Sexual Violence – A Complex Problem That Affects Many People

Sexual violence is a widespread problem that affects many people. It can happen in a wide variety of settings, and is most often perpetrated by someone the victim knows or trusts. Many survivors of sexual violence suffer from feelings of shame, guilt or embarrassment after the experience. They may also experience hyper-vigilance and flashbacks. Some may even develop post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

It is important to understand the complexity of sexual violence, and the ways in which it is experienced by victims and survivors. It is also important to debunk myths about sexual assault and rape that can make people feel that it is not a serious crime or that it is somehow the victim’s fault.

For example, a common myth is that if a rape victim didn’t scream or try to fight the attacker it wasn’t a real rape. This is not true – and it’s really insulting to victims to assume that their reactions were somehow ‘not appropriate’. Similarly, it is not uncommon for people to mistakenly believe that a man who does not put up much of a struggle during sexual violence is weak or gay and that he or she must have enjoyed the attack. This is also not true – sexual responses are physiological and out of a person’s control, and they do not mean that the victim enjoys the assault.

Many perpetrators of sexual violence plan their attacks. They will often look for vulnerable targets who are unaware of their surroundings, under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or alone or isolated from friends and family. They will then surprise the victim, drug them, or use coercion, threats and manipulation. In addition, they will often have fantasies about sexual conquest and enjoyment.

Survivors of sexual assault and rape often have difficulty trusting others, and may withdraw from their communities and relationships after the abuse. They may also have difficulties with self-esteem and body image and find it hard to maintain their job or home. Survivors can experience difficulties with intimacy, and can have outbursts of anger and aggression. They can also have trouble sleeping and find it difficult to concentrate on other activities.

Sexual assault and rape are very expensive for society, both in terms of physical injuries and the psychological effects on individuals and families. Each incident of rape costs $5,100 in tangible losses and $81,400 in lost quality of life.

There are several things that can be done to help prevent sexual violence and rape. Individuals can help by teaching others about consent and the importance of respecting a person’s personal boundaries. They can also challenge images of violence against women in advertising, pornography, professional wrestling and other media. Communities can support groups working to end sexual violence by volunteering time, donating money and/or lobbying legislators. Finally, people can help by living safely: Keep doors and windows locked, particularly those with easy access to the outside and by checking the identification of anyone who comes to their home or apartment.