Impacts of Sexual Violence

sexual violence

Sexual violence is a violation of the human body and an expression of power in a relationship. It occurs in a variety of contexts and situations, including intimate relationships, sexual activity with strangers, and the use of violence to control someone’s behavior. It may occur in any culture, and it can be committed by people of all ages, genders, races, and backgrounds. This violence often goes unreported, making it difficult to know how many victims are there. Sexual violence has impacts on all aspects of a person’s life including health, education, family, work and community.

Coercion in the form of threats, manipulation, intimidation, and physical force is commonly used to perpetrate sexual violence. It is common for offenders to threaten to hurt, kill or injure their victim, to steal their belongings, and/or to deprive them of access to employment or educational opportunities. Sexual violence can also include psychological abuse in which the victim is made to feel fearful and helpless to avoid their offender.

Cultural factors that influence sexual violence include attitudes, beliefs and norms that support sexual violence, such as the prevailing notions of masculinity and femininity in a society. For example, in patriarchal cultures, resistance by a woman victim is likely to be perceived by the offender as an insult to his “manhood” further provoking him to resort to more violent means to control her.

Individuals who define themselves as non-heterosexual or transgender are at greater risk for sexual violence. These attacks are known as “corrective rapes” because they aim to conform the victim to the dominant notions of behaviour for their gender. Asexual individuals are also at risk of being targeted for violence.

The social impact of sexual violence includes impacts on communities, families, and friends. Survivors of sexual assault often struggle with feelings of shame, guilt and self-blame that can lead to isolation. Those who support survivors of sexual assault can experience the same challenges, but they can help by validating the survivor’s feelings and acknowledging that the assault was not their fault.

Survivors of sexual violence often develop a wide range of long-term physical and psychological problems. These can include sexually transmitted infections such as HIV, and chronic pelvic pain (dyspareunia). They may have difficulty forming close intimate relationships and find it hard to trust others. They can develop PTSD, depression and anxiety, and may have trouble coping with stress. They can also have problems with self-image and sexual performance.

Sexual violence affects the entire community. It destroys a sense of safety and trust in communities where it is found, and it causes economic costs in the forms of lost wages, medical services, police services and crisis centres. The most significant cost is the loss of a person’s potential contribution to society and their well-being. Survivors can also suffer from the effects of stigma and discrimination. This can make them less willing to report their experience of sexual violence and are more likely to be subjected to re-victimization or other types of abuse.