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What is sexual violence and what consequences can it leave?

What is sexual violence and what consequences can it leave?

September 26, 2022

After the scandalous sentence issued on the trial of five men who sexually assaulted a young woman, a large part of the population has been shocked, generating a social debate in relation to sexual violence and how a reform of the penal code would be fundamental.

It becomes more necessary than ever to be clear about the meaning of sexual violence and the nature of the type of acts of which it is composed.

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What is sexual violence?

The concept of sexual violence refers to a traumatic experience in relation to sexual activity maintained by two or more people where there is no consent by one of the people involved. This term encompasses three types of violence.

1. Sexual harassment

In the first place, sexual harassment is usually carried out verbally, through messages, calls or through coercion and blackmail, that is, the use of psychological violence . The aggressor pressures and intimidates the victim so that the other person has sexual relations. For example, in the workplace that a person coerces another to have sex because if you do not lose your job.

2. Sexual abuse

Another type of sexual violence we encounter is sexual abuse. This term refers to any action that forces a person, male or female, to carry out sexual behaviors that they do not want to carry out or maintain. That is, the aggressor, whether male or female, assumes the freedom to access the body of another person without the consent of this , and there is no authorization of sexual activity by one of the parties.

3. Sexual aggression

Finally, sexual assault consists of access the body of the victim, without consent, and using the use of direct violence as a way to get to sexual activity. The most serious form of sexual assault is through penetration.

Beyond physical pain

As it is observed, the sentence to the aggressor can vary depending on the type of sexual violence used. One of the main differences between the three types is the use of physical violence. But how do we know Physical violence is not the only form of violence that exists and as its name indicates, in the different types we find ourselves under a case of sexual violence.

Perhaps, a part of the debate opened in these last days should focus here and that is not the use of physical violence the determinant of a greater or lesser sentence, if not that the act itself, the simple fact of restricting the sexual freedom of someone condemn yourself

The sentence issued affirms that there is no physical violence, since the victim admits that he chose not to resist. Perhaps there are no visible blows or wounds, but the penetration not allowed by five men towards a woman, coercion about sexual freedom and of course emotional harm and the subsequent psychological consequences are more than enough.

Why are we sometimes unable to defend ourselves against a threat?

One of the reproaches that has been made to the victim is that did not object at the time of the sexual act . This behavior, from a psychobiological point of view, has a survival function when we are faced with a threat of a different nature.

In our brain we have an extremely powerful sensor, known as amygdala, which will be the internal alarm that warns us that there is an external or internal threat, since it is one of the areas responsible for fear. When our alarm is activated our body is going to prepare to face that threat, that is, we prepare to give a fight or flight response. With him a great adrenaline rush will appear in the body participating in this response. In turn, the areas responsible for decision-making are inhibited, anesthetized, due to stress chemicals.

Therefore, the person is in a state of hyperactivation, that is, all their alarm systems are activated, resulting in a total incapacity to make decisions , so it will be our nervous system that decides in an instinctive way promoting our survival.

In the face of very serious threats, panic, traumas and crisis situations, where the situation surpasses us and we do not have the necessary resources, our brain automatically disconnects. This phenomenon is known as dissociation , protecting us from emotional pain and suffering.In this state there is a relative absence of sensations, freezing of emotions or reduction of physical movements. Being the defense less active, we will not try to flee, we will not be able to say no. It will be our brain that speaks for us and the person will act automatically.

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What are the psychological and emotional consequences of sexual abuse?

These are some of the habitual sequels that leave the experiences linked to sexual abuse.


A Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder may occur, the symptoms of which are related to the appearance of nightmares where you relive what happened. Flashback appearance where memory appears in a very invasive way, negative thoughts, and alterations of mood.

2. Appearance of feelings of guilt and shame

The victim has the false belief that what happened could have been avoided if he had acted differently.

3. Fear of talking

Inability of the victim to tell what happened fear of rejection .

4. Depressive feelings

Sometimes you even develop an emotional disorder.

5. Isolation

Social isolation can be good out of embarrassment, fear or distrust of others .

6. Self-injury

Use of self-harm behaviors as a way to calm the emotional damage suffered or even the appearance of suicidal behavior

7. Drug use

Substance abuse as a way to isolate yourself and not think about what happened as a way to calm all the emotional damage.

8. Decrease in self-esteem

All this leaves a mark in the self-concept.

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Revivier the trauma

It is important to take into account the revictimization that occurs in the victim generated by institutions, media and professionals . Certain initiatives make the victim relive again and again the pain and emotions that are associated with the traumatic event. Especially in cases as mediatic as the latter, where even the victim is being questioned in relation to the given response.

Challenging normalization of sexual violence against women | Susana Pavlou | TEDxUniversityofNicosia (September 2022).

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