April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and this year’s theme, from the National Sexual Violence Research Center (NSVRC), is “Building Safe Online Spaces Together.” It is important to remember that sexual abuse and violence can occur in online spaces as well as in physical reality. This is particularly true for children, who may not have the skills to navigate the internet safely.
According to the NSVRC, there are numerous forms of online sexual abuse. Some of the most common include:
- Sending unwanted, sexually suggestive, violent, or hateful messages
- Sending generally pornographic images
- Sending sexually explicit or suggestive personal photos
As with all forms of sexual violence, consent is a central issue with online abuse. Sharing private images or messages, releasing recordings of sexual acts, or using suggestive language on public platforms like Zoom are all forms of sexual abuse when they occur without the express consent of everyone involved.
One of the largest threats to children online is sexual grooming. This type of sexually predatory behavior seeks to gain the trust of the victim before luring them into sexual situations. These may occur in person or online, the latter of which may involve the sending of photos, suggestive messages, and other forms of abuse.
Grooming is intended to break a person down, making them feel at fault for anything that happens to them. This may allow for sexual abuse to go unchecked as victims may feel like mistreatment is a result of their behavior. While children are the most common victims of grooming, vulnerable individuals of all ages can be targeted for this type of sexual assault.
Sexual Assault Awareness Month is intended to draw attention to the myriad forms of sexual violence impacting our communities. It is also intended to empower both victims and supporters to take action to stop abuse in the future. One in every four girls and one in twenty boys will experience sexual abuse before the age of 17. One in five women and one in 67 men will be sexually assaulted in their lives. Now is the best time to commit to stopping sexual violence and to take steps to ensure those who have suffered it are given the resources they need.
If you or someone you love needs a sexual abuse lawyer, please call The Cifarelli Law Firm at 949-502-8600 to schedule a free case review right away. We serve Los Angeles and all surrounding areas from our offices in Irvine.