May is sexual violence awareness month. Sexual violence crosses all social boundaries, affects people of every age and cultural background, and has devastating impacts on the lives of survivors and their families as well as the well-being of society.
It’s a broad term that describes any violence, physical or psychological, carried out through sexual means or by targeting sexuality. Sexual violence takes many different forms and can include things like:
It’s also important to understand that our reactions to sexual violence when it happens to us can be varied and complicated because of the responses in our brain that result in fight, flight, fawn, or freeze.
- FIGHT: To fight is to confront the threat aggressively.
- FLIGHT: Flight means you run from the danger.
- FREEZE: When you freeze, you find yourself unable to move or act against the threat.
- FAWN: Fawn is the response of complying with the attacker to save yourself
When someone has experienced sexual violence, it can be very hard for them to tell someone. They may feel shame, fear, powerlessness, or a whole range of emotions that may not always make sense to you and I. If someone tells you about an incident that sounds like sexual assault, listen to them and believe them. It is important that they are in control of what happens next. You can offer them options and resources but allow them to make their own choices. A great resource in Albert is the Alberta 1 Line (9 am to 9 pm) which connects to sexual assault centres across the province. Call or text: 1-866-403-8000 or visit their website: IBelieveYou.info.
- 82% of those under 18 who experience sexual assault are girls.
- 1 in 3 Canadians understand consent in sexual situations.
- 5% of sexual assaults were reported to police in 2014.
- Women self-reported 553,000 sexual assaults in 2014,
- Gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer people are at higher risk for sexual assault, and harassment.
If you’d like to learn more about sexual violence in Canada:
If you’d like to learn more about fight, flight, freeze, & fawn responses:
If you’d like to learn more about consent: