Our languageThe terms we use - and why...
Why we use this term
We know this is likely to be an unfamiliar term – but we use it for three important reasons:
- We know this is a complicated issue and many men can find it difficult to put what happened to them into words.
- Some of the common terms may not feel like they ‘fit’ what happened or have other associations such as ‘they only happen to women‘.
- Some men can feel re-traumatised by some of the common terms
For these reasons, we start with an open term, ‘unwanted sexual experience‘, so that men can find their own way of describing their individual experience.
What does 'unwanted sexual experience' mean?
Unwanted = that you did not want it to have happened.
It may be that, at the time, you were unsure about what was happening so could not make this decision or it was not in your power to do so. However, now, it is something that you wish had not happened and/or feel that it is causing problems in your life.
Sexual = that it involved something that was around sex.
This may have been direct contact, being shown explicit material, or other things around sexual acts that made you feel uncomfortable. It may have been that you were too young then to know what sex was and didn’t understand what was happening. However, now, it is something that you think is having a negative effect, and causing you problems in your life.
Experience = just that something happened to you.
It may have happened once, it may have happened many times. It might have involved just one person or other people at the same or different times. Maybe you knew them well or not at all. It was something that happened to you and something that still affects you today. It is something that is having an impact on your current life experiences and you want them to go away.
The next section goes into more detail about formal and legal definitions. It might be that the term ‘unwanted sexual experience’ is enough for you now. Or you may have already decided what you want to call what happened to you. Therefore, you can either proceed on to the next section or leave it for now.
Formal and Legal definitions
We use the term ‘unwanted sexual experience’ to include any non-consensual or unwanted act of sexualised violence, coercion, manipulation or abuse including childhood sexual abuse, sexual assault and rape.
There are over sixty legally defined sexual offences in the UK, set out in the Sexual Offences Act 2003. For someone who wishes to take legal action, it is important to understand how the law defines what has happened to them, as it may be different to what they think has happened.
Please note that the Sexual Offences Act is being revised to reflect that offences can be committed by both men and women. Where a definition refers to ‘he’, it does not mean that a woman cannot be convicted for the offence.
The majority of men who come to Mankind are seeking help for an unwanted sexual experience that happened in their childhood. This would come under the general term of ‘childhood sexual abuse‘. For those men that are seeking help for an unwanted sexual experience as an adult, this would come under the general terms of ‘sexual assault‘ or ‘rape‘.
However, these are formal terms and it is entirely up to an individual to give whatever name they wish to their experience.