Adult Sexual Abuse

Violence against adult women is individual or collective violent acts committed primarily or exclusively against adult females. Like hate crimes, such violence is directed at a specific group and its main motive is the gender of the victim.

According to the UN, violence against adult women is “any act of violence committed on the basis of gender that causes or may cause physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, as well as threats to commit such acts, coerced sex or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether then in public or private life ”

History of violence against women

The history of violence against women is vaguely described in the scientific literature. In part, due to social norms, taboos, stigmas and the sensitive nature of these issues, many types of such violence (namely, rape, sexual assault and domestic violence) are unreported and underreported. This problem is still prevalent, and the lack of reliable and uninterrupted data makes it difficult to study violence against women and to form a general understanding of it in a historical context. Although the history of violence against women is difficult to track, it can be argued that this violence has been widespread, permissible and legalized throughout human history. Examples include such facts as the authorization of husbands to punish their wives to the point of death, present in Roman law, the witch-hunt, encouraged by both church and state, the authorization of men to punish their wives with sticks “no thicker than their thumb,” present in 18th century. This form of punishment prevailed in England and America until the end of the 19th century. Some experts believe that the history of violence against women is related to the history of treating women as property and with a gender role that prescribes them to obey men as well as other women. The construct of patriarchy, in which there is a firmly established model of gender inequality, is often used to clarify the scope and history of violence against women.

The 1993 UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women states that “violence against women is a manifestation of the historically unequal balance of power between men and women, which has led to the dominance of women and discrimination against women by men and also hinders the overall advancement of women, and that violence against women is one of the fundamental social mechanisms by which women are forced to take a subordinate position compared to men.” Today it is necessary to recognize that this form of violence exists everywhere and “there is no region, country or culture in the world where women would be provided freedom from violence”. It is noteworthy that violence against women is particularly prevalent in developing countries and parts of the world. For example, dowry killings and bride burning are common in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal; acid dousing is common in Southeast Asia, particularly Cambodia; honor killings in the Middle East and South Asia; female circumcision in certain regions of Africa, the Middle East and Asia; bride kidnapping in Ethiopia, Central Asia and the Caucasus; violence associated with the payment of the bride price (such as cruelty, human trafficking and forced marriage) in certain parts of Black Africa and Oceania. Some regions are no longer associated with violence against women, however, until recently it was common practice, for example, honor killings in Southern Europe. In Italy, until 1981, the Criminal Code considered considerations of honor as a mitigating circumstance in cases of the murder of a woman or her sexual partner. However, using cultural arguments to justify specific forms of violence can legitimize acts of violence against adult women. The question remains as to how cultural traditions, local customs, social expectations, and different interpretations of religion may interact with certain abuses. Social groups from a large number of countries justify their acts of violence against women by cultural traditions and appeal to the need to protect cultural heritage, but such statements are doubtful since they come from various political leaders or persons in power, but not from women against whom the violence is committed .

The history of confronting violence against women at the international level includes the following important events:

  • 1979. The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women in recommendations 12 and 19 recognized violence as discrimination against women;
  • 1993 year. Violence against women was recognized as a violation of human rights at the World Conference on Human Rights;

Sexual assault effects on society

According to reports from the World Health Organization, violence against women increases the costs of the health care system, as women survivors need more medical care, including expensive ones, than women who have not been subjected to violence. Numerous studies confirm the link between violence against women and international violence. As these studies show, abuse of women in society is one of the most reliable predictors of violence at the state and interstate level.

Violence at various stages of a woman’s life

The UNICEF report proposes the following classification of violence against women according to the age stage of their life.

Life Span Type of Violence
Infancy Murder of newborn girls; moral and sexual abuse, physical abuse; unequal access to food and health care
Childhood Early marriages; female circumcision; sexual assault and psychological abuse by relatives and strangers; unequal access to food and health care; child prostitution and pornography
Teenage years Violence during dating and courtship; coerced sex through economic pressure; incest; sexual harassment in the workplace; rape; the rape of the wife by the husband; forced prostitution and pornography; trafficking in women; forced pregnancy
Reproductive age Partner violence; the rape of the wife by the husband; dowry abuse and murder; partner murder; psychological bullying; sexual harassment in the workplace; sexual assault; rape; forced prostitution and pornography; trafficking in women; abuse of women with disabilities
Elderly age Sexual assault; psychological bullying and physical abuse

Types of violence against women

Domestic violence

Women are at the highest risk of violence from people with whom they have close relationships, primarily from intimate partners. The share of domestic violence in violence against women can be estimated by the following example: from 40% to 70% of women murders are committed by their husbands or partners. Domestic violence can take the form of not only physical but also psychological and verbal abuse. Women who are victims of intimate partner violence often do not report violence to the police, so many experts believe that the real scale of the problem is difficult to assess. For women, the risk of dying at the hands of an intimate partner is much higher than for men. In the United States in 2005, 1181 women and 329 men were killed by intimate partners. In England and Wales, partners or former partners kill about 100 women each year, with 21 men killed in 2010. In France, 122 women and 24 men were killed by partners or ex-partners in 2011.

Violence in intimate relationships also occurs in relationships between women, in particular between mothers and daughters, in lesbian relationships, between roommates or apartment mates.

Gang violence

Sometimes women are abused by groups of people. In 2010, Amnesty International reported on group sexual assaults on single women in the city of Hassi Messaoud in Algeria. According to human rights activists, the victims were attacked not only because they were women but also because they were lonely and economically independent.

Violence as part of national customs

In many countries, there are traditions and customs associated with violence against women. These are, in particular, female genital mutilation, forced marriage, including bride kidnapping, honor killings.

State violence

War and militarism

Militarism leads to an increase in violence against women. Since ancient times, wars have been accompanied by rape. During times of war, occupation authorities often force women into prostitution or sexual slavery.

Raphael Grugman in the book “Woman and War. From love to violence”, spoke about the massive military rapes during World War II, absolutely all the armies of the Hitlerite and anti-Hitler coalition stained themselves with this, about the rape of “our” and “other people’s” women, forced prostitution, soldier brothels, “children of war” born in the occupied territories, and noted three characteristic signs of military rape.

  1. Publicity. They are performed openly, in full confidence in permissiveness. There is no fear of punishment, the assailant in military uniform does not consider his actions to be criminal (assailants definition – “a person who physically attacks another”);
  2. Gang rape. According to rapists, it “unites the collective” (as well as drinking alcohol together). “Heroes”do not fear sexually transmitted diseases and proudly call themselves “baby brothers”;
  3. The murder of a woman after adult sexual abuse. The first two signs are provoked by a violation of the demographic imbalance, the need for sexual release and temporary clouding of the mind, but the murder of a raped woman is a crime that has no justification.

Massive war rape occurred in wars at the turn of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

Police and government officials

It is much more difficult for victims to report the violence in cases where police officers abuse their position and carry out physical or sexual violence against women. Human rights activists report numerous cases of psychological, physical and sexual violence against women by law enforcement officials around the globe.