Concepts and methods

Background to the project

Sexual violence is ubiquitous; it occurs in every culture, in all levels of society and in every country of the world. The true extent of sexual violence in the European Union (EU) is unknown, however available data suggest that worldwide nearly one in five women may suffer rape or attempted rape by an intimate partner in their lifetime. Further up to one-third of women describe their first sexual experience as forced. For many young women, sexual violence begins in childhood and adolescence.
The former UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women has stated, underreporting of sexual assault “might arise from the fear of being re-victimised in the criminal justice system, of not being believed, from self-blame and from failure by rape victims to equate their experience with the legal definition of rape”. Women may fear that they would be blamed for the assault, or believe that reporting would place them or their families in danger of retaliatory violence.
Sexual violence can profoundly affect the physical, emotional, mental and social well-being of victims. It is associated with a number of health consequences, including: unwanted pregnancy; gynaecological complications; sexually transmitted diseases; depression; post-traumatic stress disorder; and suicidal thoughts and behaviour. Victims may also face ostracism from family, friends and their communities.
Surveys suggest that in Europe 6-45% of women have been assaulted by an intimate partner or ex-partner at some time in their life. In the EU, surveys from selected countries show that between 2-6% of women have been sexually assault in the previous 5 years. Reliable routine data is lacking.
This project has arisen from a compelling need to improve standards of sexual violence services in Europe.

Sexual Violence definition

The Comparing Sexual Assault Interventions project uses the World Health Organization definition of sexual violence as:
‘Any sexual act, attempt to obtain a sexual act, unwanted sexual comments or advances, or acts to traffic, or otherwise directed, against a person’s sexuality using coercion, by any person regardless of their relationship to the victim, in any setting, including but not limited to work and home’.

Source -
The terms rape, sexual assault, sexual abuse and sexual violence are generally considered to be synonymous, and for the purposes of the Comparing Sexual Assault Interventions project the terms are used interchangeably.  
Rape Myths

Rape myths are beliefs about sexual assault that are untrue, or often untrue.  
A common rape myth is that sexual assault is most likely to be committed by a stranger in a public place, for example walking home late at night, and will result in physical injuries.
In fact, the vast majority of sexual assaults are committed by perpetrators who are are known to the victim, such as partners or ex-partners,  and sexual assault often occurs in private and physical injuries are uncommon.
Rape myths impact on how a victims responds to the attack, levels of reporting and accessing support.
Links to information about rape myths:

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Concepts and methods