What is Sexual Violence?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, sexual violence is any sexual act that is perpetrated against someone’s will.
Sexual violence encompasses a range of offenses, including a completed nonconsensual sex act (e.g., rape), an attempted nonconsensual sex act, abusive sexual contact (e.g., unwanted touching), and non-contact sexual abuse (e.g., threatened sexual violence, exhibitionism, verbal sexual harassment).
All types involve victims who do not consent, or who are unable to consent or refuse to allow the act.
Sexual violence can happen to anyone, regardless of gender, age, race, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, or ability. In the United States, about 1 in 3 women and 1 in 6 men have experienced contact sexual violence at some point in their lives, and 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men have reported being raped in their lifetime.
Sex offenders often target people they perceive as vulnerable, less powerful, or less credible. In the majority of cases, the perpetrator is someone who is known to the victim.
Effects of Sexual Violence
The experience of sexual violence can have different meanings for each person. There is no “right” way to act after experiencing sexual violence. After the violence, some victims and survivors are very emotional and some are numb initially. Sexual assault advocates have found that many people experience sexual violence as a severe emotional and physical violation. The effects of that violation may be felt directly after or for many months or years later. The trauma from sexual violence can cause feelings of helplessness and powerlessness, as well as physical symptoms such as breathing problems, vomiting, or nightmares. Research has also found that trauma can affect the way the brain recalls memories and events.
If You Are a Victim of Sexual Violence
- Your immediate safety is important. Go to a safe place of someone you trust.
- Get support. Kansas Sexual and Domestic Violence Advocacy Programs can provide free and confidential support and advocacy for you and your friends or family.
- Protect your health. You may have a range of health concerns as a result of the sexual violence. It is best to seek medical care as soon as possible. This can be done by going to the emergency department or seeing your regular doctor. You may also choose to have a sexual assault medical forensic exam at the emergency department. Some hospitals have sexual assault nurse examiners (also known as SANEs) who are specially trained to provide comprehensive care to victims of sexual assault. There are two primary purposes of the sexual assault medical forensic exam: 1) to provide medical care and treatment; and 2) to collect evidence related to the sexual assault.
- Reporting the sexual violence is your choice. You may consider reporting to law enforcement, an employer, a school official, or someone you trust. If you decide to report the violence to someone, it is important to consider how reporting might affect your work, school, career, or other areas of your life. A Kansas Sexual and Domestic Violence Advocacy Program will be able to provide you advocacy, support and resources, and help you understand the process. If you decide not to report to law enforcement, you are still fully entitled to advocacy services and medical care.
When Someone You Know Is a Victim of Sexual Violence
- Listen and believe: Listen without judgment, believe what they tell you, and acknowledge feelings. Confusion, anger, sadness, guilt, numbness, helplessness, hopelessness, and self-blame are all normal reactions to sexual violence.
- Offer support: Let the person know you are there for support now and in the future.
- Make a referral: Refer them to the Kansas Crisis Hotline, 1-888-END-ABUSE (1-888-363-2287), for confidential support and to find their local Kansas Sexual and Domestic Violence Advocacy Program.
- Speak out: Speak out when you hear someone blaming them for the violence. Victim blaming can take many forms, most often referencing the victim’s clothing or behavior. Remind others that the responsibility for the violence lies with the offender and nobody deserves to be sexually violated.
Kansas Sexual and Domestic Violence Advocacy Programs can provide the support and help victims and survivors often need in the healing process. These programs offer services 24 hours per day, seven days a week. Services include crisis hotlines, crisis intervention, personal advocacy, medical advocacy, court advocacy, law enforcement advocacy, emergency accommodations, safe shelter, supportive counseling, support groups, and child and youth advocacy.
All of these services are free and confidential. Any information shared with a Kansas Sexual and Domestic Violence Advocacy Program is kept private and cannot be shared with anyone outside the organization, unless:
- The program is required to disclose the information by law.
- The victim or survivor signs an informed, written, time-limited release allowing them to disclose the information.
KANSAS CRISIS HOTLINE: 888-END-ABUSE | 888-363-2287