|Mezzo: For Young People by Young People (IPPF, 1997, 52 p.)|
If someone makes an unwanted sexual advance towards you, which may be physical or emotional, it can cause pain, grief, fear and anxiety. Even if you have made it clear that you do not want to be touched, leered at or spoken to in a suggestive manner, you may be powerless to stop someone's advances. Sexual abuse is about power. Power of one person over another. It can happen anywhere and it can happen to anyone. There are many different forms of sexual abuse.
Sexual abuse describes unwanted sexual contact and is usually done by someone who knows you - father, stepfather, uncle, grandfather, brother, boyfriend, family friend, teacher. Sexual intercourse between close blood relatives is called incest. Child sexual abuse involves an adult using a child for sexual pleasure.
Sexual abuse can involve threats, humiliation and violence. Both boys and girls are abused, although girls are abused more often than boys. The abuser is usually, although not always, a man. Child abuse is often unreported because children are taught to obey and trust adults. A child may not always realize that abuse is wrong. Sexual abuse can lead to long-term emotional problems in later life.
Sexual harassment describes remarks or physical gestures, made in a sexual manner, which cause physical or emotional pain. If you are labelled a "slut" because people believe that you have bad several sexual partners, it is sexual harassment. If your boss at work touches you in a sexual way against your will, it is sexual harassment.
Rape describes a violent act in which a person is forced to have sex with someone without consent. Victims of rape are usually women although male rape (men forcing men) can also occur. People who are raped are often threatened by physical violence. Many people think of rapists as "violent strangers" but in reality, most victims of rape know their assailant. Even if things have started to get physical - kissing, cuddling, fondling - and the guy goes further than you want him to, it is still rape. This is date rape - no means no, whatever the circumstances.
Although there are laws in most countries to protect people from sexual violence and abuse, rape and abuse are often unreported and rarely discussed.
Why? Because many people blame the victim by saying things like:
-if a girl says no, she really means yes;
-if a girl dresses in a certain way she is asking for it;
-if a girl does not want to have sex she can prevent it.
All the above statements are myths. The reality is that the blame and responsibility are the assailant's and not the victim's.
All sexual contact between you and another person should only happen with your consent and because you want it to happen, The bottom line is no means no, not maybe or yes.
If it happens to you, what can you do?
There are many forms of sexual violence and all of them can be harmful. If it happens to you, the most important thing to remember is that it is not your fault.
Dealing with abuse or rape is not easy. There is no right or wrong way to react - everyone reacts differently. However, you are not alone and sharing your experience with others may make you feel better.
The first thing that you should do is go to a hospital or a doctor for a physical check-up. You may also decide to go to the police or any other authority to file a complaint. Rape and many forms of abuse are against the law in almost every country in the world. In some countries rape within marriage is also illegal. To go to the police isn't always easy. You may be afraid of the consequences. You may want to take friends and family with you for support.
It is a long and painful process for someone who is abused to regain confidence. You may even need professional help, but often the healing process is helped by talking about the incident with someone you can trust It is important to realize that the feelings you are experiencing are all natural reactions to rape or abuse.
Female genital mutilation
In some parts of the world, particularly in Africa and in certain parts of Asia, young girls are subjected to female genital mutilation (FGM). Over 100 million girls and women have been genitally mutilated and more than 2 million young girls are mutilated each year. Female genital mutilation is the removal of all or part of the external female genitalia leaving only a small vaginal opening.
Since female genital mutilation involves the removal of all or part of the clitoris, it dramatically reduces sexual enjoyment and fulfillment. People who practise female genital mutilation believe it has cultural and traditional significance, preserving virginity until marriage and controlling a woman's sexuality.
The "operation" is often performed without anaesthetic and girls, usually between 7 and 15 years old, experience pain, shock and bleeding. Later they may have difficulty concentrating at school or college and experience difficulties in urinating, pain during intercourse and complications in childbirth.
Prostitution (commercial sex) is also considered to be a form of sexual abuse. All over the world young girls and boys are forced to sell their bodies. They may have no choice, because often this is the only way that they can support their families.
If it happens to a friend, the best way to help is to be there for them!