As more and more information has become available about the circumstances surrounding sexual violence, it has become clear that sexual violence, like other forms of violence, is an abuse of power.

Sexual violence includes: engaging in non-consensual vaginal, anal or oral penetration with another person, by the use of any body part or object; engaging in other non-consensual acts of a sexual nature with a person; or causing someone else to engage in non-consensual acts of a sexual nature with a third person.

Marital rape and attempted rape constitute sexual violence. Examples of forced sexual activities include being forced to watch somebody masturbate, forcing somebody to masturbate in front of others, forced unsafe sex, sexual harassment, and abuse related to reproduction (e.g. forced pregnancy, forced abortion, forced sterilisation, female genital mutilation).

Certain forms of sexual violence are related to a victim’s personal limits, and are more typical of the private sphere. The perpetrator deliberately violates these limits: examples include date rape, forcing certain types of sexual activities, withdrawal of sexual attention as a form of punishment, or forcing other(s) to watch (and sometimes to imitate) pornography.

All forms of sexual violence can appear in both the private and the public spheres. There are, however, three particular forms of sexual violence in the public sphere which are worth noting: sexual harassment at the workplace, sexual violence as a weapon of war and torture, and sexual violence against (perceived) LGBT+ people as a means of ‘punishment’ for abandoning prescribed gender roles.