Who is Subjected to Sexual Violence?
People of all genders can be subjected to sexual violence. However, sexual violence is more commonly experienced by:
- Women and girls
- Transgender, gender non-conforming, non-binary or Two Spirit people
Children as a whole (including boys), racialized and Indigenous women, women with disabilities, low-income women, women experiencing housing insecurity/homelessness, sex workers, and women with addictions experience higher rates.
Sexual violence can happen to people of any age, including seniors.
Victims/Survivors are Whole and Multi-faceted
It is important to remember that the person you are supporting is not defined by the sexual violence. They are a whole and multi-faceted person who has strengths, a life beyond what happened to them, people who care about them (and who they care about), interests and passions, and a future full of possibilities.
Victims/survivors can and do cope, heal, grow, and thrive. Additionally, many initiatives to prevent and end sexual violence are driven by people who have survived sexual violence.
How Can Sexual Violence Impact Victims/Survivors?
Sexual violence impacts victims/survivors in many ways. Each person’s feelings and experiences are unique and valid. A victim/survivor may feel a range of emotions including shock, anger, sadness, powerlessness, confusion, guilt and/or shame.
They may have already come to terms with, processed, or significantly healed from the sexual violence and may come across as being at peace with, matter of fact about, or detached from what happened.
They may have medical issues, such as physical injuries, pregnancy, or Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs).
Flip to see the impact in some cases.
Impact on Body Image
"It had a big impact on my self-esteem. I didn’t like people touching my body and definitely didn’t feel like being intimate with anyone."
Impact of Trauma
"I had mood swings and went through a period of depression. I kept having flashbacks, especially at night so I had a hard time sleeping. I know now that these were caused by trauma."
"I withdrew from the activities and people that I loved. I started drinking more and having unprotected sex. I was just trying to escape my feelings and thoughts."
A victim/survivor may also experience:
- Feelings of guilt or shame
- Difficulty remembering the details of the violence (due to trauma)
- Extended periods of anxiety
- Extreme awareness of one’s surroundings and potential threats also known as hypervigilance
- Decreased sexual desire
- Self-harming behavior
- Suicidal thoughts or attempts to end their life.
These feelings and reactions may be different or heightened for survivors of intergenerational trauma.