Sexual Assault is a serious public health and human rights violation. Whether sexual assault occurs in the context of an intimate partnership, within the larger family or community structure, or during times of conflict, it is a deeply painful experience for the survivor.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) drew up a new definition in 2015: ‘Sexual violence is any sexual act that is carried out against someone’s will. It can be carried out by any person, regardless of his or her relationship to the victim, in any setting’.
Sexual violence is forced or coerced sexual contact without consent – the presence of a clear yes, not the absence of a no.
Sexual assault is a crime motivated by a need to control, humiliate, dominate and harm. It can take the form of:
- Child Sexual Abuse/Molestation
- Oral sex
- Forcing a person to pose for sexual pictures
- Fondling or unwanted sexual touching above and under clothing
- Force which may include but is not limited to:
- Use or display of a weapon
- Physical battering
- Immobilization of the victim
Sexual assault can have significant and lasting effects on a survivor’s psychological, emotional, and physical health. Remember, if you have experienced sexual assault, it is never your fault. You are not alone.
There are many emotional and psychological reactions that victims of rape and sexual assault can experience. One of the most common of these is depression.
During a flashback, memories of past traumas feel as if they are taking place in the current moment.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can develop after a stressful, frightening or distressing event, or after a prolonged traumatic experience.
People who experience sexual assault can sometimes develop PTSD. While not everyone who suffers from trauma develops PTSD, those who do are not weak; PTSD is never a sign of weakness.
Survivors with PTSD might experience intrusive memories about their trauma, and avoid things that remind them of the abuse. They might become depressed or feel emotionally numb, be easily startled or frightened, or have trouble sleeping or concentrating. They may develop self-harm behaviors, substance abuse disorders, eating and sleep disorders, and even consider or attempt suicide.
Sexual violence affects everyone. In the U.S., one in 6 men experiences sexual violence. Male survivors face unique challenges in reporting and seeking help for abuse. See the facts below, from U.S. organization 1 in 6.
- Boys and men can be sexually used or abused, and it has nothing to do with how masculine they are.
- If a boy liked the attention he was getting, or got sexually aroused during the abuse, or even sometimes wanted the attention or sexual contact, this does not mean he wanted or liked being manipulated or abused, or that any part of what happened, in any way, was his responsibility or fault.
- Sexual abuse and assault harms boys/men and girls/women in ways that are similar and different, but equally harmful.
- Boys can be sexually abused by both straight and gay men and women. Sexual abuse is the result of abusive behavior that takes advantage of a child’s vulnerability and is in no way related to the sexual orientation of the abusive person.
- Whether he is gay, straight or bisexual, a boy’s sexual orientation is neither the cause nor the result of sexual abuse. By focusing on the abusive nature of sexual abuse rather than the sexual aspects of the interaction, it becomes easier to understand that sexual abuse has nothing to do with a boy’s sexual orientation.
- Girls and women can sexually abuse or assault boys and men. The boys and men are not “lucky,” but exploited and harmed.
- Most boys and men who are sexually abused or assaulted will not go on to sexually abuse or assault others.
Here is the reality, in numbers: A third of all women and girls experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime, and 38% of women killed worldwide were killed by their partners or family.
The prevalence of this issue, means that we all know people who have been affected by sexual assault. If you are struggling, there is help available. Visit our Get Help page to learn more and please remember, you are not alone.