Over the past two to three years, there has been a reported spike in cases of sexual violence globally; and putting into consideration that this is a particularly under reported offense due to underlying issues like stigmatization of victims, victim blaming, subtle occurrences that stem from rape culture like rape jokes, this indicates how vital it is to focus relentlessly on being part of the solution by the prevention, raising awareness and sensitizing ourselves to the topic of sexual assault.

By definition. sexual assault refers to sexual contact or behavior that occurs without explicit consent of the other party; this includes rape (forceful vaginal, anal, oral sex), child molestation, unwanted/inappropriate touching and fondling, groping, sexual harassment (bullying, intimidation, coercion), unsolicited sexually suggestive pictures or media, stealthing to mention but a few. Furthermore, even though the most commonly reported cases are of male on female sexual assault, there are also cases that are of female on male, male on male and female on female assault.

Because sexual assault takes on many forms, some are easily unnoticeable to the extent that the victims do not even recognize that they have been abused till later on. For some, it takes years to come to the realization that what they initially viewed as a mere normal occurrence or even an act of love was in fact a violation of their rights. Thus, knowledge and clear understanding of what sexual assault is and all related aspects like consent is particularly crucial to creating awareness. Besides, it also comes into play in putting an end to cases where survivors are treated with disregard because their circumstances or stories don’t fit a certain criteria of a sexual assault experience.

According to statistics, 8 out of 10 cases of sexual assault are committed by a person known to the victim – a friend, a spouse, a relative, an acquaintance. Apart from being one of the main factors that influence many victims’ decision to remain silent about the abuse, it also implies that perpetrators are blended within our community – no one is safe in a world where rapists are walking around free and getting away with damaging lives. As stated in an article by The Center for Health, Human Rights and Development (CEHURD, Uganda), “places like refugee camps, homes, schools, offices, isolated spaces are some of the breeding grounds for rape.” This statement literally just means "anywhere" and hence rules out the common myth that sexual assault is an unfortunate occurrence that only happens if you’re in a wrong place, at the wrong time with the wrong crowd. It is not something that is specific to certain kinds of people, in certain places that only happens at certain times but rather, it is a form of violence that is likely to happen to anyone at any given moment they find themselves in the company of a person with predatory intentions towards them. Therefore, whether or not you’ve been affected directly by sexual assault, making a conscious effort to learn about sexual assault is your call. It isn’t just something done to stand in solidarity with the survivors but also for yourself because the more we learn, the easier it’ll get for us to recognize predatory behavior and also know how to deal with situations where survivors speak out, and thus, the nearer we”ll get to creating an ideal world that is a safe space for us all.

The issue of sexual assault runs deeper than it looks on the surface in numbers and statistics, hence it is our responsibility to actively advocate for a world where sexual assault is non-existent. You already have a voice and you have the power to make an impactful contribution, but to be able to make good use of the power you hold, it’s important to know what you’re up against. Take advantage of the internet, there is a wealth of information and resources on websites of NGOs specializing in sexual assault awareness, books, podcasts, films, music and even social media platforms. This knowledge will enable you to discern the difference between what’s acceptable and what isn’t, and even better it’ll put you in position to educate others and sensitize them. It’s a starting point and if we all make an effort to learn, this seemingly small act will add up to something big enough to put an end to this evil.

What role are you playing in being part of the solution?

Leon Inksmitten