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Sexual abuse is a relative cultural term used to describe sexual relations and behavior between two or more parties which are considered criminally and/or morally offensive. Different types of sexual abuse involve:

  • Non-consensual, forced physical sexual behavior such as rape or sexual assault
  • Psychological forms of abuse, such as verbal sexual behavior or stalking.

The issue of consent

In the majority of cultures and countries, sex is legal and acceptable only if both parties give informed consent. In most western countries, the term "informed consent" is doubled as a legal term as well, one which applies to mainstream ideals.

In some cases, some forms of sexual behavior are still considered illegal even though both parties are able to give informed consent, such as specific practices involved with BDSM (due to it being legally defined as assault, regardless of informed consent).

Most societies have strict laws, edict, and moral beliefs as to who may consent to sex. In most jurisdictions, disadvantaged classes of people such as minors and mentally retarded people have limited or no rights to give legal, informed consent, even though the parties involved may truly be consenting and willing to such actions. The debate about who can truly consent to sex is a controversial subject which crosses borders of law and culture. For this reason, many of the terms and phrases used can be blurred between the two as to what is truly abusive sexual behavior and what isn't.

Spousal sexual abuse

Main article: spousal abuse

Spousal abuse is the term applied to the specific form of domestic violence, where physical or sexual abuse is perpetrated by one spouse upon another. This is typically perpetrated by a male upon a female in a heterosexual relationship, although females and homosexuals are also known to inflict abuse (see battered woman syndrome).

Student and patient sexual exploitation

Students are sometimes victims of sexual exploitation by teachers and professors, see Academic abuse. Even if the sexual contact is consented to (or even initiated) by the student, it may be considered a form of abuse on the presumption that the teacher or professor is apt to exploit his or her position of authority in a subtle form of psychological coercion. Whether this is a sound presumption in all cases may be disputed.

For a famous example of a teacher-student relationship, see Mary Kay Letourneau.

Patients of psychotherapists are another common category of sexual exploitation; see Psychotherapist abuse.

Minor sexual abuse as it relates to law

Main article: Child sexual abuse

According to United States law, minors under the age of consent can only give "simple consent", but not informed consent, to sexual activity. State laws generally differentiate between an adult engaging in sexual activities with minors. Generally speaking, the two categorizations of charges faced are:

According to some state laws in the U.S., if two or more minors under the age of consent engage in sex with each other, they may both be (somewhat paradoxically) classified as victims of sexual abuse. Cases in which both participants are minors have historically not been prosecuted, although a shift in the direction of prosecuting minors for consensual sex with other minors seems to have occurred in the last several decades. (See Ethical Treatment for All Youth for examples.)

de:Sexueller Missbrauch es:Abuso sexual pt:Abuso sexual

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