than bring shame to their families

Sexual abuse is a crime. It is NOT THE VICTIM’S FAULT THAT A CRIME WAS COMMITTED AGAINST THEM. Just like you would speak out if someone had stolen from you or tried to murder you, you should also speak out if someone has sexually abused you. Families should not discourage this as it is not the victim’s fault. Also, having been involved in rape does not make the person impure any more than having food forced down your throat does.

  • Blocking pornography will solve sexual harassment and abuse

While there is evidence that correlates hypersexual with sexual crimes, there is also evidence that strongly correlates repressed sexual urges with sexual crimes. So, neither extreme would help. Rather, the solution is to express sexual urges, but always with consent and always within acceptable limits.

Another aspect of this is that sexual abuse is most strongly correlated with abuse of power. The individual is someone who has been oppressed and therefore, out of frustration, wishes to assert their authority for once on a helpless victim. So, sexual activity patterns are not as key in determining sexual abuse as power expression patterns.

  • LGBTQQIAAP (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual, ally, pansexual) deserve to be harassed and abused

As we’ve said before, they cannot change, no matter how bad they want to. It is not a conscious choice. It is a subconscious process. In the cases where people have changed, evidence shows that they did so unwillingly i.e. not consciously, but subconsciously. Yes, that happens, but very rarely. Any past effort at systematically trying to get these individuals to change their sexual orientation not only failed but also inflicted high levels of torture on them.

Image Credit: bythepeepaltree

Signs of sexual repression and abuse

  1. Withdrawn behavior
  2. Submissive behavior
  3. Subdued expression
  4. Restricted body language
  5. Unexplained or poorly explained injuries
  6. Fear of the predatorial sex
  7. Internalized focus and absent-mindedness
  8. Declining performance at school or work
  9. Body image issues

About the author:

Samarth Shetty has an MA in psychology from IGNOU and has 10-12 years of experience in several specialized mental health fields such as schizophrenia rehabilitation and LGBT counseling. Currently, he practices mainly as a life coach, but occasionally ventures into other modes of service such as seminars, workshops, and internships. He also participates in outreach programs for general sexual awareness, gender equality, LGBT rights, and awareness as well as stigma removal.

Co-author: Kunal

Kunal is a writer and a thinker. He has authored “4 weeks – the beginning”, (which is available on Amazon) as well as co-authored two IEEE research papers. He has also given a TEDx talk titled “childish fantasies”. Kunal secured a degree in computer science and an internship from Silverline Counselling and Learning Center. Psychology as a subject has always been close to Kunal’s heart. To that end, he has switched career paths and is currently a master’s student in psychology at IGNOU and an editor/coauthor at

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