Sexual Violence – What’s That?

The term sexual violence encompasses any kind of sexual act that is committed without express consent of the individual involved – the spectrum ranging from any kind of harassment (on the phone, in the street, in school, at the workplace, job-training) to various forms of sexual violence (sexual assault, rape or attempted rape, sexual violence against children, sexual violence in therapy, or other relationships of dependence, forced prostitution, sexual torture).

We classify these acts of violence in total as ’sexualised violence‘ as this term makes clear that

  • non-sexual needs (e.g. desire for power, superiority, strength) are asserted by sexual acts (e.g. sexual intercourse),
  • but also sexual needs (desire for intimacy or sensations of lust) are forcibly satisfied by non-sexual acts (such as beating, humiliations, shaming of the other).

These acts are acts of violence and those who are subjected to them clearly do not want this kind of sexuality.

Acts of sexual violence

  • violate the most intimate boundaries of an individual and hurt, humiliate, debase, and dehumanize them
  • forcibly disrespect a person’s sense of privacy and aim at crushing their sexual identity, debasing sexual and ideal values of this individual
  • so they neither express sensuality nor sexual desire for the person that is exposed to an subjugated by these acts.

Rape, sexual assault, and sexual violence against children are criminal acts and are punishable according to the German penal code.

There are many prejudices and misconceptions about rape, sexual violence against children, and oder forms of sexual violence that have been perpetuated in people’s minds, almost unchanged, for ages. There is e.g. the belief that women and girls are to blame for being raped or sexually assaulted or that things like that will never happen to a ‚decent‘ woman or girl.

Indifference, ignorance and a defensive attitude towards crimes of sexual violence as well as rape myths and obsolete notions of sexuality and violence are deeply rooted in our society. Consequently, most women and girls affected by acts of violence blame themselves. They feel guilty or ashamed of what someone else inflicted upon them. Many of them think they did not fight back enough. Almost all of them are afraid of being reproached and blamed by others.

  • Instead of encouragement, consolation and support many women and girls experience rejection, and accusations. So on top of the burden of beim shamed and humiliated the have to hear incriminating reproaches and know-it-all attitudes often enough. This, of course, makes their current lives much more difficult, esp. as survivors of sexual assault (such as rape) have to cope with so many unresolved questions and problems – just when what they need most at that moment is support.
  • Even today, women and girls affected by rape have to go long ways when looking for empathy, protection, and help. The majority of them never speak about the sexual violence they experienced.

In case you are affected yourself we would like to encourage you not to cope with your feelings alone. Turn to someone you know will believe you. Talk to a staff member of Hamburg FRAUEN NOTRUF (Hamburg rape crisis centre). Many women and girls who turn to us have never before shared their experience of rape or it has been a long time. The impact of sexual violence can often be felt even after years and decades. We will support you even if the offence lies way in the past.

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Sexual Violence

Human dignity shall be inviolable.
(Article 1 of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Germany)