Ending Sexual Violence

Sexual violence is harmful to individuals and the communities in which they live. It destroys people’s sense of safety and trust. It costs communities money in the form of criminal justice and crisis service expenses as well as the loss of potential contributions to society by those who are victimized. It is a serious human rights and social justice issue that we need everyone’s help to end.

Everybody can experience sexual violence but some groups, such as women and racial or ethnic minority members, are at higher risk because of their gender or the ways they may be perceived in our culture. It also disproportionately affects people living in poverty or with disabilities.

It’s important to remember that a survivor of sexual assault or abuse is not at fault for the abuse they endured, no matter what their attacker told them. Some people believe that rape or sexual assault is caused by the survivor’s behaviour, their clothes, their drinking habits or something else they did or didn’t do but this is not true. People who perpetrate sexual violence choose to exert control over others and operate from a sense of entitlement to another person’s body.

The most common reasons that people commit sexually violent offences include a desire to possess or manipulate the victim, a lack of available sources of gratification, a deviant sexual interest or deficit in intimacy, or a need for power and control. Other reasons include situational factors such as a high level of stress, alcohol or drugs and an environment that provides easy access to victims, where they are vulnerable to exploitation.

Those who have experienced sexual violence often have to live with the physical effects of the trauma including scarring and disfigurement. Survivors of sexual assault or violence may also have emotional and psychological impacts that can impact their relationships with friends and family and their ability to engage in work, study or leisure activities. They are also at greater risk for a range of medical conditions such as PTSD, anxiety and depression as well as sexually transmitted infections including HIV.

If you have any concerns about the way someone you know is acting, talk to them in a safe and judgment free space. Providing support to someone who is being abused is one of the most effective ways to help end sexual violence.

In addition to supporting survivors and helping them heal, we can all take steps to prevent sexual violence from happening in our community. We can raise awareness of the need for consent and boundaries in intimate relationships. We can challenge images of violence in advertising, pornography and professional wrestling. We can encourage schools and workplaces to provide sexual health education for students, staff and community members. We can lobby our government to pass laws that support people who are victims of sexual assault and hold perpetrators accountable. We can join with others in our community to end sexual violence by volunteering or donating money and we can participate in campaigns to stop sexual assault.