Sexual violence can take many forms, including sexual assault and harassment, coerced sex or nonconsensual sexual acts, and child sexual abuse. No one deserves or asks for this type of violence to happen to them and it is not their fault. Everyone can play a role in preventing sexual violence. This includes promoting healthy relationships and behaviors, intervening when someone is behaving in ways that are not safe and changing the culture of the community to prevent sexual violence from happening at all.
Survivors of sexual assault and abuse may experience a wide range of emotions and reactions after the incident occurs. These may include feelings of shame, embarrassment, guilt, and fear. They might feel isolated and alone as friends, family, and coworkers avoid the topic or act as if what happened was not a big deal. This isolation and lack of support can make it harder for victims and survivors to get the help they need.
It is important to be a friend and supporter to a survivor of sexual violence. This means offering them a judgment free space to talk about the incident and being there when they are ready to share more information. It is also helpful to let them know you believe them and that what happened was not their fault. It is also important to be a ally and help them report what happened to police. It is also a good idea to offer them transportation or a place to stay. Reporting sexual assault is an important step for a victim/survivor and a way to reclaim their power and sense of safety. It is also an opportunity to send a message to the perpetrator that this behavior is NOT okay.
Many people have a difficult time recognizing that sexual violence is a problem because it takes place in intimate relationships and can be hidden from others. This can be a complex issue because abusers often coerce their victims into sexual acts without their consent. This can be difficult to recognize, especially for the victim or survivor.
Sexual violence has a ripple effect on the community, impacting economics and societal well-being. It costs communities through medical services, police/crime response fees, and crisis and counseling services. The cost to society is even higher when you consider the lost productivity, emotional health, and quality of life for those who are affected.
The most effective way to tackle sexual violence is prevention. This is accomplished by promoting healthy relationships, behaviors and values and addressing negative social norms that encourage sexual violence and harassment. It is at the individual level that the best prevention work can be done. This can be anything from ensuring you have a friend with you when going out to parties to helping others understand the difference between sex and harassment.