What is Sexual Violence?
Sexual violence is any type of unwanted sexual behaviour, including sexual harassment, assault and rape. It can happen to people of any age, gender, culture or faith – including children, older adults and people with disabilities. It can happen in person, on social media or through online contact. Sexual assault and rape are serious crimes and cannot be excused or justified.
When someone is subjected to sexual violence, it can have a huge impact on how they feel about themselves and their bodies. It can lead to self-destructive habits such as drug or alcohol abuse, eating disorders and even self-injury. It can also affect the way they interact with their family, friends and colleagues. Survivors may struggle to trust other people, and they might start to distance themselves from their family, friends or community.
It’s important to understand that everyone reacts differently to sexual violence, and that everyone heals at their own pace. If someone you know has experienced sexual violence, it’s important to listen and be patient. It’s also important to avoid asking “why” questions, which can imply blame and make the victim or survivor feel like they are to blame for what happened to them.
Many myths about sexual violence and rape exist, which can make victims and survivors feel confused or ashamed. For example, some people believe that if a man is not able to fight off a rape attack, he must be weak or gay, while others think that if a woman has an erection during sexual assault, she must enjoy it. However, neither a man nor a woman can control their body’s sexual response, and no one deserves or asks for sexual violence to be inflicted on them.
Sexual assault and rape can be very difficult to report, because there are no visible injuries and a lot of societal stigma attached to the crime. This can cause a delay in reporting, which can have a serious impact on the survivor’s physical and mental health. In addition, a victim may be forced to endure further trauma and psychological distress because they are not believed or treated with compassion.
The vast majority of cases of sexual violence go unreported. However, it is estimated that the actual number of incidents is much higher than those reported, as only a small percentage of victims or witnesses come forward to speak with police. This makes it important to recognise that sexual violence is not limited to a small group of individuals, and that it can happen anywhere, at any time.
Almost all cultures and communities experience sexual violence, and it happens to men, women, young people and children. It can occur in families, friendships and romantic relationships, as well as between strangers. It can also be a result of discrimination, such as sexual assault and rape against racial minorities, immigrants, people with disabilities or LGBT+ people. However, no-one deserves to be a victim of sexual violence, and it can be very difficult for people to report it or seek help.