Sexual Violence

sexual violence

Sexual violence is a traumatic life event that can have profound impact on a survivor. It may affect their work, social and family life, and mental health. Survivors often struggle with feelings of guilt, shame, self-blame, fear and anger. The experience can leave them with long-term psychological and social effects including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety and other conditions. It is also possible to experience physical impacts including injuries and the risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections.

Sexual assault can occur in many situations and contexts – in homes, schools, workplaces, and other community settings. It can be a single act or a pattern of behaviour over time. It can involve a close relative, an acquaintance, or a stranger. It can be physical, emotional or verbal. It can happen to men and women, children, people of all ages, and people who identify as LGBT+.

In some cases, victims of sexual violence may be unable to give consent – for example, when they are asleep, unconscious or drunk. This can be a result of abuse or of a medical condition. Coercion is another factor that can lead to sexual assault. This includes threats of physical harm, loss of employment or other consequences that a perpetrator can use to exert control over their victim. It can also include emotional blackmail such as telling friends or family members that the victim cheated on them.

Perpetrators of sexual violence can vary widely in terms of their motivations, beliefs and background. Personal level factors that increase the likelihood of perpetrating sexual violence include drug and alcohol use, attitudes and beliefs about gender and relationships; impulsive behaviors; and childhood experiences of sexual or physical abuse. Community level factors can include the setting in which an individual lives and works, and societal norms that support or inhibit violence. These include a focus on men’s strength and power, a belief that women need to submit to male authority, and cultural or religious traditions that permit or encourage sexual violence against vulnerable members of society.

Research shows that some risk factors are more modifiable than others. Individuals can take actions to prevent sexual violence by promoting safe relationships, behaviors and environments and practicing active bystander intervention. They can also support community efforts to prevent sexual violence by donating money and/or time, supporting legislation that supports survivors of assault and advocating for consent and boundaries in school curricula and in the workplace.

It’s important to remember that sexual violence is not a victim’s fault and is never okay. It is a choice made by perpetrators who are often motivated by a desire to control, hurt or dominate their victims. This can be hard to understand if you have never experienced the trauma of sexual assault, but it is true. This is why it’s so important to learn more about sexual violence and take action to reduce it.