Sexual violence

To follow up on the series of non-violence articles, here is an article dealing with an entirely different form of violence: the sexual violence.

While nowadays in the world, 137 women get killed by a family member, every day, and that, according to UNIFEM one in three women has been raped, beaten, forced into sex or abused at least once in her life. During the current COVID crisis, the lockdowns specially, its social and economic impacts have increased the exposure of women to abusive partners.

First of all, it is essential to remember that sexual violence is a scourge for human rights. Also, violence against women – particularly intimate partner violence and sexual violence – is a major public health problem and a violation of women's human rights.

Sexual violence means that someone forces or manipulates someone else into unwanted sexual activity without their consent. Reasons someone might not consent include fear, age, illness, disability, and/or influence of alcohol or other drugs.

Anyone can experience sexual violence including: children, teens, adults, and elders. Those who sexually abuse can be acquaintances, family members, trusted individuals or strangers. Sexual violence affects people of all genders, ages, races, religions, incomes, abilities, professions, ethnicities, and sexual orientations. However, social inequalities can heighten the risk. By age 18, 1 in 4 girls will be sexually assaulted; by age 18, 1 in 6 boys will be assaulted. Victims usually know their assaulter.  People who sexually assault usually attack someone they know — a friend, classmate, neighbor, coworker, or relative. Of adults, 73% knew the attacker, 38% were friends of the attacker, 28% were an intimate partner of the attacker, and 7% were a relative of the attacker. Child victims knew the offender before the attack 90% of the time. About 40% of sexual assaults take place in the victim’s own home. Another 20% occur in the home of a friend, neighbor, or relative.

Types of sexual violence: 

  • CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE- When a perpetrator intentionally harms a minor physically, psychologically, sexually, or by acts of neglect, the crime is known as child abuse.

  • RAPE OR SEXUAL ASSAULT- is an act of physical, psychological and emotional violation in the form of a sexual act, inflicted on someone without their consent. It can involve forcing or manipulating someone to witness or participate in any sexual acts.

  • SEXUAL ASSAULT OF MEN AND BOYS- Men and boys who have been sexually assaulted or abused may have many of the same feelings and reactions as other survivors of sexual assault, but they may also face some additional challenges because of social attitudes and stereotypes about men and masculinity.

  • INCEST- Regardless of how the law defines incest, unwanted sexual contact from a family member can have a lasting effect on the survivor.

  • DRUG-FACILITATED SEXUAL ASSAULT- Drug-facilitated sexual assault occurs when alcohol or drugs are used to compromise an individual's ability to consent to sexual activity. These substances make it easier for a perpetrator to commit sexual assault because they lower inhibitions, reduce a person’s ability to resist, and can prevent them from remembering details of the assault. Drugs and alcohol can cause diminished capacity, a legal term that varies in definition from state to state.

  • UNWANTED SEXUAL CONTACT/TOUCHING

  • SHOWING ONE'S GENITALS OR NAKED BODY TO OTHER(S) WITHOUT CONSENT

  • MASTURBATING IN PUBLIC

  • WATCHING SOMEONE IN A PRIVATE ACT WITHOUT THEIR KNOWLEDGE OR PERMISSION

When it comes to Croatia…

Although there is no specific law on violence against women in Croatia, in 2009, a new Law on Protection against Domestic Violence was created. It introduces ‘economic violence’ in the definition of domestic violence and expressly prohibits physical, psychological, sexual and economic violence.

In Croatia, rape and sexual assault are considered serious criminal. In order to eliminate this violence against women in Croatia, the national strategy for protection against domestic violences aims to improve the overall legal framework on domestic violence, and services for the treatment of perpetrators, but also to promote better coordination among the public, to ensuring gender sensitive training of professionals.

Prevention

Violence against women is preventable. The health sector has an important role to play to provide comprehensive health care to women subjected to violence, and as an entry point for referring women to other support services they may need.

In 2019, the World Health Organization and United Nations Women with endorsement from 12 other UN and bilateral agencies published RESPECT women – a framework for preventing violence against women aimed at policy makers.

Each letter of RESPECT stands for one of seven strategies: Relationship skills strengthening; Empowerment of women; Services ensured; Poverty reduced; Enabling environments (schools, work places, public spaces) created; Child and adolescent abuse prevented; and Transformed attitudes, beliefs and norms.

How to report violence

If you’ve been the victim of rape or sexual assault, there are many different ways you can report it to the police. We understand it can be difficult. You might not be completely sure what happened or how to talk about it. Trained officers and a lot of organisations are here to listen and work together to support you in any way. Importantly, your information could help to bring the offender to justice and make sure you, and other people in a similar situation, are kept safe. Not all survivors find it necessary to report sexual assault to the criminal justice system in order to move forward from their experience. In fact, some feel that the criminal justice system re-victimizes them in its process. It is believed that only 15.8 to 35 percent of all sexual assaults are reported to the police, for the reason that when trust in police is low, victims are less likely to report violence.

Contact the local police department. Call the direct line of your local police station or visit the station in person. If you are on a college campus you may also be able to contact campus-based law enforcement.

Visit a medical center. If you are being treated for injuries resulting from sexual assault, tell a medical professional that you wish to report the crime. You can also choose to have a sexual assault forensic exam.

The Autonomous Women’s House Zagreb (0800 55 44) can be contacted by women throughout the country.