By Isabell Schuster, See the Triumph International Ambassador
Sexual violence is a serious problem all over the world, affecting the survivor’s well-being in different negative ways. Although sexual victimization is highly prevalent among women and recent studies suggest that it also affects men in a considerable proportion, the issue of sexual violence is still not getting the attention and awareness that it should get.
A recent study with college students in Germany (Krahé & Berger, 2013) has shown that it is highly prevalent with one out of three women and one out of five men reporting that they experienced sexual activities against their will since the age of 14, the age of consent in Germany. Normally, less than 10% of the incidents are reported to the police, with an even smaller conviction rate.
Perpetrators are most commonly intimate partners or friends, making one’s home not the safe place that it should be. However, myths about sexual violence skew the perception of this phenomenon by suggesting that perpetrators are in most cases strangers who attack women in a park when it is dark. Moreover, not only the personal perception but also legislation may be influenced by these myths. For example, until 1997 marital rape was not covered by German law.
What is considered sexual victimization in a legal standpoint was debated recently in Germany. For years, survivors had to prove that the perpetrator used physical violence, threat of imminent danger to life, or took advantage of a situation where the survivor was at the perpetrator's mercy. A ‘no’ was not sufficient. But a few weeks ago, the German parliament passed a new law, clarifying that ‘no means no’. Women’s organizations put efforts for years to change this law but especially recent events and developments in Germany have pushed the topic into the spotlight.
First, there was a wave of attacks, including sexual violence, at New Years Eve and second, a case of non-conviction became a high media presence since there was a video of the incident where non-consent was expressed. This prompted a campaign for a law reform ‘no means no’. Finally, a few weeks ago the law passed with a huge number of MP in favor for this vote, meaning a big step forward for German law, society, and especially survivors.
Krahé, B., & Berger, A. (2013). Men and women as perpetrators and victims of sexual aggression in heterosexual and same-sex encounters: A study of first-year college students in Germany. Aggressive Behavior, 39, 391–404. doi:10.1002/ab.21482