How to Prevent Sexual Violence
Sexual violence is any act that violates a person’s right to their own body, privacy and dignity. It can be physical, psychological or emotional and can include unwanted sexual comments or actions, sexual assault, rape, and sexual harassment.
Everyone has different reactions to sexual violence and abuse, but for most people, it is a very traumatic experience. It can affect a person’s health, relationships and wellbeing. Survivors can have feelings like shame, embarrassment, guilt and self-blame. They can have flashbacks, nightmares and memories of the assault that interfere with their daily life. They can feel depressed and isolated from family and friends, and have difficulty trusting others. They can have changes in their eating and sleeping habits. They can also suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Sexual abuse and violence often happens in families or other close relationships. Children who are abused or witness sexual violence may be afraid of their parents, have trouble making friends and can behave in sexually inappropriate ways. Parents can help prevent their child from being a victim of sexual violence by educating them about appropriate touching and using age-appropriate explanations of sexual behaviour. They can also make sure their children are not in contact with known offenders and report any suspected incidents to police.
At the community level, communities can reduce sexual violence by providing education about the risks of sex offenders, and supporting victims through support services and legal advocacy. They can also work to change the social norms that allow sexual violence and promote the values of respect, equality and non-violence. They can also challenge images of sexual violence against women in advertising, pornography and professional wrestling.
Individuals can reduce their risk of sexual violence by practicing safe sex, abstaining from the use of alcohol or drugs for sex, and not allowing anyone else to touch their private areas. They can also teach their children about the realities of sexual violence and sexually transmitted infections. Schools and universities can help by reporting sex-related crime rates, making it easier for students to access support services and raising awareness about the risks of campus sexual assault and sex crimes.
At the societal level, governments can address sexual violence by developing and implementing policies to protect and support victims, and reducing the causes of sexual violence. They can also provide education about sexually transmitted infections and offer prevention programs for young people, such as sexual health classes, sex offenders treatment programs and community awareness campaigns. Tertiary prevention focuses on the long-term responses to sexual violence through policies, programs and services for survivors, such as counselling services, self-defense classes and sex offender treatment programs. They can also fund and implement public safety initiatives, such as improving lighting, signage and security at places where sexual violence is most likely to occur. This can increase the safety of communities and reduce the costs associated with police, emergency services and the cost of lost productivity. Finally, they can support local organisations that deliver these services.