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  • Various forms of sexual violence occur everywhere and in all social strata and among couples living together.
  • Sexual violence is, for example, unwanted sexual attention, including touching, offering sexual phone calls, letters or pornographic material, sexual harassment in the workplace, objectifying a woman or man (considering her a means of obtaining sexual pleasure), forcing sex, attempted rape, or rape.
  • Sexual violence is any sexual behaviour that controls, manipulates, or humiliates another person without consent.
  • The reasons here lie in long-held patriarchal notions that being married or in a relationship means mandatory submission to the partner’s sexual desires.
  • Raping a person, involving them in sexual activity against their will or forcing them to have sexual intercourse violates one of the fundamental rights of a person – the right to sexual self-determination. These are serious crimes.


Sexual violence is a common and serious public health problem affecting millions of people each year throughout the world. It is driven by many factors operating in a range of social, cultural, and economic contexts. At the heart of sexual violence directed against women is gender inequality (Krug et al., 2002).

Sexual violence is any sort of harmful or unwanted sexual behaviour that is imposed on someone. It includes acts of abusive sexual contact, forced engagement in sexual acts, attempted or completed sexual acts with a woman without her consent, sexual harassment, verbal abuse, threats, exposure, unwanted touching, incest, etc. A minimum list of acts of sexual violence, which should be expanded depending on the specific country context (United Nations, 2014).

So sexual violence can be rape, threatening it, but also, for example, forced touching. Sexual violence is also when someone scares you into having sex with them. In other words, sexual violence is when someone does something sexual with you against your will. It is also sexual violence if you could not give your consent to intercourse, for example, you were afraid, you were stunned, drunk or asleep.

It is a myth that sexual violence only threatens women. All people, regardless of gender or age, can become victims of sexual violence: children, young people and adults, men, and women, as well as people with different gender and sexual identities.

Acts of sexual violence attack the right to sexual freedom, autonomy, control, integrity, and security, as well as the right to experience pleasure and to have a healthy, safe, and satisfying sexual life. At the same time, these rights are intimately related to reproductive rights, such as the freedom and autonomy to decide when to have children, how many children to have, and which contraceptive to use (European Institute for Gender Equality, n.d.).


Sexual abuse is not a new problem. For centuries, children, women and men have been sexually abused and silenced. Since the 1980s, however, the topic has been sharply raised, as more and more people dare to open their mouths. The shame and secrecy surrounding sexual abuse makes it difficult to quantify the number of people who have been abused. The results of investigations carried out around the world differ and it is difficult to say the exact number of victims because it is a latent crime.

Various forms of sexual violence occur everywhere and in all social strata and among couples living together.

Sexual violence includes, but is not limited to (Krug et al., 2002; WHO, 2012):

  • Rape within marriage or dating relationships.
  • Rape by strangers or acquaintances.
  • Unwanted sexual advances or sexual harassment (at school, work etc.).
  • Systematic rape, sexual slavery, and other forms of violence, which are particularly common in armed conflicts (e.g., forced impregnation).
  • Sexual abuse of mentally or physically disabled people.
  • Rape and sexual abuse of children.
  • Denial of the right to use contraception or to adopt other measures to protect against sexually transmitted diseases.
  • Forced abortion.
  • ‘Customary’ forms of sexual violence, such as forced marriage or cohabitation and wife inheritance. Consent

While voluntary and partner-desired sexual activity is characterized by the fact that the parties ask for each other’s consent, express their consent, and assess the partner’s ability to consent, sexual violence is characterized by the fact that it is not based on mutual agreement.

In addition, false consent to sexual activity can be achieved with physical violence, but much more often with threats, intimidation, psychological pressure, manipulation, blackmail, or threats of deprivation of benefits (e.g., deprivation of promotion at work, not giving a good grade, etc.).

Consent is the most important thing in any sexual activity, and always has the right to change your mind and say no. The consent of the other party must be ensured both for the first time and in a long marriage.

People who do not have or have limited capacity for consent are also unable to give free consent to sexual activity, such as unconscious patients, people under the influence of alcohol or other drugs, as well as children, dementia and intellectually disabled people who do not understand the meaning of a particular sexual activity and are not able to articulate their consent or refusal. “Consent” reached in such circumstances does not equate to freely given consent, and such sexual activity is not consensual, that is, based on mutual agreement.

You can read more about consent on the topic 5.6. Shame and guilt

According to the WHO (n.d.), around a quarter of women worldwide will experience sexual violence in their lifetime. Up to a third of all women have been physically assaulted by a male intimate partner. Women who have experienced violence do not report their experiences enough because they are afraid of being labelled by society and their community. They also fear for their safety and that the relevant institutions will not take the necessary steps when they share their story with them.

Sexual violence is a crime, and the victim do not have to feel guilty. Responsibility

The responsibility for sexual violence lies with the perpetrator, not the victim. The consequences of sexual violence

Experiencing sexual abuse can be likened to surviving a disaster. This disaster may be a one-off or repeated over several years. Sexual abuse has immediate and long-term effects. Without help, these problems will not be solved.

Physical force is not necessarily used in rape, and physical injuries are not always a consequence. Deaths associated with rape are known to occur, though the prevalence of fatalities varies considerably across the world. Among the more common consequences of sexual violence are those related to reproductive, mental health and social wellbeing (Krug et al., 2002).

Sometimes the victim may not even fight back because of stressful experience and they just “freeze”. Prevention by sexuality education

Prevention starts with the environment and community where the child grows up. A person who has been taught and brought up to care for and love their body, to respect the boundaries of another person and to understand when the situation is becoming violent, knows how to offer this love and understanding to others as well. Sexual education at home lays the foundation for the growth of children and young people into people who know how to consider their bodies beautiful and correct, and who also respect the right of others to bodily integrity.

Parents expect the school to provide sex education in this regard, and their expectation is fully justified, as the curriculum also provides for it. However, the school cannot be the only one responsible for the fact that the child grows into an adult whose values are in line with those mentioned above, who perceives their own identity and who keeps themself and others around them. The formation of attitudes begins in childhood, and parents, kindergartens, schools, and youth centres are initially responsible for this. The parental responsibility then becomes a shared responsibility. It is with the support of shared responsibility that we break the entrenched attitudes and stereotypes that support the continuation of the chain of violence. With the support of shared responsibility, we say clearly: the fault lies with the culprit, the victim is not responsible for what happened to her.


They are the same as those described in the case of intimate partner violence:

  • They send them unwanted pornographic materials.
  • One person is touching another person, but it feels uncomfortable.
  • They are threating to tell others about the naked pictures if they are not having sex.


If you know a child who has suffered sexual violence, report the incident to the child’s relatives and the police.

If you are a specialist (teacher, social worker, medic, etc.) to whom a survivor of sexual violence turns, or if you yourself suspect that sexual violence may have been committed against your ward, then you must stand up for the interests of your ward.

In case of sexual violence against children or suspicion thereof, the police or the child protection worker of the local government must always be notified. The police have special units that handle sexual crimes. By making things official with the help of the police, you help ensure that no one else becomes a victim of the same perpetrator. Help and information:

  • Emergencies: 112.
  • Contact the child protection services in your country of residence.


European Institute for Gender Equality. (n.d.). Sexual violence. European Institute for Gender Equality. Retrieved from https://eige.europa.eu/thesaurus/terms/1384

Krug, E. G., Dahlberg, L. L., Mercy, J. A., Zwi, A. B., & Lozano, R. (Eds.). (2002). World report on violence and health. Genève: Organisation mondiale de la santé. Retrieved from https://www.who.int/publications/i/item/9241545615

United Nations. (2014). Guidelines for Producing Statistics on Violence against Women—Statistical Surveys. New York: United Nations. Retrieved from https://unstats.un.org/unsd/gender/docs/guidelines_statistics_vaw.pdf

WHO. (2012). Understanding and addressing violence against women. Sexual Violence. Retrieved 29 September 2022, from https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/77432/WHO_RHR_12.36_eng.pdf

WHO. (n.d.). Sexual health. Retrieved 29 September 2022, from https://www.who.int/health-topics/sexual-health

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