Sexual violence includes rape, sexual assault, unwanted touching, fondling, sexual harassment, threats of violence, pressurised sex, flashing, penetration by objects and childhood sexual abuse. Sexual violence is any kind of unwanted sexual behaviour. It is an abuse of power and a form of control which causes humiliation, pain, fear and intimidation. Most forms of sexual violence are criminal offences and all of them have a significant and harmful impact which can be just as distressing as rape itself.
Sometimes it can be hard to name something as sexual violence. We may feel in our gut that it is wrong, or feel deeply unhappy, disturbed and worried by what has happened, but not want to name is as violence or use words associated with sexual violence.
When we think of sexual violence, our ideas of violence may come from what we see in television and films, as dramatic scenes with obvious physical damage. In reality it can be far more subtle, however just because something was verbal, happened online, or was committed by someone you know, doesn’t mean it is any less frightening or violating – nor does it mean that you are any less deserving of support.
Perpetrators of sexual violence can abuse power in various ways that we may not immediately recognise; e.g. drawing on their age, gender or social status to claim to know more, threatening or implying threats to the person, isolating the person from their family or friends. They may exploit additional vulnerabilities in a person’s life, such as that person being much younger, having low self-confidence, having a disability or not speaking English.
We recognise and respect that everyone’s experience of sexual violence is unique to them and understand that survivors of sexual violence may experience different dynamics depending on factors such as their age, religion, gender-identity, sexuality or ethnicity.
Whether you have been raped, sexually assaulted, or experienced any form of sexual violence at any point in your life, you can contact us. We will support you to use the words you choose to describe what has happened and will not pressure you to disclose anything you are not comfortable with. We are here to support you and help you with the impact it is having on you and your life.