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Combatting Sexual Violence

Acting to prevent anyone from being subject to unwanted or improper sexual advances or activity

Combatting Sexual Violence

Sexual violence describes any sexual activity when consent isn’t obtained or freely given. It’s regarded as a preventable public health problem. It has serious long-term effects on well-being, health, and future prospects.

Anyone can experience or perpetrate sexual violence, whether it’s someone known or a stranger. Combatting it is key to preventing the short-term and long-term effects that victims experience.

The Size of The Problem

Measuring how it affects someone is a challenging task. However, it’s possible to estimate how many people are affected, though numerous cases are unreported.

  • Over 50% of women have experienced sexual violence involving physical contact
  • Around 30% of men have experienced sexual violence involving physical contact.
  • Women and ethnic minority groups are disproportionately affected.
  • A high proportion of minors and those under 25 are affected.
  • Estimates indicate monetary costs for rape survivors are around $120,000.
  • Television
  • Social media
  • Exercise
  • Shopping
  • Gambling
  • Gaming
  • And more

Consequences for the victim include short-term and long-term effects. They could include bruising, injuries, sexually transmitted infections, pregnancy, depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and ongoing health problems.

Primary Prevention

The responses to effectively combat it need to be multi-faceted. As with any problem, some resources need to be set aside for supporting victims. Primary prevention means stopping it before it occurs. It’s the best route to reducing the number of people affected.

Primary prevention means looking at the attitudes and environments that cause it or allow it to happen. Sexual violence is connected to other types of violence, which means that resources can focus on shared protective and risk factors. Actions need to be targeted at individuals, relationships, communities, and societies.

Individual Attitudes and Societal Factors

There are many factors that are the root causes. Understanding them can help direct resources.


Personal history and biological factors can increase the likelihood of perpetrating violence. Some risk factors are attitudes and beliefs that support sexual violence, alcohol or drug use, impulsive tendencies, seeking impersonal sex, and witnessing family violence.


Relationships with peers, family members, and partners can influence attitudes, behaviors, and experiences. Examples could include violent family members and friends who joke about sexual violence.


Community factors include social interactions in settings such as workplaces, neighborhoods, or schools. Spending time in settings where sexual violence is ignored is a risk factor.  Places where violence is tolerated or policies aren’t upheld are also risk factors.


Social factors can create a climate where violence is tolerated or encouraged. They include gender inequality, societal norms that promote tensions, and economic divides.

Simultaneous Action

Targeting risk factors at one level isn’t as effective as addressing multiple levels at once. Social programs must reinforce work at the community level, continuing down to the relationship and individual levels to instigate lasting change.

Some examples of actions include:

  • Teach social and emotional learning
  • Establishing consistent workplace policies that are enforced
  • Promoting social norms of bystander approaches
  • Strengthing economic support for women and families

Victim-Centered Services

While primary prevention is crucial, secondary and tertiary responses are still essential. Secondary responses refer to the immediate actions after sexual violence has occurred. It covers anything from advocacy and collection of forensic evidence to crisis intervention.

Tertiary responses also need to be victim-centered. These are long-term actions to address the long-term consequences, such as counseling services and sex offender treatment programs.





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