Sexual violence refers to any sexual act or experience committed against someone without that person’s freely given consent or permission. It includes all unwanted sexual acts meant to harm, humiliate, control and intimidate. It can range from gestures and comments to violent physical acts. Sexual violence includes, but is not limited to:
- attempted rape, rape or sexual assault
- child sexual abuse and incest
- intimate partner sexual assault
- unwanted sexual contact and/or touching
- sexual harassment
- sexual exploitation
- unwanted sexual comments or advances
Sexual violence is about power and control. A common misconception surrounding sexual violence is that it happens because a person is aroused, lonely or can’t get sexual activity in any other way. Those who commit acts of sexual violence do so deliberately to assert control and dominance over another person. It is a willful, intentional decision to violate a person’s boundaries without their freely given consent.
Who Commits Sexual Violence?
Sexual violence can be committed by anyone. Most often, sexual violence is committed by someone known to the victim/survivor. This could be a friend, teacher, sibling, parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle and so on. Sometimes, though not often, it’s a complete stranger. The only person responsible for sexual violence is the person who commits sexual violence. It is NEVER the victim’s fault.
What is Consent?
Consent is the ongoing agreement that is mutually understood to participate in sexual activity with another person of reasonably equal power. Consent should be freely given. Anyone engaged in any sexual activity should feel as though they are able to say yes or no at any point; a person can withdraw consent at any time. The absence of no does not equal consent. Consent cannot be obtained through coercion, manipulation, force or while under the influence of any drug(s), including alcohol.
Consent should happen every time; it should not be assumed. Giving consent for one activity does not mean consent for others. For example, agreeing to kiss someone does not give that person permission to have sex with you. It also does not mean that having sex once gives permission for any sexual encounters in the future.
What is Coercion, Manipulation, and Force?
Coercion, manipulation and force are used to persuade, intimidate, threaten, force or influence someone into unwanted sexual acts. This can include, but is not limited to, the use of drugs and alcohol to incapacitate victims. Examples of coercive statements include:
“If you really wanted to be with me, you would have sex with me. I could find someone who really wanted to be with me.”
“You’ve been flirting with me all night, I didn’t think you were such a prude.”
“We’ve had sex before.”
More About Sexual Violence
Anyone can be affected by sexual violence. It affects all genders, ages, cultures, identities and backgrounds. It is important to stand with survivors and believe them. We must take sexual violence seriously. By supporting survivors, we can create a culture that does not tolerate sexual violence.