Understanding Sexual Violence

“Rape” refers to an act of sexual violence most often involving the forcible penetration of a person against their will. “Sexual violence” includes more than just rape and physical sex acts against people without their consent. Therefore, we tend to use the phrase sexual violence instead of rape, sexual assault or sexual abuse.

The terms rape or sexual assault do not accurately capture the entirety of sexual violence. Unlike the more limited phrase sexual assault, sexual violence includes the behaviors and ideas that create the environment that allows it to flourish from the smallest incident of sexual harassment to the most brutal sexual assault that may have multiple perpetrators or on-lookers. When we use the term sexual assault or rape, we are referring to particular physical acts, but ultimately our goal is to end sexual violence in its entirety.