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VIOLENCE

Sexual violence

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SOURCE: Eurobarometer (2016)

Sexual violence refers to sexual activities that take place without explicit (clear and unequivocal) consent. It is not just about using brute force. The use of coercion, threats, intimidation, and extortion are also considered to be essential manifestations of sexual violence. 

Young girls and women (especially those aged 16-19) are at significantly increased risk of sexual violence (WHO 2010, RAINN 2016).

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SOURCE: CMC (2017)

Sexual violence is, for example:

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Sexuálne násilie je na Slovensku trestné, keď napĺňa jednu zo skutkových podstát trestných činov proti ľudskej dôstojnosti. Tieto trestné činy sú tzv. oficiálnymi deliktmi. Orgány činné v trestnom konaní sú povinné ich stíhať z úradnej povinnosti, a to aj bez súhlasu obete. Trestnými činmi proti ľudskej dôstojnosti podľa zákona č. 300/2005 Z. z. Trestného zákona sú: znásilnenie (§ 199 TZ), sexuálne násilie (§ 200 TZ), sexuálne zneužívanie (§ 201 a 202 TZ).

Čo je sexuálne násilie: pojmy a formy

Consent

A one-time consent to one activity does not mean consent to something else. If you, for example, agreed to someone kissing you, it doesn’t mean they can also undress you. The fact that you had sex with someone in the past doesn’t mean you gave permission to this person to have sex with you at any time. 

Consent is valid only if you have the freedom and possibility to decide. If someone is not able to say no, it does not mean yes. If you have sex with someone who is drunk/wasted and unconscious, it is rape. 

You may also call off your consent anytime you feel uncomfortable. It is important to clearly state to your partner that you want to stop. It you feel in any way uncomfortable, say it. The other person should not push you. After all, the best sex is when you both enjoy it. 

What is the difference between inviting someone for a cup of tea and CONSENT? None. 

WOMEN KNOW THE PERPETRATOR

Rape or sexual violence rarely happens in a dark alley. 

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Most commonly, it was an ex or a current partner (38%), or an acquaintance (28%). In 12% of cases, it was a superior or colleague from work, and 10% were relatives. 

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Source: Očenášová, Michalík (2017) Sexual Violence Against Women

NO MEANS NO

If a woman says maybe, she thinks maybe. If she says no, she means no. It’s important that girls and women are not afraid to say when they don’t like something. Equally important, however, is that boys and men respect their disagreement at the first time. 

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IT DOES NOT MATTER WHAT SHE’S WEARING

It is not all right to blame women who experience sexual violence for not foreseeing risky circumstances. Statements such as the victim being responsible for the violence are very harmful because they transfer a certain amount of responsibility onto the victim and justify the perpetrator’s violent behaviour. 

People often blame victims. Not because they are inherently evil or unempathetic, but because such thinking allows them to believe that they have things under control. They want to believe that a short skirt or alcohol is to blame. They simply want to believe it cannot happen to them. Ever. 

It's Illogical: The Wedding Cake

The way a woman’s dress does not really matter. Watch a video from an exhibition where women donated clothes they wore when they became victims of violence.   

The effect when people see past events as predictable is called the Hindsight bias.

In reality, most sexual violence happens during casual social situations, e.g., when a friend sees you home. These events mostly do not end up being violent which is why the potential victim does not fear them. 

Moreover, when the victim knows the perpetrator, it is almost impossible to predict sexual violence. 

MEN CAN CONTROL THEMSELVES

The myth that the “woman provoked him, and he could not control himself” is based on an easily questionable conviction that violent behaviour is natural to men. This statement does not respect the individuality of men as unique human beings and thus, if we try to excuse violent behaviour this way, in reality, we insult all men. 

Although it is mostly men who commit violence, violence itself is not typical of men’s nature and most men do not behave violently. The problem is those men who do it repeatedly and the decent ones who let them, too. A study from 2002 proved that 6 % of men attempted a rape or committed a rape. More than half of them attack more than once – six times on average.

The fact that it is mostly men who commit violence is not a result of their “nature”. All their life, they are led by a society which supports stereotypical perceptions of “masculinity”. Men must be dominant, aggressive, must earn more than their partners and should not be too sensitive. 

The expectation that a “man” should be dominant, aggressive, and sexually forceful endangers our whole society. That is why it is important that it is primarily men who strictly refuse all forms of sexual violence or coercion against girls and women, but also against other boys and men. Even when their friends act violently. In these cases, male solidarity is not the issue. Violent and humiliating behaviour is never a display of masculinity.

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IT’S ALWAYS THE RAPIST WHO’S RESPONSIBLE

The tendency to blame the victim originates in the subconscious need to believe that the world is a just and good place. When something bad happens to someone, we often believe that they must have done something bad to deserve such faith. Social psychologists call this effect the just world phenomenon.

Many people subconsciously think that only victims who are blameless, do not drink alcohol, are chaste, sympathetic, or weaker than the perpetrators deserve our trust. It originates in a myth about the “ideal victim”. These victims are only rarely doubted, and the public, media and law enforcement authorities take their side. But if the victim does not meet some of these virtues, it is harder for them to get support or justice. This fact prevents victims from seeking help and talking about what had happened to them.

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THERE IS NO NORMAL REACTION TO AN ABNORMAL SITUATION

If a woman who experienced sexual violence does not bare any physical marks of such violence, many people tend to suppose this violence did not happen because she did not try to defend herself. 

It is important to know that lots of women do not physically defend themselves because of fear, emotional shock, or concern about their own life and survival. For example, “transfixion”, a passive reaction during a sexual attack is an instinctive type of defence for organisms and is not a reaction under our volitional control. Sexual violence victims sometimes experience temporal paralysis, called “tonic stillness”. This state prevents them from moving, defending, and screaming during the attack. 

The fact that the victim is not resisting the attack does not even slightly mean they agreed with or consented to the sexual activity. It is only an attempt to survive with minimal harm. Moreover, it is not always physical force that rapists use to break the victim’s will. Emotional pressure, blackmail, or mental manipulation are also used to make victim break down. 

WOULD A YOUNG MAN STOP IF HE SAW HIMSELF?

SEXUAL VIOLENCE HAS A LONG-TERM IMPACT ON WOMEN’S LIVES

The most common feelings that women who experienced partner or non-partner sexual violence were awkwardness (66,0%), shame (57,5%) and fear (56,9%). Women often also feel anger (49,3%) and guilt (36,6%). A quarter of women experienced shock (26,9%).

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Source: Sexual Violence on Women – Report from a Representative Research (Očenášová, Michalík: 2017) 

HOW TO HELP?

Research shows that the closer the relationship with the perpetrator, the less women tend to turn to official support and help. Closeness also dictates increased use of physical force during an attack. 

Warning signals that a close person has experienced sexual violence may be:

  • signs of depression (lasting sadness, dejection, lack of energy, changes in sleeping routine, backing out from common activities, avoiding company),

  • anxiety or fear, avoiding specific situations, places, or people

  • changes in sex behaviour (refusing sexual contact, or the opposite - risky sexual behaviour),

  • self-harm, suicide thoughts, or suicide attempts,

  • lowered self-esteem,

  • neglect of hygiene, appearance, or dress, 

  • worsening of school results or work performance,

  • changes in eating habits, 

  • increased alcohol and/or drug abuse, 

  • sexually transmitted diseases. 

 

How to react if someone you care about tells you they have experienced sexual assault or abuse?

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The most important thing is to show support and trust. It is not always easy. Statements like these may be useful:

“I am sorry about what happened to you.” “It must be really hard for you.”
Show empathy and admit that such an experience may shake people. 

“It is not your fault.”
People who experienced sexual violence often suffer from feelings of guilt. It is important to constantly remind them that the only one responsible is the perpetrator. 

“I believe you.”
Confiding to someone with one’s traumatic experience may be extremely difficult. A person with a violent experience may feel ashamed, may be afraid if we would trust them or even that we may blame them for something. It is important that we overcome any urge to understand everything and investigate. If we remain insistent on finding out what happened and why it happened, we may only increase their concerns. At this moment, it is not our task to be a detective, but a supporter. We must not misinterpret silence as a sign of untrustworthiness. Keep in mind that interpreting traumatic memories is painful and difficult. 

“You are not alone.”
Express your willingness to help her during the process of rehabilitation. Remind her that there are many people in her life who care about her and that there is professional help that may be available. In case she decides to seek professional help, help her find it. 

“It does not affect the way I see you.”
Some victims are afraid that if they confess to their close friends or family, they will start to perceive them differently. Assure them that’s not the case. 

“You can trust me.”
If someone confesses to you about their experience with violence, it means they trust you. Assure them they can continue trusting you and that you will respect their privacy. Do not talk with other people about it without their consent. 

If a woman confesses to anyone and encounters a distrustful or unsupportive reaction, it may hurt her again. On the other hand, a sensitive approach and empathetic listening may have a healing effect.