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Sexual Violence; A Summary

Sexual Violence; A Summary

Correcting Misconceptions about Sexual Violence

Sexual Violence; A Summary


Not a day goes by without a news report or opinion piece published involving a case like the MeToo Movement, spycams, university SNS sexual harassment, or the Nth Room scandal. As the need for gender sensitivity becomes more and more apparent, interest in sexuality, anger over sexually based crimes, and solidarity with victims is becoming stronger. However, it remains common for people and the media, to confuse and misuse words such as sexual harassment, sexual assault and sexual abuse. Healthy and helpful criticism can only occur with a clear understanding through an accurate comprehension of key concepts.

🔍‘Sexual Violence’ A closer look

What does it mean?

  • Sexual violence related laws do not only include criminal offences like rape and sexual assault, but also civil disputes in some cases of sexual harassment.
  • Not all forms of sexual violence can be trialled in a criminal court, but that doesn’t mean that the act itself is not sexual violence.

Forms of Sexual Violence

It would be near impossible to classify all the forms of sexual crimes. And various factors such as the victims characteristics or environment, the perpetrators social status, and the relationship between the parties should all be considered. Nevertheless, the representative forms of sexual violence are presented below.

- Sexual Assault

Also referred to as indecent assault, this regards any offensive act involving touching or threatening someone sexually without their consent.

This crime can be established regardless of whether the perpetrators motivations were innately sexual. Many of the cases we think of as criminal sexual violence fall under this category.

What makes something Indecent? Any form of unwanted sexual contact can be considered indecent. It also includes being forced to watch sexual activities like pornography or masturbation. An act should be proved ‘indecent by any reasonable person’s standards’ for a criminal conviction.

  • Rape

Penetrative intercourse carried out without the victims consent is considered rape. In many countries this includes penetration of the vagina, anus, or mouth by a penis, finger, or other object. Some countries laws differentiate criminal classifications based on the orifice penetrated or the object/appendage used to penetrate.

Who can be a rape victim? While in the past definitions of rape limited the victims to women attacked by someone other than their husband, current definitions have been broadened to include any ‘person’ victimized. This includes men and women regardless of their age, race, sexuality or profession.

  • Sexual Assault of a Minor

Any sexual activity conducted with a minor under the age of consent, regardless of the use of violence or threats, is also considered sexual assault. Even if the minor was a willing participant in the act they are not considered mentally or emotionally capable of giving consent. This is sometimes called ‘statutory rape’. Different countries around the world recognise different ages of consent, complete with various exceptions.

How does someone consent? Consent is an informed agreement between participants to engage in sexual activity. Consent should be given freely, without threat or intimidation, and can be withdrawn at any time. The best way to be sure of consent is to talk about it with your partner every time.

  • Sexual Assault of Someone Impaired or Incapacitated

Even without violence or threats, if the victim is mentally or physically impaired or incapacitated, they are not considered capable of giving consent to sexual activity.

What does it mean to be impaired or incapacitated? This means that someone’s ability to make informed decisions to do with sex has been impacted by alcohol, drugs, loss of consciousness, etc. Their ability to understand and consent to sexual activity may also be impaired by a disability or trauma.

  • Forcible Touching

This can include the intentional rubbing up against or the touching of a non-consenting person for the purpose of sexual gratification. This is often in public places such as on trains or buses where the victim may not be aware of what is happening, or be able to stop it.

- Sexual Harassment

The use of explicit or implicit sexual overtones that are unwelcome or inappropriate. This harassment could include sexual advances, requests for sexual favours, or negative comments about women as a group. It can also include penalizing a victim for not complying with sexual requests, and can be established even if the victim does not explicitly state their discomfort or refusal.

Sexual Harassment is based on the victims standard, not the perpetrators. Regardless of the perpetrator's intention, sexual harassment can be established if the victim feels that the perpetrator's actions were unwelcome and inappropriate.

  • Stalking

A pattern of behavior directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear. This can include following the victim in person, monitoring them, repeatedly sending unwanted messages or gifts, and approaching friends or family.

  • Voyeurism/Indecent Exposure

Voyeurism involves the act of trespassing or otherwise invading the privacy of another to spy or eavesdrop for the purpose of sexual arousal, while indecent exposure is the deliberate and unsolicited exposure of ones own genitals or sex acts to an unwilling audience. This is sometimes also known as ‘flashing’.

- Sexual Exploitation and Abuse

Sexual abuse is the use of a position of power, authority or trust to sexually assault a victim, while sexual exploitation specifies profiting monetarily, socially, or politically, from the sexual abuse of another. Sexual abuse can occur within an environment that should be safe for the victim, such as at home, school or a religious center.

  • Sex Trafficking

Sex trafficking is a crime that occurs when an individual is forced, tricked or coerced to be involved in commercial sexual acts, and can include being sold or transported overseas. Perpetrators often target people who are poor, vulnerable, living in an unsafe situation, or searching for a better life.

  • Intimate Partner Violence

Includes any kind of abuse or aggression occurring within a romantic relationship. Abuse can be sexual, physical, emotional, financial and/or reproductive. It can also occur between two individuals after separation.

- Cyber-Based Sex Crimes

Sex crimes conducted over the internet can often be harder to categorize, prove and punish.

  • Harassment/Stalking

Can involve sending unwanted or offensive pictures, articles, videos, messages or threats of a physical or sexual nature. Can also involve gender-based bullying through trolling, harassment, and cybersexism playing on gender-based power structures.

  • Illegal Filming and/or Distribution (spycams/revenge porn)

Taking a picture or video of an individuals body regardless of their will as well as distributing, selling, or displaying the material with others. This can include the non-consensual sharing of material that was made consensually with the perpetrator, such as so called ‘revenge porn’.

The Nth Room Case in South Korea The Nth Room was a sexual abuse, cybersex-trafficking scandal in South Korea that was facilitated through the Telegram app for two years from 2018. The Nth Room, actually a collection of rooms, was a sexual slavery ring, where over 100 women and underage girls were blackmailed and coerced into sending explicit, and sometimes degrading and violent images and videos of themselves. These were then sold and traded through the encrypted messaging app, with threats of exposure and violence used to keep victims silent. In 2020 the two main administrators were arrested, and sentenced to 34 and 40 years in prison. At least 3757 individuals have been arrested in relation to the crimes.

Concept Review ⭕️❌ QUIZ!

Only women can be victims of rape?

🙅‍♀️ Regardless of gender, anyone can be a victim of rape.

It’s only sexual harassment if the perpetrator intended the action to be sexual?

🙅‍♀️ Sexual harassment can be established regardless of the perpetrators motives.

Gender-based bullying online can also be considered sexual violence?

🙆‍♀️ Online bullying on the basis of someone’s gender can also be considered sexual violence, causing fear and distress in victims through targeted attacks.


  • Sexual violence includes assault, harassment, exploitation and cyber-based crimes.
  • Judgement should be based not on the perpetrators standards but the victims.
  • Sexual Violence is always the perpetrators fault, not the victims. Listen to victims stories.

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