Sexual violence is an all-too pervasive problem that affects millions of people worldwide. However, many people can fail to recognize when they have suffered from an act of sexual violence because they are unaware of which actions fall under this definition. Sexual violence can encompass a number of different acts, from sexual assault to inappropriate touching, unwanted comments, and lewd gestures.
What Is Sexual Violence?
Sexual violence is a term that refers to any situation where someone forces, manipulates or coerces another person into engaging in sexual activity without his or her consent. For someone to consent to sexual activity, he or she has to be of legal age, have the mental and physical capacity to understand the activity, and give his or her free and informed agreement.
A person cannot consent to sexual activity if he or she is asleep, underage, under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or the perpetrator forces, threatens, or coerces him or her into giving his or her consent. Anyone can commit an act of sexual violence, including family members, friends, strangers, and authority figures like teachers or police officers.
Sexual harassment is an all-too-common form of sexual violence that includes any unwanted or unwelcome sexual behavior. It can include both verbal and physical acts of violence, the creation of a hostile environment, or inappropriate comments about a person or group’s gender identity, sexual orientation, or sexual activities.
Sexual harassment can happen anywhere, including school, work, on the streets, or on public transportation. It can involve verbal acts like cat-calling or unwanted sexual advances or requests, as well as physical acts such as unwanted sexual touching or sexual assault. Many forms of sexual violence also fall under the category of sexual harassment.
Sexual assault refers to any sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the consent of the victim. It can include penetrative sexual acts, also known as rape, as well as unwanted touching or forcing the victim to perform other sexual acts like oral sex.
Anyone can perpetrate an act of sexual assault, including strangers and acquaintances alike. Many people believe strangers are the main perpetrators of sexual assault, but according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, 73% of adult victims knew the person who assaulted them. Friends, family members, and other trusted individuals can all perpetrate an act of sexual assault.
Intimate Partner Violence and Spousal Sexual Assault
An existing relationship does not imply consent, and sexual assault can occur between intimate partners as well. When one partner forces the other to engage in sexual acts without his or her consent, it is still an act of sexual violence – even if the pair had engaged in numerous consensual sexual acts before the assault.
If sexual violence occurs in a relationship, it is very likely that other instances of abusing are occurring as well. Intimate partner violence can involve emotional, physical, and sexual abuse, as well as over-controlling behavior.
Substance-Facilitated Sexual Assault
A person cannot give his or her free and informed consent to sexual activity if he or she is under the influence of alcohol or drugs. These substances cloud people’s judgment and can make them unable to say no to sexual contact or fight back against the perpetrator. If someone forces another person to engage in sexual activity while he or she is intoxicated, the perpetrator is taking advantage of his or her diminished capacity and committing an act of sexual assault.
If you are a survivor of sexual violence, you are not alone. Millions of people across the United States and around the world have suffered from these heinous actions at the hands of perpetrators, and justice is available to you. Even if you do not want to make a report to the police, you may have other legal options available to you. Contact an Uber sexual assault attorney to discuss your case and potential next steps.