What is sexualized violence?

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Sexualized violence is any kind of harmful or unwanted behaviour that targets someone sexually and is an act of power that uses sex to try to control someone. It can include sexual harassment, sexual assault, rape, manipulation and coercion, rumours and gossip, sexual exploitation of youth, child sexual abuse, and more. It is important to remember that sexualized violence is never the fault of the person experiencing it.

Sexual assault is any kind of sexual act that happens without someone’s consent. It includes rape, but sexual assault can also be groping, kissing, or any other unwanted intimate touch. While media usually shows sexual assault as involving physical force, it also happens through manipulation, lying, implied threats, or when someone can’t consent because they’re drunk, high or asleep.

Sexual harassment goes beyond physical touch: it might look like intimidation and stalking, unwanted sexual remarks or texts, sending unsolicited nudes or sharing someone’s nudes without their permission.

There are a lot of myths about sexualized violence out there. Busting these myths helps contribute to a community built on consent! 

  • MYTH: Some forms of sexual assault or harassment aren’t as bad as others.
    • Nobody deserves to experience any kind of sexualized violence, and there’s no amount of violence that someone should be expected to be “okay” with. If you’ve experienced harm from sexualized violence you deserve support, and nobody else’s experiences diminish that. 
  • MYTH: Sexual assault happens when someone’s too turned on to control themselves.
    • Folks are capable of controlling their actions, especially when it means not harming someone else no matter how much they would like to have sex. It’s insulting to all of the people who do control their actions in these situations all the time to suggest otherwise! Sometimes when people have power, they care only about their own wants and desires, and know that they likely won’t face consequences because of their privilege.
  • MYTH: People should take some responsibility for putting themselves in a situation where they’ll probably be harmed.
    • Often people talk about sexualized violence because they want to help prevent it, but the words they use blame survivors. No matter what one is wearing, drinking, doing or saying, there is never a valid reason for someone to violate one’s boundaries and consent. Effective prevention starts with talking about the kinds of power that allow people to commit sexualized violence.
  • MYTH: Some people claim they’ve experienced sexualized violence when they’re actually lying.
    • According to Men Against Abuse Now (MAAN), only 2% of sexual assault charges are found to be false reports – similar to rates for other crimes – and yet people claim that these false reports are much higher. The fact is that a culture of silence and shame make sexual assault a hugely under-reported crime, not over-reported. 
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How do we end sexualized violence?

Society influences who has power and who is most affected by sexualized violence. We believe in creating a world where people practice consent in everyday situations and share their power, which we call a consent culture. We all have the power to support each other and improve the world we live in! Some examples include:

  • Rejecting strict gender roles and celebrating gender diversity and fluidity
  • Challenging violence like misogyny, racism, transantagonism, ableism, and supporting folks affected by them
  • Respecting boundaries and helping each other to be accountable

Have you or someone you know been impacted by sexualized violence? 

You are not alone. Sexualized violence is never the survivor’s fault. For some things to consider if you have experienced sexualized violence, see our page on Support After Sexualized Violence. If you find yourself in a supporting role, see our page on how to Support Survivors.

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