What is Sexual Violence?
Sexual violence is any sexual actions or words committed against someone without that person’s freely given consent. Sexual violence is about having power and control over another person, not about sex or sexuality.
It can look a number of ways:
- Sexual Harassment
- Unwanted Sexual Contact
- Rape or Sexual Assault
- Intimate Partner Sexual Violence
- Survival Sex
- Sexual Exploitation & Trafficking
Click here for a video explanation of defining sexual violence and consent in American Sign Language (ASL)
(credit: ThinkSelf and Day One)
Who Experiences Sexual Violence?
Sexual violence can happen to anyone regardless of their age, gender identity, language, ability, race, ethnicity, income, age, immigration status, or religion. Some communities are generally at higher risk of sexual violence including LGBTQA+, Black Indigenous People Of Color (BIPOC), people living with disabilities, and people living with mental illness and substance use disorders.
What is Consent?
Consent is the permission for something to happen or an agreement to do something. It is important to remember that consent is a process and on-going, meaning that you can change your mind at any time and withdraw consent at any point.
Does a Victim-Survivor Have to Report?
No. After an assault takes place, the victim-survivor should be in control of what happens next. Victim-survivors will share their experience with others in their own time and their own way. It is important for their support people to honor the victim-survivor’s decision on whether or not to report the sexual violence to the police or the hospital.
What are Common Responses Victim-Survivors Face Following Sexual Violence?
Any reaction is natural and normal for that victim-survivor. Some examples can include:
- Flashbacks or dreams about the assault/perpetrator
- Avoidance of thoughts and feelings associated with the trauma
- Feelings of powerlessness
- Shame and guilt
- Increased startle response
- Intrusive thoughts and many more
How Can I Support Someone Who Has Experienced Sexual Violence?
If someone in your life has shared with you that they have experienced sexual violence, you can:
- Respond empathetically
- “It was not your fault this happened”
- “I believe you”
- “I am here to support you and your decisions”
- Validate and honor their decisions
- “I’m glad that you told me”
- “I support however you want to move forward”
- “That must have been very difficult for you”
- “It is your choice whether or not to report”
- Let them know that help is available and they are not alone
- Offer to assist in connecting them with resources
- A PAVSA advocate is available 24/7 on our helpline at 218-726-1931