Preventing Sexual Violence

Sexual violence is a global crisis. According to RAINN, a person is sexually assaulted every 68 seconds. It costs our society in the form of lost productivity, medical and mental health care, law enforcement and police services. It also impacts a victim’s quality of life and relationships. We all have a role to play in preventing sexual assault. We can support survivors and stop sexual abuse before it happens by promoting healthy relationships, safe behaviors and thoughtful policies. We can also educate ourselves and others about the risk factors that lead to sexual violence, such as alcohol and drug use, gender bias, cultural norms, and subtle victim blaming.

Sexual assault can be anything from unwanted touching to full-on rape. It can be committed by strangers or people in intimate relationships. It can be coercive, meaning the attacker manipulates the victim into doing sexual acts she doesn’t consent to. It can be done while a victim is drunk, asleep or otherwise incapacitated. It can be a result of harassment or discrimination based on race, gender, or class. It can even be a part of a mass-attack, such as the gang rapes that have occurred in New Delhi and other places around the world.

All kinds of people can become victims of sexual violence, including women, men and children. It can affect anyone who identifies as transgender or non-binary. It can be gender-based or a result of sexual orientation, and it can include attacks on groups of people such as sex offenders.

It’s important to remember that a lot of sexual violence is fueled by feelings of powerlessness and shame. Victims are often blamed for the assault, which can fuel more aggression and violence in the future. This is called bystander effect, and it’s something we can address by being aware of what causes sexual violence and by speaking out when we see it happening.

Research has shown that sexual violence is preventable. However, it takes a collective effort to change the culture of sexual assault. We can do our part by teaching everyone we know about consent and boundaries, challenging images of sexism in advertising, pornography and professional wrestling, and by supporting people who work to end sexual violence. We can advocate for laws that support survivors and hold perpetrators accountable.

We can also show up for people who are victims by making sure they know we believe them, that we understand how much this hurts and that we want to help them in any way we can. We can provide a safe space for them to talk about what happened and offer a judgement-free, compassionate presence. We can also help them find resources, like hotlines and counseling services. And we can support them as they report to the police and seek justice for what has happened to them. You can learn more about how to support someone who has been assaulted by downloading our Don’t Miss the Signs flyer in English or Spanish.