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What is Sexual Violence?

Article Details
  • Written By: Jessica Ellis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 29 April 2018
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2018
    Conjecture Corporation
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Sexual violence is any type of sex act performed or attempted without the victim's consent. This can include intercourse or attempted intercourse, physical touching, or non-contact methods such as flashing, verbal harassment, or sexual threats. Sexual violence is a widespread problem across the globe, and is a crime overwhelmingly committed against women.

The key to a sexual act being considered violence is the consent of the victim. In some regions, sexual acts perpetrated while the victim is unable to make an informed decision, such as while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, are also considered sexual assaults. Sexual acts with minors are also frequently considered non-consenting acts, as the law does not grant minors the right of legal consent.

It is important to note that not all areas have strong or even minor laws prohibiting sexual violence. Even the United States, which currently has comprehensive laws against sexual violence, would not allow married women to bring sex-related charges against their husbands until 1976, under the belief that being married implied constant consent. In some areas, sexual attacks on women or children are considered acceptable or even warranted by certain circumstances. Groups such as the World Health Organization (WHO) devote considerable time to raising awareness about sexual assaults and violence and attempting to educate the public on the harm caused by these crimes.

According to health experts, violence of a sexual nature can have long-lasting or even permanent physical and psychological effects on the victim. People who have been sexually assaulted may contract sexually transmitted diseases, become pregnant, or suffer internal injuries as a result of the violence. Psychologically, sexual attacks can cause severe depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. Additionally, people who have been attacked may suffer feelings of isolation or even be rejected by family and romantic partners, which may contribute to psychological factors.

There are several risk factors for sexual violence, depending on the people involved and the environment. Areas affected by war are at severe risk for this type of attack as normal societal rules dissolve in the wake of conflict. Other common places for high levels of this type of violence include environments where drugs and alcohol use are prevalent, such as college dormitories, or places where women are not historically accepted, such as the military. People with a history of physical violence or who have been sexually abused may be more likely to become sexual predators, but this is not always the case. It is important to remember, however, that sexual violence can occur at any place or time, and often the perpetrator is someone known to the victim.

People who have been victims of sexual violence may want to seek counseling to deal with feelings of shame, grief, or depression. It is important to remember that in many areas, violent acts involving sex are a crime, and should be reported to law enforcement authorities. By remaining quiet about a sexual attacker, a victim can leave others vulnerable to similar attempts, as well as increasing the chance of becoming a repeat victim of abuse.

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