Sexual violence encompasses a range of non-consensual acts, behaviours and experiences that include rape, sexual abuse, sexual assault, sexual harassment and stalking. Sexual violence is a crime that can be committed by people of all genders and it can be perpetrated by friends, family members, colleagues, partners, spouses, and strangers. Importantly, survivors of sexual violence include people of both genders and all ages – women, men, boys, and girls.
The traumatic nature of sexual violence can be experienced as a life-threatening event in which all systems of the body and mind are highly activated, but survivors are not necessarily able to discharge that energy from the body. This residual build-up of tension can create ongoing disruptions – physically, emotionally and energetically. Physical contact is not always a component of sexual violence and words, images, and threats can be just as violent and traumatic, and can create similar disruptions as those experienced by survivors who are physically touched.
It is important to acknowledge that sexual violence and sexual trauma occur along a spectrum and we cannot quantify the impact of such experiences based solely on the nature of the abuse or experience that occurred. Research tells us that it is not necessarily the act itself that creates the traumatic response, but also the feelings, sensations, and the fears – as well as unprocessed energy – that were evoked prior to, during, and after the event that create disruption for the person. It is more about the person’s experience of what happened to them, the event/s stirred up inside of them and how it has changed them, and not necessarily the specific details themselves. In an effort to cope, many people will minimise their experience by thinking it wasn’t “as bad” as what happens to other people, because we live in a society that has, in many ways, created a hierarchy of sexual violence/sexual trauma from bad to worst based on ignorance, rape culture, lack of empathy and compassion, and plain carelessness.
How can we go about bringing these experiences, struggles and trauma to light? How do we go from ignorance, lack of information, rape culture, etcto informed education, understanding, empathy and survivor culture?
Open And Citizen-Generated Data.
Citizen-generated data is data that people, or their organisations produce to directly monitor, demand or drive change on issues that affect them. It is generated in a number of ways, including surveys, SMS (short message service – text via mobile phones), phone calls, emails, reports, storytelling, sensors and social media. It can be quantitative or qualitative, structured or unstructured, open or closed. It comes in a number of formats, ranging from numerical data in spreadsheets to text, audio or photos.
Open and citizen-generated data can help ensure that we have a better understanding of the scale of sexual violence, and its impact on victims and survivors in our society. It can help the fight against sexual violence by providing critical information on the dynamics of victimisation, the dynamics of disclosure, revictimisation trends, traumatic responses, addiction and suicide trends, etc. These insights can inform national priorities and help determine the effective paths for action on national, as well as local level, about the issue of sexual violence. Data visualisation, openly available online, and generated through data forms, can help communities and institutions influence decision makers and improve services.
Citizen-generated data plays an important role because it can complement official sources of data, fill data gaps that exist in a timely way and supplement official reporting when data quality is insufficient. Furthermore, it is gathered on themes and topics that matter to victims and survivors, flagging up issues of sexual victimisation, sexual trauma and suicide trends among victims and survivors that might otherwise be missed, which is essentially our goal at Share Anonymous.
In the end, what matters is that services providers, friends, family members, partners, and healers, all respond to the individual’s needs – that we validate their story and their reactions, and that we link them to a variety of trauma-informed resources to embark upon or continue their journey of healing. We cannot quantify the pain of sexual violence or sexual trauma, nor do we need to, but we can attend to each individual and provide him or her with the patience, care, sensitivity and compassion, which they deserve and require to recover.
Ndukwe wrote in from Lagos and can be reached at www.shareanonymous.org and http://shareanonymous.org
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