So many cases that we hear about these days regarding femicides perpetrated by the own partner, or cases no longer from people in the news, but from friends, partners, and family members who tell us stories of sexual abuse carried out by their intimate partners, and yet we continue to see video titles and interviews asking if intimate partner violence exists. Yes. It does. It happens far more often than we want to accept and there is very little being done about it.
The Office on Women’s Health defines sexual abuse as any type of sexual activity or contact in which the woman does not give her consent; however, the Pan-Hispanic dictionary of the Spanish Royal Academy defines it as “the crime of infringing on the sexual freedom of another person”. This second definition encompasses any activity, with or without physical violence, that is perpetuated without the person’s consent.
Sexual abuse can happen to women of all races and, unfortunately, all ages, and can come from a stranger or from someone who was considered trustworthy by her and her close ones. In the United States, 4 out of 10 women have reported experiencing some form of sexual abuse from a current or former partner. Today, abuse even takes the digital form. Even so, studies have shown a higher prevalence of sexual abuse by intimate partners in women between 26 and 29 years of age than in younger women, probably because the older the age, the greater the exposure to sexual violence in dating.
Commonly (although not always) the studied cases show that violence between a couple increases over time, meaning that it may start with verbal violence, hits or slaps, violence that increases until it turns into sexual violence.
Abuse and sexual violence are rooted in the assignment of roles, in gender inequality, and in the social attribution of a superior value to the masculine, all of this encompassed in a global culture of macho practices, even after decades of fighting for it to cease to be that way, in order to see all human beings through the value and respect they deserve.
In Latin America, there have been slight efforts in the last years to help the abused minorities, but this is still not enough. In Mexico, as part of the good intentions in this regard, there is the National Survey on the Dynamics of Household Relationships, which allows for a more accurate estimation of the prevalence of sexual violence between partners. In addition, in 2005, the Supreme Court of Justice finally recognized rape between spouses as a crime.
Although those efforts are going in the right direction, there is still a great deal of protection for men (and even for men who are already catalogued as perpetrators) in the vast majority of countries, particularly in Latin America.
Studies on sexual violence statistics have increased significantly in the last decade; however, more than half of the carried-out studies come from Brazil and Mexico (and they are, again, focused on the woman and not on the reasons their partners have for assaulting them); the rest of the Latin American countries still do not implement enough studies to know the real problem. These analyses help to understand the seriousness of the problem and the perception of violence by Latin American women, but they do little to eradicate it.
In addition, little is said about the multitude of consequences that sexual abuse brings to women. We talk about the physical harm, yes; but we should delve into the psychological harm, sexually transmitted diseases, unwanted pregnancies, physical aggression that includes gynecological complications or infections, fibroids, genital irritation, chronic pelvic pain, not to mention the emotional wounds.
In general, sexual abuse in couples is an issue that is gaining prominence, but there is still so much left to research about, to support and promote. There are organizations and movements such as #YoDigoNoMás, which focus on providing support to victims of sexual abuse and making them see that they are not alone. The more people unite and decide to raise their voices, the greater the impact of their efforts to eradicate this situation.
You can be part of the change, join this movement on behalf of yourself or hundreds of victims who have not been able to find their voice to speak out against this scourge.
Find the multiple options we have to get involved with the movement and make your voice heard.