What is Sexual Violence?

sexual violence

Sexual violence is an act of aggression and intimidation, designed to control and humiliate. It is an act of power against a person, group or community and it can take many different forms including assault, rape, stalking, grooming, sex trafficking, and other types of abuse. It can occur in public, in the home and at work. It can be physical, psychological or emotional and can leave lasting impacts on victims. It happens to people of all ages, races, cultures, religions and sexualities but it is more likely to happen to women, girls, children and people with disabilities.

People who have been sexually abused are more likely to have health problems including depression, eating disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). They are also more likely to self-harm or be involved in criminal behaviour. They are at greater risk of being passed around a network of abusers, known as sexual exploitation.

Sexual assault and rape can have serious, long-lasting effects on the victim, their family and friends. It can lead to low self-esteem, anxiety, depression and feelings of shame and guilt. It can have a significant impact on their education, career and relationships and they can struggle to form trusting relationships with others. It can have a major impact on their financial situation as they may need to take time off from work and face high medical bills.

Survivors can feel isolated, alone and ashamed, especially when their attackers are known. They can be afraid to report the crime or talk about it with their families, friends and colleagues. It can be difficult to find support and help, especially in rural communities where there are few health centres and the survivors might be worried about the effect of publicity or being seen as weak.

People can do lots to reduce sexual violence and exploitation. Make sure all windows and doors can be locked securely, particularly at night. Ask for proof of identity from anyone who might come to the house e.g. salesperson or repair man. Don’t open your door to strangers and make it clear you don’t give consent to being kissed or touched without explanation.

It is important to educate young people about sexual health, safety and responsibilities. They can learn the difference between healthy and unhealthy sex, develop respectful relationships, be active listeners and identify possible signs of sexual violence. It is also essential that they understand the importance of seeking help if they are concerned about themselves or their friends.

Preventing sexual violence requires tackling attitudes and behaviours that embolden inappropriate interpersonal interactions. Successful prevention programs challenge those beliefs, encourage effective communication skills and a strong sense of empathy, accountability and respect for each other. They should also focus on teaching and reinforcing respectful and non-violent conflict resolution techniques.

Sexual assault and exploitation affects us all and we must do our part to prevent it. Support organisations working to end sexual violence by donating money or volunteering your time. Teach everyone you know that consent is vital and no one deserves to be hurt.