Sexual Violence – A Complex Issue That Is Difficult to Discuss
Sexual violence is any kind of unwanted or harmful sexual contact or action that takes place without consent. It can include sexual assault, rape and sex slavery. Sexual violence is an epidemic that affects everyone in our communities, schools and workplaces. It can be a result of sexual harassment, bullying, peer pressure and discrimination. It is a complex issue that can be difficult to understand and discuss.
Sexual assault is not always reported, which makes it difficult to know the full extent of the problem. Data come from police reports, clinical settings and surveys conducted by nongovernmental organizations. Those who are victims of sexual violence may not report it for a variety of reasons including shame, fear of retaliation or the belief that nothing could have changed the outcome.
Survivors often deal with the physical consequences of sexual violence such as sexually transmitted diseases, bruising and skin abrasions. They also face the mental health challenges of post-traumatic stress disorder and depression and are at risk for suicidal thoughts. The emotional impact of sexual abuse can be long-lasting and can make it hard to trust others.
Perpetrators of sexual violence are found in every society, religion and age group. They can be people we know and even close family members. The vast majority of perpetrators are men. Some of them are in positions of power, such as community leaders or soldiers. Some are well-educated and wealthy, but there is a large section of the population that feels no respect for women or that views their lives as inferior to those of men. The patriarchal structures that lead to sexual violence have wide-reaching implications for society. For example, women who are raped or attacked have fewer opportunities to access education or pursue their careers and this can affect future generations. It is a form of oppression that prevents women from fully participating in their families, societies and economies.
There are no excuses for sexual violence and abuse. No one deserves to experience sexual violence or abuse and it is never their fault. The only way to prevent sexual assault is to educate people on sexual health and safety, to support victims of sexual violence and to hold perpetrators accountable.
It is important to understand that survivors may feel many different emotions after being victimized such as rage, shame, anxiety and fear. They may have flashbacks of the traumatic incident or experience nightmares. They can also find themselves isolated from friends and family members or feel numb or depressed.
Sexual violence can be prevented by teaching children about appropriate touch and encouraging them to talk to their parents if they are uncomfortable with certain body parts being touched. By reporting any occurrence of sexual violence to the authorities, people can help ensure that crimes against young people are addressed. In addition, the prevention of sexual violence is a shared responsibility involving all sectors of society. For example, it is important for colleges and universities to share their statistics about sexual assault with the community so that they can take steps to protect students.