Sexual Violence

According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, sexual violence happens when someone forces or manipulates someone else into unwanted sexual activity without their consent. Reasons someone might not consent include fear, age, illness, disability, and/or influence of alcohol or other drugs. Anyone can experience sexual violence including: children, teens, adults, and elders. Those who sexually abuse can be acquaintances, family members, trusted individuals or strangers.

What is Sexual Violence?

Sexual violence is against the law and refers to sexual activity where consent is not obtained or freely given. Anyone can experience sexual violence, but most victims are female. The person responsible for the violence is typically male and is usually someone known to the victim. The person can be, but is not limited to, a friend, coworker, neighbor or family member. Note: Sexual violence is sometimes referred to as sexual abuse and/or sexual assault.

There are many types of sexual violence including physical, verbal, visual or anything that forces a person to join in unwanted sexual contact or attention. Some examples include:

  • Sexual harassment
  • Threats or intimidation
  • Peeping
  • Incest
  • Voyeurism (when someone watches private sexual acts)
  • Exhibitionism (when someone exposes him/herself in public)

How can Sexual Violence be Prevented?

Information and awareness is the key! Efforts at many levels are needed to prevent sexual violence. Some examples include:

  • Enlisting the involvement, ownership and leadership of boys and men to stop sexual violence; creating healthy safe relationships
  • Developing mass media messages that promote norms, or shared beliefs about healthy sexual relationships
  • Creating policies at work, at school and in other places that address sexual harassment
  • Helping parents identify and address social and cultural influences that may promote attitudes and violent behaviors in their kids
  • Engaging  high school students in mentoring programs or other skill based activities that address health sexuality and dating relationships
  • Most importantly, removing the stigma by speaking out and openly about sexual assault. (CDC)

What if I am a Victim of Sexual Violence?

It is important that the victim of sexual violence understand that no matter where they were, the time of day or night assaulted, what they were wearing, or what they said or did, if they did not want the sexual contact, then the assault was in no way their fault. Persons who commit sexual assault do so out of a need to control, dominate, abuse or humiliate.

A victim’s immediate concerns after a sexual assault should be their health and safety. Some of the first steps include:

  • Getting away from the attacker to a safe place then call 911 or the police;
  • Calling a friend or family member you trust or call a crisis center or a hotline to talk with a counselor;
  • Seeking medical attention right away

The decision to report sexual violence lies within the discretion of the sexual assault survivor. If planning to report, it may be helpful for the survivor to immediately write down everything they can remember about the assault. Writing it all down will not only aid the survivor in recalling details should they be required to testify, but it also gives the survivor an active role in the investigation, which can allow for a feeling of empowerment and an element of control in a situation where control has previously been taken away.