Sexual violence is all over the news in recent years. From child molestation cases to sexual assaults committed by teens, we are inundated with reports of sexual violence and children. Just recently, a 17 year old was arrested and charged with the sexual assault and murder of a 6 year old girl in Washington. This recent case may seem like an extreme situation, and of course it is.
However, the reality is that most perpetrators do not commit grave acts of sexual violence out of the blue. Instead, sexual violence usually occurs over the course of time, progressing from nonviolent behavior like sexual jokes, inappropriate touching or voyeuristic type behavior to forcible touching and eventually to forcible acts.
What is Sexual Violence?
Sexual violence is any act which causes an individual to feel forced, coerced or manipulated into unwanted sexual activity. There is a continuum of sexual violence which on the one hand includes violent acts like rape, incest, child sexual assault, date rape, marital rape, and sexual exploitation. On the other end of the continuum are unwanted sexual contact, sexual harassment, and sexual exposure.
Who is at Risk for Sexual Violence?
Everyone is at risk. Sexual violence can literally happen anywhere and to anyone, regardless of age, race, gender, etc. According to the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape (PCAR), teens aged 16-19 are 3.5 more likely to be victims of rape than the general population. In addition, an estimated 70% of rapes are committed by someone known to the victim, not a stranger.
Children are taught to fear strangers and not to talk to them. However, as children become teens, parents should talk about sexual violence and how sexual violence is usually perpetrated, not by strangers, but by someone known to the victim, i.e., friends, neighbors, etc.
Tips for Teens
- Trust your gut. Teens should be taught to trust their instincts. This is especially true when it comes to sexual situations. If you are uncomfortable with a sexual situation, leave.
- Be aware of your surroundings. Don’t get into a situation where you are vulnerable or alone with someone you don’t trust.
- Don’t mix drugs/alcohol with sexual decisions. Drugs and alcohol lower inhibitions and negatively affect your ability to make smart decisions. Therefore, when it comes to sexual contact, avoid drugs and alcohol.
- Be aware of date rape drugs. Be cautious of accepting drinks from acquaintances; never leave your drink unattended.
- Be assertive. Your opinions matter and you should communicate them. Don’t do anything you don’t want to do, and don’t fall for the line, “if you loved me…” If your partner truly cared, they would respect your feelings.
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