Sexual Violence

Sexual violence refers to a sexual act without consent either without the consent of another people or with the inability of the person to give consent, for example because of their age, intoxication, or mental condition. Criminal law ́ s sections of law can be difficult to understand and currently they are focusing on assessing the threat and materialization of physical violence. However, also acts that do not meet the criminal law punishment criteria can be sexual violence and cause deep insecurity and trauma. In Finland, the Consent 2018 citizens’ initiative is coming to processing in Parliament, where the aim is to amend the Penal Code so that rape is defined through lack of consent and not through violence or through the threat thereof.

“Sexual violence means any sexual acts, an attempt to obtain sexual acts, unwanted sexual comments or approaches, or an attempt to trade, or otherwise direct a person’s sexuality by coercion without consent. Forcing can cover the whole use of force spectrum and in addition to physical force, coercion can include psychological intimidation, blackmail, or other threats — for example, the threat of physical damage, dismissal, or the job applied for is denied.” WHO

When person´s sexuality is violated, then the whole personal humanity is also violated and therefore it is particularly traumatic experience for a person who has had to experience sexual violence in some way. In sex, acts are voluntary and produce pleasure, whereas in violence, acts are often the use of power and force, and they cause fear. Sexual violence occurs in a wide variety of situations and settings. Sexual violence can be for example:

  • Rape within marriage or relationship
  • Rape made by an unknown
  • The use of contraception or protection against sexually transmitted diseases during sex is being prohibited
  • Forced abortion
  • Acts of violence against the sexual integrity of women, including female genital mutilation and compulsory virginity checks
  • An insinuation relating to sex or body
  • Intimidation, extortion, manoeuvring, seduction, bribery or coercion into sexual intercourse, oral sex or kissing
  • Forcing for watch or listen to sex related matters
  • Coercing to touch oneself or another (forcibly by touching)
  • Coercing to touch oneself or another
  • Taking pictures without permission for sexual purposes and dissemination of sexual images (including via internet)
  • Purchasing sexual acts with goods, intoxicants or with money. (Sexual acts for remuneration)
  • There is also sexual violence if, for example, the other party is passed out or otherwise in an unconscious state and the other party commits a sexual act against him or her
  • Abuses can take place either face-to-face, over the phone, or over the Internet. The digital age has diversified the possibilities for violence and harassment. See also: Grooming, sexting, sextortion

People who are in vulnerable position

Studies show that vulnerable people have more risk factors for violence in their lives, and therefore they have more experiences of mental and physical violence. According to the School Health Survey 2017, children, and young people, who had physical disability, who were foreign background or were placed outside the home, experienced significantly more school bullying, sexual suggestion or harassment, sexual violence, and parental mental or physical violence, than the other children and young people. Studies also show significant differences in experiences of violence among those with having non-official sex gender, or those whose sexual orientation other than hetero. According to research data, the younger the child is, the more likely the perpetrator of the sexual offence comes from a close circle.

Special groups have more risk factors for sexual violence than other people. These include functional limitations, special housing or other service arrangements, inadequate services, dependence on another person in everyday activities, the poor exercise of sovereignty, low livelihoods, and lack of means of communication. If a person belongs to several minority groups, such as disability- and sexual minorities, the risks increase.

People with disabilities may have to resort to helpers to take care of their health and body in their daily lives, and therefore they may then be exposed to the violence or neglect of treatment. Their ability to defend themselves and seek help is often more limited than others. An abused person may fear a change in his or her circumstances if he or she reveals the abuse. The fear that he will not be believed, but that a caregiver with a position of authority, for example, will be more easily believed, which can cause shame and silence. Vulnerable people often have a longer and closer dependency on other people. The large number of assisted people and the physical contact and proximity required by the assistance measures increase the risk of violence and exploitation. The gender of carers and assistants may also be more often opposite and physical intimacy is more common with the other gender, than for people without any disabilities. So, a person cannot always influence who will assist him. Violence can be used under the “shadow” of care, for example, by handling and washing intimate parts of the body rough-handed.

Developmental disability often also means reduced ability to identify and combat sexual violence. It also means weaker self-esteem and an obedient attitude. Girls and women who have developmental injuries, psychiatric illnesses or difficulties in communication are at particular risk of encountering sexual abuse. The more the development injury or injuries limit the ability to function independently, the less a person has personal opportunities to influence the situation of violence as well as to defend himself. Because most times the perpetrator is familiar and comes from a close circle, the violence is also often long-lasting and multifaceted.

Sexual education and body emotion education play a major role in the prevention of sexual violence. SelkoSeks specializes in the promotion of sexual rights of special groups and people with disabilities, as well as sex education, in where the training and supporting of professionals also plays a major role.

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