Sexual violence is any type of unwanted sexual contact, ranging from sexist attitudes and actions to rape and murder. Sexual violence can include words and actions of a sexual nature against a person’s will.
A person may use
- manipulation, or
- coercion to commit sexual violence.
There is a social context that surrounds sexual violence. Social norms that
- condone violence,
- using power over others,
- traditional constructs of masculinity,
- the subjugation of women, and
- silence about violence and abuse contribute to the occurrence of sexual violence.
Oppression in all of its forms is among the root causes of sexual violence. Sexual violence is preventable through collaborations of community members at multiple levels of society—in our homes, neighborhoods, schools, faith settings, workplaces, and other settings. We all play a role in preventing sexual violence and establishing norms of respect, safety, equality, and helping others.
Sexual violence does not occur in isolation. Victims of sexual violence are affected by many forms of oppression, including racism, sexism, classism, heterosexism, ageism, ableism and others. These forms of oppression often compound the effects of sexual victimization, exacerbating the trauma and isolation victims and survivors experience. People of color; people living in poverty; lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people; elders; people with disabilities and other diverse persons are affected by sexual violence in unique and devastating ways.
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Oppression is both a cause and effect of sexual violence. Sexual violence is tied to inequality. People who commit sexual violence may target people who may have less power in the world. This can make it hard for a person to report sexual assault or get help.