Sexual violence is not just a woman’s issue; it affects women, men and children throughout their lives and can be devastating for individuals, families, and communities.
What is sexual violence?
Sexual violence means that someone forces or manipulates someone else into unwanted sexual activity without their consent. Reasons someone might not consent include fear, age, illness, disability, and/or influence of alcohol or other drugs. Anyone can experience sexual violence including children, teens, adults, and elders. Those who sexually abuse can be acquaintances, family members, trusted individuals or strangers.
Facts about sexual violence
Chances are you know someone who has been sexually assaulted.
Sexual violence affects people of all genders, ages, races, religions, incomes, abilities, professions, ethnicities, and sexual orientations.
By age 18, 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually assaulted.
An absence of injuries to the victim does not indicate the victim gave consent. People who sexually assault often use force, threat, coercion, manipulation or injury.
It doesn’t matter what someone is wearing or how they are acting; no one deserves to be raped.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, rape is the most costly to its victims, totaling $127 billion annually.
Impact of Sexual Violence
Sexual violence can, and does, happen to people of all ages, races, genders, sexual orientations, religions, professions, incomes, and ethnicities. Sexual violence affects all of us: survivors, friends and families, communities, and society in whole. Schools, workplaces, neighborhoods, campuses, and cultural or religious communities might feel fear, anger, or disbelief if a sexual assault happened in their community. Additionally, there are financial costs to communities. These costs include medical services, criminal justice expenses, crisis and mental health services fees, and the lost contributions of individuals affected by sexual violence. Each survivor reacts to sexual violence in her/his own unique way. Whether an assault was completed or attempted, and regardless of whether it happened recently or many years ago, it may impact the individuals in their daily functioning. Some common emotional reactions may include guilt, self-blame, fear, distrust, shame, shock, anger, confusion, and denial. Psychological reactions may include: nightmares, flashbacks, depression, anxiety, substance use or abuse, low self-esteem and PTSD. Sexual violence can violate a person’s trust and feeling of safety and ultimately endangering critical societal structures through climates of violence and fear.
SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING!
We want to encourage victims of sexual assault to stand up and say something, but the responsibility for saying something cannot be placed solely on the victims. As bystanders to any situation that may be questionable, we also have the responsibility to act. As a community, we can all do something to help end sexual violence. There is something that we can do not only after an assault, but before and during the incident. Being an active bystander does not always mean getting involved directly; you can help a victim simply by believing them, listening, and being supportive. If you are witnessing an incident, there are many ways to help. You can always call 911, ask for others to assist you with the situation, or distract the potential perpetrator from committing the crime. Most people are fundamentally good and don’t like to see other people get hurt. Sexual violence is a community issue, and all of us need to act and be involved to support survivors and hold perpetrators accountable.
If you are a victim/survivor of sexual assault or know someone who is, you can get help by calling Catholic Charities Phoenix House. A trained advocate is available to answer your calls 24 hours a day. Advocates can also meet victims at the hospital and be present to provide support, accompany victims to court proceedings, assist in safety planning and provide emotional support to victims and their loved ones. Please call the 24 hour crisis line at 712-328-0266 or toll-free 888-612-0266 to reach an advocate for questions, support and volunteer opportunities.