There are many words used when discussing sexual violence and abuse that may not be common in every day life.

Below is a list of words that you may find useful.

Child Sexual Abuse

Child sexual abuse encapsulates ANY sexual activity between a child/adolescent and an adult, with or without physical touch.

Find out more… 

Please note: If you think you may have been the victim of child abuse, then some of the information may be triggering for you.


Without consent, any kind of sexual activity is sexual violence.

The Sexual Offences Act 2003 notes consent as when a person chooses to participate and ‘has the freedom and capacity to make that choice.’

A person doesn’t have the freedom and capacity to agree to sexual activity if…

They are asleep or unconscious.
They are drunk or ‘on’ drugs.
They’ve been ‘spiked’ with drink or drugs.
They are under the age of consent (this is 16 years of age in the UK).
They have been threatened, pressured, bullied, manipulated, tricked, or scared into saying ‘yes’.
They have a disorder or illness that means they are unable to make a choice.
The other person is using physical force against them.
If there is not consent, the activity is a criminal offence.

Domestic Violence and Abuse

Domestic violence and abuse is often talked about in terms of physical, emotional and financial abuse. However, domestic violence can also involve rape and sexual assault.

Women’s Aid define domestic abuse as “an incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening, degrading and violent behaviour, including sexual violence, in the majority of cases by a partner or ex-partner, but also by a family member or carer.”

If you are currently in an abusive relationship and need help,

contact IDAS on 03000 110 110. 

If you are in immediate danger, call 999.



EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing.

It is a recommended technique for the treatment of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) that helps survivors work on their memories in a safe and controlled environment and address the root cause of their trauma. Survivors will only be offered EMDR if they are assessed as stable and robust enough to cope with it.

Find out more… 

Fight or Flight response

The ‘fight or flight response’ is often used to describe how humans respond to threat. It’s important to understand how our brain protects us in dangerous situations and how these responses are instinctive, automatic and not cognitive. We must therefore not blame a survivor for their response.

When faced with threat, an individual may:


Physically fighting, pushing, struggling, and/or fighting verbally e.g. saying ‘no’.

Flee (flight)

Putting distance between themselves and the danger. For example: running, hiding, or backing away.


Going still and silent.

Freezing is not giving consent, it is an instinctive survival response


‘Befriending’ the person who is dangerous, by perhaps soothing, negotiating, bribing, or pleading with them.


Similar to freezing, except the body may go floppy. The individual’s mind can also shut down to protect itself.



IDVA stands for Independent Domestic Violence Adviser.

SafeLives describe an IDVA as “a specialist professional who works with a victim of domestic abuse to develop a trusting relationship. They can help a victim with everything they need to become safe and rebuild their life, and represent their voice at a Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conference (MARAC), as well as helping them to navigate the criminal justice process and working with the different statutory agencies to provide wraparound support.”

If you are currently in an abusive relationship and need help,

contact IDAS on 03000 110 110. 

If you are in immediate danger, call 999.


ISVA stands for Independent Sexual Violence Adviser.

An ISVA is an adviser who works with people who have been subjected to rape, sexual assault or child sexual abuse irrespective of whether they have reported what happened to the police and whether it happened recently or a long time ago.

Find out more… 

Non-recent child sexual abuse

Non-recent child sexual abuse (sometimes called historical sexual abuse) is when an adult was abused as a child or as a young person under the age of 18.

The impact of sexual violence and abuse, no matter when it happened, can have a long-term and for some, a life-long impact. Whether the abuse happened once or multiple times, 5 years or 70 years ago, whatever the circumstances, it’s never too late to get support.


Rape is a form of sexual assault but not all sexual assault is rape.

Rape is, by definition: ‘unlawful sexual intercourse or any other sexual penetration of the vagina, anus, or mouth of another person, with or without force, by a sex organ, other body part, or foreign object, without the consent of the victim’.

'Rape Culture'

We use this term to describe the culture we sometimes see in society where sexual violence and abuse is normalised, played down and even laughed off, where sexual violence and abuse is excused, silenced, or covered up, and when survivors get blamed for what happened to them instead of the perpetrator.

It includes inappropriate behaviour, like ‘cat calling’, sexist remarks, and so-called ‘rape jokes’.

‘Rape culture’ enforces the idea that the survivor is somehow responsible for what happened to them. It deters survivors reporting the crime to the police, and/or getting the support they need to cope and recover and even deters them from telling those close to them about what happened.

Sexual violence IS ALWAYS the fault of the perpetrator, NEVER the fault of the survivor.

Ritual Abuse

This is abuse that occurs in a context linked to some symbol or group activity that has a religious, magical or supernatural connotation and where the invocation of these symbols or activities, repeated over time, is used to frighten and intimidate children and gain control over them.

Find out more… 

Please note: If you think you are a survivor of ritual abuse, then some of the information may be triggering for you.

Sexual trauma

Sexual trauma is the term we use to describe the long-term and sometimes lifelong impact of sexual violence and abuse.

While everybody’s reaction to sexual violence and abuse is unique some common sexual trauma responses includes:

Feeling numb or confused
Shock and disbelief
Flashbacks and nightmares
Panic attacks
Self-doubt, self-blame and low self-esteem
Obsessive behaviour
Dissociation (‘zoning out’)
Substance or alcohol abuse
Self harm
Suicidal thoughts

There is no ‘normal’ reaction to sexual violence and abuse. A survivor may feel some, none or all of these symptoms. Whatever feelings a survivor has are valid.

Sexual Violence and Abuse

Sexual violence and abuse is any behaviour of a sexual nature that is unwanted and takes place without consent or understanding, or when coercion is used to obtain consent.

It may not be violent but will always be violating.

Forms of sexual violence and abuse include attempted rape; unwanted sexual touching; forcing upon someone sexual acts including oral sex; penetration of the victim’s body, also called rape.

Trauma-informed and Trauma-specific

Survive is proud to offer specialist trauma-informed services and trauma-specific interventions.

At Survive, trauma-informed services include support work, counselling and our helpline. Our practitioners are aware of how trauma negatively impacts children and adults and consciously reduce practices that might inadvertently re-traumatise survivors. They show care and compassion and build trusting therapeutic relationships so that survivors feel safe to disclose traumatic experiences.

At Survive, trauma-specific interventions include trauma therapy and EMDR.

Trauma-specific interventions are designed to address trauma-related symptoms and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).


VAWG stands for ‘Violence Against Women and Girls’. It is a term adopted from the United Nations 1993 declaration that includes “Any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life”.

Survive recognises that whilst VAWG offences are most commonly perpetrated by men on women, women can also be perpetrators and men can also be survivors.

Survive works with all genders.

Sexual abuse counselling services York


I was in my 40s when I reached crisis point and was unable to function.

The abuse happened when I was a child and Survive was my last hope.

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