Sexual violence or sexual assault is defined as conduct that abuses, humiliates, degrades or otherwise violates the sexual integrity of a person. Sexual assault can occur between persons of the opposite sex or of the same-sex. It can be verbal, visual, or anything that forces a person into unwanted sexual contact or attention. This includes sexual contact with a person who either
- does not consent
- cannot give consent.
Forms of sexual abuse:
It is important to note that according to Grenada’s 2012 amendments to the Criminal Code, definitions of different kinds of sexual violence include:
- Non-consensual sex between married persons (rape of a spouse)
- Sexual intercourse by using threat, force or duress
- Sexual intercourse with a person under 16 years, whether the person is male or female
- Sexual intercourse with a child in your care, even if the child is not your offspring
- Permitting or aiding in the defilement of a young female or male by allowing sexual abuse to occur on your premises
- Procuring, abducting or detaining of male or female persons to have sexual intercourse or trade in prostitution
- Sexual intercourse between persons who are daughter/son, father/mother, sister/brother, aunt/uncle, niece/nephew, grandparent/grandchild regardless to the age of the persons.
Therefore, except with full consent or for clear medical or professional reasons, it is illegal to do the or to attempt to do following to any person, whether female or male, child or adult:
- touch, caress, grope, fondle, kiss or deliberately make any other physical contact with another person’s body, especially their genital organs or other private parts
- penetrate a person’s vagina or anus without permission using any part of the body, whether or not it is a sexual organ, including the fingers
- penetrate a person’s vagina or anus without permission using any object that is manipulated by another person
What are the sexual offences listed in the law?
The Criminal Code and its Amendments (2012) give details about the illegal acts known as sexual violence or sexual abuse. They include:
- indecent assault;
- sexual assault;
- inducing sexual intercourse by force, duress, etc;
- sexual intercourse with a person under thirteen years;
- sexual intercourse with a person between thirteen and sixteen years;
- sexual intercourse with an imbecile;
- incest by male or female;
- sexual intercourse with a step-child, foster-child, ward or dependant;
- permitting or aiding in the defilement of a young female or male;
- trading in prostitution;
- keeping a brothel;
- rape, including marital rape;
- capital murder.
What is consent?
Consent means permission or agreement.
Do not assume that you have consent, regardless of the relationship between you and the other person. If someone does not consent and you start or continue sexual activity, it is Sexual Violence. Sometimes a person cannot give consent, even if he or she wants to or thinks he or she can.
A person cannot give consent:
- If he or she is under the influence of alcohol or drugs
- If he or she has a severe mental disability
- If he or she is under the age of consent, which is 16 years in Grenada
Who commits Sexual Violence?
Sexual abuse can be committed by family members, relatives, friends, unfamiliar persons or persons in the community. On average, most of the sexual violence are committed by someone known to the person assaulted. This includes persons who have close contact with the victim such as persons living in the same household, close relatives and friends, schoolmates, members of the same church, and people who are dating.
In which communities is sexual abuse more likely to occur?
Sexual assault is more likely to occur in households and communities where people disrespect women and girls, promote violence as a means of power, and disregard human rights. Women, girls, men and boys are vulnerable to sexual abuse. However, there is an overwhelming majority of women and girls of all age groups who are targets of sexual abuse.
Some of the myths that may cause people to commit or accept sexual violence or indicate that the community will tolerate sexual violence are:
- A man can use sexual intercourse to prove his manhood, or to show “who is boss”.
- Rape is just sexual intercourse, and has no negative effects on the victim.
- If a woman or girl chooses to dress a particular way, or go out at certain times or to certain places, she is looking for a man or boy to attack her sexually.
- Giving sexual consent previously means one cannot deny consent to the same person at another time or to another person.
- Attacking a person sexually is a sign of physical attraction.
- Men and boys cannot control their sexual urges.
- Sexual intercourse is a way to make a woman or girl belong to a man or boy, or to prove that she belongs to him.
These and other similar myths might cause persons in a society to believe that sexual activity without consent is not wrong, or that it should be expected and accepted. On the other hand, if a family or community believes that everyone must be respected as human beings on an equal basis with themselves, sexual violence is less likely to occur.
Are all cases of sexual violence reported?
No all cases of sexual violence are reported to the police, medical care provider or the GBV Unit or Child Protection Authority. Sexual assaults are extremely under-reported, and therefore the number of reported cases is only a fraction of the actual number of cases. Women and men, boys and girls, often try to cope with sexual assault without assistance out of fear that the responders and community members will not believe them or perhaps blame them for the assault.
By not reporting, the offender may get the opportunity to commit sexual violence against the same victim many times, or commit acts of sexual violence against other persons. Therefore, it is important to make a report to the appropriate authorities as soon as possible after the incident.
Do all reported cases end in prison sentence?
No. Due to difficulty proving evidence in sexual assault cases, prosecutions of offences are not easy and convictions rates across the globe are relatively low.
Sexual Abuse in Intimate Relationships
In Grenada, it is widely believed that sexual abuse among married couples is a private matter. However, the laws have been revised. Therefore, a person in an intimate relationship can make a report of rape by his or her partner or former partner. This includes in marriage, because “Rape of a Spouse” is a criminal offence, and the penalty, if convicted, is imprisonment. A person can also seek a Protection Order against his or her partner or former partner under the Domestic Violence Act because sexual abuse is recognized as a form of domestic violence.
Effects of Sexual abuse
Victims of sexual abuse may experience:
- damaged self-image
- an increased sense of vulnerability
- anxiety, fear, emotional trauma, and depression
- substance abuse
- sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV (attacker or victim)
- thoughts about suicide and suicide attempts
- physical injury
- physical conditions such as headaches
Males and sexual abuse
Men and boys are also victims of sexual violence, therefore, it is recognized and acknowledged that they can be vulnerable to sexual assault by women and girls, and by other men and boys.
Male sexual assault, like all acts of violence, is a violation of personal integrity. Similar to sexual assault against women, male sexual assault is motivated by the desire to dominate and use sex as a weapon against the victims. Male victims may also share the same reactions as women including an increased sense of vulnerability, damaged self-image and emotional distancing after a sexual assault.
Men and boys who have been sexually abused have the right to seek medical and legal services. Disclosures of issues for all survivors of sexual assault are significant. For male victims, the dominant ideas about masculinity, self-reliance, power and independence can further contribute to the fear of disclosing the assault. When sexually abused, their perceived role as a male has been “damaged”. Sexual victimization between males may also raise concerns about sexual preference and self-identity. A number of victims of male on male abuse struggle with issues of homophobia and or identifying with the offender. This will have different outcomes for heterosexual, bisexual and gay men. It will also depend on the circumstances surrounding the assault.
Precautions to prevent sexual violence
The best way to end sexual abuse is for perpetrators to stop committing it. Remember that everyone has a right to bodily integrity and to safety. NO means NO!!!
Sexual violence is NOT the victims fault! However, taking precautions to prevent sexual abuse from occurring is strongly advised. Precautions include:
- Being observant and attentive of surroundings at all times
- Teaching children (both girls and boys) what is appropriate and inappropriate touching
- If you are being sexually attacked, say NO, and fight back or escape if you can
- Avoiding dark alleyways in the late evenings or at night
- Avoiding being alone with perpetrator
- Walking in groups or pairs, especially at night
- Arming yourself with skills in self-defense
- Being mindful of consumption of alcohol and unknown substances
- Don’t drink or eat from someone you don’t trust
What can you do about sexual violence?
Don’t let perpetrators get away with sexually abusing others.
If you or someone in your care has been a victim of Sexual Abuse:
- Do not cover up the abuse.
- Report the abuse to the Police, Health Centre or Hospital, Gender-based Violence Unit or Child Protection Authority as soon as possible. It is most helpful if you do not clean yourself before you make the report. You can also tell your parent or guardian, a Counsellor, a Social Worker, or others who you can trust.
- Show support for the victim.
- Do not accept money, goods or favours as payment for sexual offences.
- Seek the justice that the law offers. The perpetrator chose to commit sexual violence, and should be punished.
- Speak out, break the silence.