June 15, 2017

RAPE & SEXUAL VIOLENCE

Rape & Abuse

“RAPE IS… a crime against humanity…. The theft of a spirit…. Torture… a war against the powerless… the selling of women and children… “

“In about 85 percent of cases, sexual assaults occur between people who know each other.”  – Diana Russell

Sexual Violence

Sexual violence is a serious public health problem and has a profound short or long-term impact on physical and mental health, such as an increased risk of sexual and reproductive health problems, an increased risk of suicide or HIV infection. Murder occurring either during a sexual assault or as a result of an honor killing in response to a sexual assault is also a factor of sexual violence. Though women and girls suffer disproportionately from these aspects, sexual violence can occur to anybody at any age; it is an act of violence that can be perpetrated by parents, caregivers, acquaintances and strangers, as well as intimate partners. It is rarely a crime of passion, and is rather an aggressive act that frequently aims to express power and dominance over the victim. Sexual violence remains highly stigmatized in all settings, thus levels of disclosure of the assault vary between regions. In general, it is a widely under reported phenomenon, thus available data tend to underestimate the true scale of the problem. In addition, sexual violence is also a neglected area of research, thus deeper understanding of the issue is imperative in order to promote a coordinated movement against it. Domestic sexual violence is distinguished from conflict-related sexual violence. Often, people who coerce their spouses into sexual acts believe their actions are legitimate because they are married. In times of conflict, sexual violence tends to be an inevitable repercussion of warfare trapped in an ongoing cycle of impunity. Rape of women and of men is often used as a method of warfare (war rape), as a form of attack on the enemy, typifying the conquest and degradation of its women or men or captured male or female fighters. Even if strongly prohibited by IHRL, Customary law and IHL, enforcement mechanisms are still fragile or even non-existent in many corners of the world.

Domestic sexual violence includes all forms of unwanted sexual activity. It is considered abuse even if the victim may have previously engaged in consensual sexual activities with the perpetrator. Men and women can both fall victim to this type of abuse.

A 2006 WHO study on physical and sexual domestic violence against women conducted across ten countries, finds that prevalence of sexual domestic violence ranges on average between 10 and 50%. Domestic sexual violence is also considerably less common than other forms of domestic violence. The variations in the findings across and within countries suggest that this type of abuse is not inevitable and can be prevented.

 

Women

Sexual violence against women and girls can take many forms and is carried out in different situations and contexts. The WHO’s World Report on Violence and Health lists the following ways in which sexual violence against females can be committed:

  • Systematic rape during armed conflict
  • Rape within marriage or dating relationships
  • Rape by strangers
  • Unwanted sexual advances or sexual harassment, including demanding sex in return for favors
  • Sexual abuse of mentally or physically disabled people
  • Sexual abuse of children
  • Forced marriageor cohabitation, including the marriage of children
  • Denial of the right to use contraception or to adopt other measures to protect against sexually transmitted diseases
  • Forced abortion
  • Violent acts against the sexual integrity of women, including female genital mutilationand obligatory inspection for virginity
  • Forced prostitutionand trafficking of people for the purpose of sexual exploitation

There was a study in 1987 that came to a conclusion that women in college have reported being involved in unwanted sex due to men using verbal coercion, physical force, and using alcohol and drugs to intoxicate them.

 

Sexual violence is one of the most common and widespread violations to which women are subject in wartime. It also figures among the most traumatic experiences, both emotionally and psychologically, women suffer during conflict. Sexual violence, in particular rape, is often considered as a method of warfare: it is used not only to “torture, injure, extract information, degrade, displace, intimidate, punish or simply destroy,” but also as a strategy to destabilize communities and demoralize men. The use of sexual violence as a weapon of war was widespread conflicts such as Rwanda, Sudan, Sierra Leone, and Kosovo. The perpetrators of female-directed violence in times of conflict are often armed groups and local people.

 

 

Men

As with sexual violence against women, sexual violence against men can take different forms, and occur in any kind of context, including at home or in the workplace, in prisons and police custody, and during war and in the military. The practice of sexually assaulting males is not confined to any geographical area of the world or its place of commission, and occurs irrespective of the victim’s age. The various forms of sexual violence directed against males include rape, enforced sterilization, enforced masturbation, and genital violence. Sexual violence against males also encompasses emasculation, which can take place through “feminization” or “homosexualization” of the victim, and the prevention of procreation.

Male-directed sexual violence is more significant than is often thought. The scope of such crimes continues, however, to be unknown largely because of poor or a lack of documentation. The under- or non-reporting of sexual violence against males may often be due to fear, confusion, guilt, shame and stigma, or a combination thereof.

Moreover, men may be reluctant to talk about being victim of crimes of sexual violence. In this regard, the way in which societies construct the notion of masculinity plays a role. Masculinity and victimization may be considered incompatible, in particular in societies where masculinity is equated with the ability to exert power, leading to non-reporting. The incompatibility between the conventional understanding of masculinity and victimization can arise both with regard to the attack itself and when coping with the consequences of such crimes. Because of under- and non-reporting on sexual violence against men, the little evidence that exists tends to be anecdotal.

In the case that sexual violence against males is recognized and reported, it is often categorized as “abuse” or “torture.” This is considered a tendency to hide sexual assaults directed at men as something else, and it is believed to contribute to the poor- or lack of reporting of such crimes, and can arise from the belief that sexual violence is a women’s issue and that men cannot be victims of sexual assaults.

 

Children

 

Sexual violence against children is a form of child abuse. It includes harassment and rape, as well as the use of children in prostitution or pornography.

Sexual violence is a serious infringement upon a child’s rights, and one which can result in significant physical and psychological trauma to the victim. A 2002 WHO study approximated that 223 million children have been victims to sexual violence involving physical contact. Yet, due to the sensitivity of the issue and the tendency of the crime to stay hidden, the true figure is likely to be much higher.

Girls are more frequent targets for sexual abuse than boys. The WHO study found that 150 million girls were abused compared to 73 million boys. Other sources also conclude that girls face a greater risk of sexual violence, including prostitution.