In North America, about one in four women will face some form of sexual assault in their lifetime, with 80 per cent already knowing their assailants, and 60 per cent of them being under the age of 17.
These few facts alone are quite terrifying, and prove we have a long way to go when it comes to raw conversations around this type of violence and creating safe environments for both women and men.
In order to better do that, we must first understand what these words mean and how they affect survivors.
We have a long way to go when it comes to raw conversations around this type of violence.
Over the last few months alone, we've seen celebs like model Ashley Graham, actress Abigail Breslin and DJ Zeke Thomas open up about facing sexual assault in the past, which has helped other people to come forward with their stories as well.
Nonetheless, there are many misconceptions — among all genders — as to what exactly it means to be to assaulted. Thankfully, the Avalon Centre, a Halifax-based organization aimed at eliminating sexual assault and abuse, and The Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), a U.S.-based initiative, offer some solid definitions of these terms — and in no way do they sugar-coat them.
The Avalon Centre defines sexual assault as more of an umbrella term that they describe as "a crime of brutality and intimidation."
Avalon says the term is "any act that invades an individual’s sexual privacy" and can range from dealing with unwanted verbal sexual advances to being raped. Most times, perpetrator's actions have nothing to do attraction, but rather with having "power and control" over the survivor.
The initiative also notes that people who face this type of violence are often left feeling disgusted, ashamed, humiliated and powerless as the act takes away their sense of personal control.
Rape refers to any form of penetrative sexual contact without consent, which includes entering the anus, vagina or mouth with any body part or object.
Sexual harassment is defined as "any behaviour, comment or gesture of a sexual nature which is deemed to be offensive." It can be both overt or subtle. Some examples include verbal sexual advances, making comments about one's sexuality or body, threatening to display compromising photos, cat-calling, etc. This can take place almost anywhere, including in schools, workplaces or on the street.
Sexual harassment is defined as "any behaviour, comment or gesture of a sexual nature which is deemed to be offensive."
Child Sexual Abuse
Child sexual abuse is described as any type of verbal or physical sexual abuse of a person under the age of 16, which can include forced masturbation, sexting, sharing pornographic photos of a child, fondling, exposing oneself to a minor, or engaging in any form of intercourse.
Any unwanted sexual act performed by a legal spouse without consent. And yes, it is a criminal offence in Canada, the Avalon Centre confirms.
Incest is defined by RAINN as any form of sexual contact between family members. This type of abuse is extremely troubling, as many times, survivors do not report these cases. The reasons vary, but it's often because they may care or have some sort of attachment to their abusers and are afraid of how them coming forward could negatively impact the assailant. Other times they're afraid of getting into trouble with family themselves.
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