It is often thought that sexual violence is based only on physical abuse by a person who is much bigger and stronger than the victim, the latter is more vulnerable and even permissive. However, there are many myths that are still associated with what this type of violence really is.

Sexual violence usually manifests itself through manipulation, but it can even be due to a lack of understanding within a relationship between two people. In other words, understanding that it is consent within a sexual relationship, some people could end up forcing others to have sex because they had different concepts of what it really implies.

In sexual relationships, things can get out of control more easily, so it is important to talk about the rules of consent and the practice of sex in a healthy and safe way.

What is sexual violence?

The term sexual violence refers to sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the victim. This type of violence is one of the most common and affects a large part of society, unfortunately cases of this type continue to be recorded daily, maintaining their numbers, which is why it has become an important social problem.

This type of violence can manifest itself from an attempted rape, fondling or unwanted sexual contact and also by forcing the victim to perform sexual acts. On a physical level, it can be the practice of vaginal, anal or oral sex, the attacker can penetrate the body of the victim, which is a violation.

But not all sexual assault is rape. This term is often used as a legal remedy that allows reference to sexual penetration without consent. However, sexual violence is more complex than it seems because psychological and social elements are also integrated . Lascivious and constant behavior that violates the stability of the victim without physical contact is also considered sexual violence.

Factors of verbal, psychological, economic, social and physical violence are also combined . Together they help to create a tense situation where the fundamental rights of the victim are violated. You will begin to feel harassed by the attacker if you do not agree to perform compulsory sexual acts under threats.

Physical force will not always be the only resource used by the attacker, emotional coercion, psychological attacks or manipulation can also be used to force the victim to have sexual relations without consent. Threats can be based on hurting the victim or their family, there are a wide variety of other intimidation tactics.

What are their characteristics? 

The characteristics of victims and sex offenders are defined by both psychological and social factors. The role that both of you fulfill in a situation of sexual violence can be adequately identified by making an analysis of their behavior and actions. What these elements are are described below:

  • Sexual satisfaction is not always the primary motivation for these abuses. It can be due to the search for power, exercising control over the victim and feeling anger are just some of the main motivators.
  • Victims are never at fault for the assault, and this is a claim that is independent of their behavior. The actions they decide to take are usually based on bad judgment but do not justify being sexually abused or assaulted.
  • Victims are often very shocked and do not know how to react. Due to the fear and trauma that they feel during the assault they will consequently not know how to defend themselves .
  • Sex offenders may claim that they cannot stop their behavior on their own. In at least half of the registered cases, the presence of some type of psychological condition can be identified that may be the trigger for this behavior but does not justify it.
  • Recent studies suggest that most attackers do not understand what it means to have consensual sex. Therefore, when trying to establish close relationships with other people, they may misinterpret the presence of a sexual element.
  • Some triggers can be the use of drugs and alcohol that encourage people to demonstrate more sexually exacerbated behavior.

How is it identified?

Here are some of the most important factors to consider when trying to effectively identify when a case of sexual violence occurs. Considering that the victim and the perpetrator can have a relationship or connection of any kind, this makes it possible for this violence to occur in any setting. They are as follows:

  • Only between 8% and 20% of sexual abusers use physical force and threats as resources that allow them to achieve a sexual approach with their victims.
  • Most of the cases there is a very close relationship between the victim and the harasser, therefore there are several opportunities where it will be possible for there to be a more personal and private interaction.
  • Statistically the majority of sex offenders are men approximately 60%; However, the possibility of female offenders should not be ruled out either.
  • Any physical injury can be observed in the victim, the violation of trust in most sexual assaults increases its intensity causing permanent trauma. It can be emotional or psychological damage which lasts much longer compared to physical injuries.
  • Victims often do not speak out about the abuse they have suffered because they feel shame, avoid confronting the offender, fear of being held responsible, fear of being punished, and also fear of losing the respect and appreciation of family and friends.

How does it stop?

It is important to pay attention to the warning signs. It is always difficult for victims to accept that they have become involved in a case of sexual abuse. Therefore, it is always advisable to let a trusted family member or friend know in order to receive the help they need.

In the same way, those who are part of the environment of the possible victims should always pay attention to the behavior they show before the possibility of changes. Friends or relatives of victims often say that they have noticed that they act differently. Lack of spirit, sadness , self-isolation fear, and even stopping eating or sleeping little or a lot are often noted . In the most serious cases they can even get involved with legal problems by displaying criminal behavior.

Sexual assault can take many different forms, but it is important to remember that it is never the victim’s fault. To stop the aggressions from continuing, it is important to establish physical, psychological and social limits with the perpetrator. This requires the participation of people who can provide medical and legal help in these situations.

Most of the perpetrators are known to the victims, which is also important, since it may be a situation that is occurring within the family, school or work environment . Perpetrators can be an immediate family member, classmate, neighbor, friend, or anyone else. Sexual contact is usually an element used as part of the violence arising from economic or legal interests beyond emotional ones.

In other cases, the victim may not know the perpetrator at all. An example of this type is found in robberies in public places where the perpetrator quickly and brutally attacks the victim. Although you can also try to contact the victim to gain their trust.

Survivors of this type of violence often blame themselves, they may even think that their behavior encourages the perpetrator. The victim is never to blame for the actions of a perpetrator, so it is always up to family and friends to provide the trust and help necessary so that they can deal with this situation.

To help victims it is always advisable not to make judgments or criticism. Sometimes this is the scenario that they fear the most and try to avoid, that trustworthy people begin to question their decisions and behavior can help them to develop anxiety and problems communicating with others.

It should not be forgotten that there is the possibility that psychological help may be required for life after having experienced a situation of sexual violence. Shame and the development of some psychological conditions from these events is part of the consequences, so emotional support is an essential element during the recovery stage.

Finally, it is necessary to mention that at a global level there are several entities that are in charge of providing help to victims of sexual violence . These institutions specialize in providing the type of support that is required, for this the victims can request psychological and also legal help. They usually provide these services for free and also provide all the necessary resources so that the victim begins to feel self-confidence and peace of mind again.

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Alexa Clark specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. She has experience in listening and welcoming in Individual Therapy and Couples Therapy. It meets demands such as generalized anxiety, professional, love and family conflicts, stress, depression, sexual dysfunction, grief, and adolescents from 15 years of age. Over the years, She felt the need to conduct the psychotherapy sessions with subtlety since She understands that the psychologist acts as a facilitator of self-understanding and self-acceptance, valuing each person's respect, uniqueness, and acceptance.

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