Sexual Violence

"Over time as most people fail the survivor's exacting test of trustworthiness, she tends to withdraw from relationships. The isolation of the survivor thus persists even after she is free."  — Judith Lewis Herman (Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence - From Domestic Abuse to Political Terror)

Sexual violence


"Sexual violence can take many forms and take place under very different circumstances. A person can be sexually violated by one individual or several people (e.g. gang-rapes); the incident may be planned or a surprise attack. Although sexual violence occurs most commonly in the survivor's home (or in the perpetrator’s home), it also takes place in many other settings, such as the workplace, at school, in prisons, cars, the streets or open spaces (e.g. parks, farmland).


The perpetrator of a sexual assault may be a date, an acquaintance, a friend, a family member, an intimate partner or former intimate partner, or a complete stranger, but more often than not, is someone known to the survivor. There is no stereotypical perpetrator; sexually violent men come from all backgrounds, rich and poor, academic and uneducated, religious and non-religious. Perpetrators may be persons in positions of authority who are respected and trusted (e.g. a doctor, teacher, tourist guide, priest, police officer) and thus less likely to be suspected of sexual violence. Sexual violence is common in situations of war and armed conflict.


Specifically, rape and sexual torture are frequently used as weapons to demoralize the enemy; women are sometimes forced into “temporary marriages” with enemy soldiers. Women who are incarcerated may be subjected to sexual violence by prison guards and police officers. Other forms of sexual violence include, but are not limited to:

  • sexual slavery

  • sexual harassment (including demands for sex in exchange for job promotion or advancement or higher school marks or grades)

  • trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation

  • forced exposure to pornography

  • forced pregnancy

  • forced sterilization

  • forced abortion

  • forced marriage

  • female genital mutilation

  • virginity tests

  • incest

(WHO Guidelines for Medico-legal care of victims of Sexual Violence)