Sexual violence is an everyday reality that impacts millions of people around the world. This violence can take many forms, including but not limited to rape; sexual abuse; and molestation, including when committed in the context of domestic violence.
While anyone can be a victim of sexual violence, structural misogyny, and systematic inequality mean that women and girls are much more likely to experience sexual violence and much less likely to perpetrate it than men. Because the vast majority of victims are women and girls and almost all perpetrators are men, sexual violence is a form of gender-based violence that can only be eliminated by tackling the root causes of sexism.
Over her lifetime, one in three women will experience physical or sexual violence — regardless of age, background, or country — which means that sexual violence impacts women and girls in epidemic proportions. However, despite the pervasiveness of these crimes, laws around the world are insufficient, inconsistent, not systematically enforced, and, in some instances, even promote and perpetuate sexual violence.
1 in 3 women
globally will experience violence, including intimate partner violence or rape
1 in 10 girls
under 20 have experienced forced intercourse or other forced sexual acts
How we will end sexual violence
At Equality Now, we support justice actors from around the world to understand how a comprehensive, gender-sensitive investigation and prosecution, properly conducted, would lead to improved justice for survivors of sexual violence. Because all acts of sexual violence are about power, control, and entitlement and not sexual desire, there are universal pillars that can be applied to prevent and end the practice. At Equality Now, we know that ending sexual violence everywhere requires:
Laws that stigmatize victims and hinder the possibility for justice and accountability must be replaced by laws that reflect the true nature of sexual violence, exclude negative stereotypes and myths, and are informed by the experiences of survivors.
Good laws are a critical first step, but they alone are not enough to prevent sexual violence and deliver justice to survivors. Laws are only effective if they are properly implemented and that requires educating the population on their rights and properly training those who are tasked with carrying out the law.
Marginalized groups are more likely to experience sexual violence, and to have had negative interactions with the criminal justice system. An intersectional lens must be integrated into laws, policies, and procedures and followed from the outset as every survivor is entitled to justice and support, and systems must be designed to cater for a diverse range of needs and identities.
Equality Now is working to explore what additional partnerships are needed to tackle sexual violence and ensure all women and girls, including and especially from marginalized communities, are served by the system. By taking an ecosystems approach to building support mechanisms for all women and girls, victims/survivors of sexual violence, throughout the justice process and pathways to it, can collaborate to ensure all voices are represented and promote a properly functioning ecosystem of support.
Explore our work on sexual violence by region
Explore our publications and resources on sexual violence
Sexual Violence and Disability in Kyrgyzstan: Law, Policy, Practice and Access to Justice
28 May 2023
Globally, an estimated 736 million women have been subjected to physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence, non-partner...
Sexual Violence Laws In Eurasia: Towards a consent-based definition
23 January 2023
This report examines legal provisions relating to sexual violence in five Eurasian countries – Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyr...
Failure to Protect: How Discriminatory Sexual Violence Laws and Practices are Hurting Women, Girls, and Adolescents in the Americas
16 September 2021
Being able to live a life free from violence, including sexual violence, is a fundamental human right. Despite this, sexual v...
Weak legal protections and inadequate funding put women and girls in Mexico at greater risk of sexual violence
January 23, 2024
>> Leer en Español Women’s rights groups raise concerns with the UN Human Rights Council over Mexico’s discriminatory ra...
January 16, 2024
Equality Now Statement of Support for Dina Smailova Equality Now would like to extend our support for Dina Smailova, a human ...
January 8, 2024
Criminal justice systems in South Asia are failing women despite stark statistics on the prevalence of violence. WHO estimate...
None of us can afford to sit back and wait for equality to arrive – we need to act now. Only by working together will we achieve the legal and systemic change needed to address violence and discrimination against women and girls.
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Equality Now does not provide direct support for those experiencing sexual violence. If you or someone you know is experiencing sexual violence there are secure, confidential and free resources available.
If you are in Lebanon:
If you are in the US:
- Call the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network(RAINN) at 800-656-HOPE (4673) or click here to chat live online.
If you are in the UK:
- Call Rape Crisis England & Wales on 0808 802 9999 (12:00 - 14:30 and 19:00 - 21:30 daily)
- Call Rape Crisis Scotland on 08088 01 03 02
- Call Women’s Aid Northern Ireland on 0808 802 1414, or email email@example.com
If you are in Europe, you may find this directory of organizations useful.