The Faces of Sexual Abuse
The Faces of Sexual Abuse
Written By: Simona Jellinek, Counsel
CONTENT WARNING: This blog discusses some of the most sensitive topics in our society today, including sexual assault and abuse. We understand that these realities may be difficult for many people to discuss. We encourage you to care for your safety and well-being. If you ever feel unsafe, please call 911.
If you were asked to picture the face of someone who has experienced sexual abuse or a sexual assault, who would come to mind?
You may think of well-known cases of institutional sexual abuse that have come to light in recent years. Perhaps the face of a celebrity who has bravely shared their own story would flash before your eyes. Or you may not be able to picture anyone's face clearly at all - but instead, you would draw on media portrayals and popular culture to envision someone - a stereotype - in the abstract.
Sadly, often without knowing it, many of us could probably picture the face of someone near and dear to us. Statistics suggest that every one of us likely knows multiple people among our family members, friends and/or acquaintances who have suffered or will suffer from sexual violence at some point in their lives - whether they have disclosed it or not.
And, distressingly, your own image may be the one that appears in your mind's eye.
Knowing there are so many faces we could picture when doing this exercise speaks to how pervasive sexual violence is in our society. But despite its prevalence, sexual abuse and child sexual abuse are still very much secret crimes that remain a secret because many people simply do not want to talk about them.
In this series of blog posts, I want to encourage more people to start talking (or at least thinking) about this most personal of all personal injuries. In these posts, I will debunk some frustratingly persistent myths about sexual abuse and sexual assault and try to demystify the process of civil litigation for survivors. Whether or not you have personally experienced this kind of violation, I hope we can all come to understand our collective responsibility better to create an environment that supports survivors of sexual violence and affirms their choice to find their path to recovery and healing.
Who Are The Survivors?
It is extremely important to know that anyone can experience sexual abuse at any point in their lives. Although statistics suggest that people within certain demographics are disproportionately likely to suffer sexual abuse or sexual assaults, no one is immune to the risk of this kind of violence.
In my practice, most of my clients are adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse. This is not entirely surprising as nearly 70 per cent of reported sexual assault and abuse occur to people under the age of 17. Statistics about children who have been sexually abused suggest that one in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused before 18 years. Overwhelmingly, children who have suffered sexual abuse know their abuser, and younger children often experience abuse from family members or other close caregivers.
Members of vulnerable or marginalized communities, including the disabled, Indigenous or racialized people, LGBTQ2+ individuals, the elderly, or people receiving institutional care, are more likely to suffer from sexual abuse or sexual assaults in their lifetimes. It's estimated that for every 100 sexual assaults, only six are ever reported to the police.
While survivors have many valid reasons for declining to report these crimes to the police, the discrimination members of these vulnerable or marginalized groups have experienced in their lives can further discourage them from trusting authorities to help them.
Every person faces their own personal challenges in life that we may never know about. It is incumbent on all of us to be kind to each other so that we do not add to these challenges.
If you or someone you love has been sexually abused and don't know where to turn for help, please contact Gluckstein Lawyers, and we will be here to listen.
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