How to Prevent Sexual Violence

Sexual violence can take many forms. It can be physical, emotional or verbal, but it is always wrong. It is a violation of the right to privacy and the body and it is never justified. Sexual violence can occur anywhere at any time. It can happen to anyone regardless of age, gender, race, religion or socioeconomic status.

Sexual assault can be a traumatic experience for all involved. It can have lasting psychological effects, such as depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Sexual assault can also cause physical health issues such as chronic back pain, post-traumatic headaches, and sleep problems. There can be long term financial costs for victims such as lost income and the cost of medical and forensic treatment.

Victims of sexual violence often feel shame, embarrassment and guilt for being victimized. These feelings can make survivors feel uncomfortable sharing their experiences with others. Often survivors are misdiagnosed or don’t seek treatment due to these feelings. This can cause long-term difficulties with forming close relationships and trusting others.

Perpetrators of sexual assault often believe they are justified in their actions and have a sense of entitlement to another person’s body. This may be based on internalized stereotypes or beliefs or a desire for power and control over others. Sexual offenders can be influenced by the environment in which they grow up, their relationship with family members and other people in their lives. This can include the use of alcohol and/or drugs, attitudes and beliefs that support sexual abuse, and childhood exposure to family or community violence.

In patriarchal cultures, any resistance from a woman victim is seen as an insult to the offender’s “manhood” which increases his or her sense of power and provokes more aggressive behaviors. This explains why so many women will not go to movies alone at night or ride public transportation out of fear of rape. In addition, in some cases of gang rape the victim’s resistance is used as an excuse to increase the brutality and intensity of the attack.

While sexual violence is a complex issue, we can each do our part to prevent it. The first step is to recognize warning signs and learn what to look for.

Keep your doors and windows locked and be aware of who is in the neighborhood. Ask for identification before letting any service or salesperson into your home and never let yourself be alone in an unlocked room, especially at night. If you think you or a friend are being threatened, call the police. Be an advocate by supporting efforts to teach consent and boundaries in schools, learning about legislation that supports survivors and holds perpetrators accountable and donating to local advocacy centers. It is important to remember that sexual violence is never the survivor’s fault and it does not have anything to do with who they are or what they did or didn’t do. No one deserves to be abused.