What is Sexual Violence?

Sexual violence is defined 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 home and work.” Sexual violence can take place in different circumstances and settings.  These include coerced sex in marriage and dating relationships, rape by strangers, systematic rape during armed conflict, sexual harassment, sexual abuse of children, sexual abuse of people with mental and physical disabilities,  forced prostitution and sexual trafficking, child marriage, denial of the right to use contraception, forced abortion and violent acts against the sexual integrity of women, including female genital cutting and obligatory inspections for virginity.

What is the SVRI?

The Sexual Violence Research Initiative is a network of people who aim to promote research on sexual violence globally and its use to improve national responses. Sexual violence is the most neglected area of gender-based violence and we see our role as trying to stimulate the development of a critical knowledge base that can be used to advocate for better policies, prevention and services for victim/survivors. 

Why is Research on Sexual Violence Important?

Sexual violence is a substantially neglected area of research.  In many parts of the world there is virtually no research.  Most of our knowledge about sexual violence internationally has been derived from work with women survivors. Very little research has been conducted on rape prevention and only a handful of theoretically-based interventions have been developed and evaluated. Interventions to respond to sexual violence are limited, they are usually not oriented towards the needs of survivors and many have not been evaluated.  Internationally the standard legal approach to the punishment of rapists results in only a very small proportion of rape perpetrators being convicted of rape. Research is needed on alternative justice models.

What Does the SVRI Do?

The central function of the SVRI is to strengthen research skills of our members and website users, and their capacity to undertake meaningful, policy and advocacy relevant research.  On the SVRI website is our global research agenda on sexual violence, tools for research, guidelines on ethics and methods and country pages where we provide access to research findings. We produce a bi-weekly e-publication that is sent to members with information on sexual violence in research and in the media, funding opportunities, conferences and so forth. We also host discussions online on issues of interest.  In order to develop the webpage we have commissioned the development of key tools for researchers such as a review of measurement tools, ethical guidelines for research with perpetrators and a manual on how to assess the quality of sexual assault health services. In addition, we have had seed money to support the development of multi-country study proposals, we have commissioned desk reviews on priority areas and hold capacity building workshops. We recently held a workshop in India. More information here.

What is the Sexual Violence Research Agenda?

The SVRI has developed a research agenda for sexual violence. The agenda was informed by a review of published literature on sexual violence, a series of SVRI facilitated international expert meetings and discussions, as well as recommendations arising from the WHO World Report on Violence and Health.  The SVRI has identified the following six priority areas for research on sexual violence.

Priority Area 1: Nature, prevalence, social context and risk factors associated with sexual Violence

Priority Area 2: Sexual violence prevention

Priority Area 3: Appropriateness and effectiveness of sexual violence services

Priority Area 4: Childhood sexual abuse

Priority Area 5: Sexual violence in conflict and emergency settings

Priority Area 6: HIV and sexual violence

Why Develop a Research Agenda on Sexual Violence?

The aim of this sexual violence research agenda is to focus attention on and funnel limited resources to redress knowledge gaps.

The research agenda serves to:

  • assist researchers to identify study questions within the areas of highest need;
  • assist donors in shaping funding programmes that are based on research gaps and priorities, and promote best use of limited research resources; and
  • inform the development of responsive and effective sexual violence services, prevention and advocacy programmes.

It is envisaged that the agenda will be an important resource for the following:

  • researchers
  • funders/donor agencies
  • policy makers
  • service planners
  • gender and human rights advocates

For more information or if you have a specific question you want answered on the SVRI e-mail, contact svri@svri.org