Sexual violence is unfortunately very common. One in every four girls in Germany has already been a victim of sexual violence. Despite that, many girls still think it could only happen to them. Many also think that there is something wrong with them. This happens because we do not speak enough about this topic. Often what these girls experience is not directly identifiable as “violence”, because it is not a matter of physical violence. But it is important to remember that there is more to sexual violence than rape.
Sexual violence includes all types of attacks with sexual reference. It already starts with suggestive comments, derogatory gestures or unpleasant looks. Hugging, petting and touching are also included. Sexual violence is every type of body contact that you do not want and which crosses your boundaries. Nobody is allowed to touch you without your permission. You do not have to tolerate any touching that is unpleasant for you. Nobody can talk to you about sexuality if you do not want to. Nobody can show you pornographic pictures or movies with sexual content if you do not want to see them. Even if this has happened to you, you do not need to be ashamed of yourself: One type of violence is also when girls feel compelled to do things that they do not want to do. The responsibility of these acts always lies with the offender!
Sexual violence has a lot to do with power. The offenders (men or, less frequently, women) want to exercise power over you through sexual violence, without considering your own wishes.
In most cases, sexual violence does not start with strange men on the streets, although this is what girls are often warned about from a young age. More frequently, the offenders are people who are part of the victim’s surroundings or environment. They could be neighbors, teachers, trainers, an acquaintance, relatives or even family members. Often they are adults. Sexual violence in this form is often called “sexual abuse”. We, from the FeM-Mädchenhaus, don’t think that this expression is good. This is because a girl is not a thing that can be used or misused (meaning wrongly used), as in “alcohol abuse” or “substance abuse”. The word “abuse” is in itself a form of violence, because it treats girls not as people, but as things. This is also why we call sexual assaults made by adults in the girls’ closer circles as “sexualized violence”.
But danger can also start with people of the same age. Very common, but not commonly known is “Teen Dating Violence”, experienced by girls when they meet boys or start having a relationship with them. Violence is also when someone pressures you, when they try to control you, when they monitor your text messages or your telephone calls, curse you, threaten, or offend you.
When girls suffer sexual violence, they frequently experience fear or anger. Often it is hard for them to speak about this with others. Often the offenders deliberately threaten the victims so that they do not tell anyone what happened. This is no surprise, as every form of sexual violence is punishable!
If you know a girl who you are worried about or if you yourself need support in dealing with such a situation, you can contact us online here. We can support you anonymously and confidentially.