Updated: Oct 25, 2018
The National Partnership to End Interpersonal Violence (NPEIV) is committed to ending all forms of sexual violence against all people across the lifespan. The NPEIV recognizes that the response to sexual violence in law and society has been pervasively and disproportionately ineffective. Therefore, NPEIV is committed to (1) providing leadership to identify the root causes of such ineffective response and recommend legal and policy reforms along with strategies for implementation via legislative, judicial and executive branch actions at the state and federal level and (2) collaborating with the diverse group of disciplines and stakeholders at all levels to devise complimentary primary, secondary, and tertiary prevention programs and policies to eliminate sexual violence.
Sexual violence is both a human and civil rights issue. The impact of sexual violence is felt in all communities by survivors of all ages, classes, and genders. The secrecy and shame that are common aftereffects of sexual assault contribute to a well acknowledged lack of reporting amongst all victims. Therefore, it is difficult to accurately state how many people are victims of sexual violence, and who the perpetrators are. What can be stated with confidence is that an unconscionable number of children and adults experience sexual violence.
The aftermath of sexual violence can affect all areas of a survivor’s life including, but not limited to, interpersonal relationships, reproductive, physical and mental health, as well as the overall sense of safety and spiritual well-being. The cultural and historical experiences of different groups also play a significant role in the sexual violence narrative. As such, it is important to recognize how institutional racism and gender bias have exacerbated the experiences of survivors from certain groups (such as women and ethnic minority and LGBTQ communities). Adequately addressing these impacts must be a part of developing a holistic, trauma-informed, and systemic approach to reducing the epidemic levels of sexual violence in our society.
“Sex” and “gender” based violence can be redressed in a variety of legal venues, including criminal and civil court. It can also constitute a “civil rights” violation and be addressed not only in criminal and civil court, but also in grievance procedures, especially in connection with employment and education. Many states also have civil rights statutes and constitutional provisions that extend the scope of legal protection to all areas of public life, and in some jurisdictions, to private life as well.
Sexual violence is often the subject of politicized controversies, fueled by misconceptions about gender norms and the underlying reasons and motivations behind perpetration. These misconceptions perpetuate harmful ideas about sexual violence and exacerbate distrust between groups, making partnerships among key stakeholders in the fight to end sexual violence difficult to establish and maintain. The degree of tolerance for sexual violence in the cultural environment deters reporting and inhibits legal redress in civil and criminal courts, as well as in military, educational, tribal, and workplace settings. In turn, society’s awareness and understanding of the problem as a public concern is diminished, health and safety are compromised, and survivors are less likely to achieve justice and/or obtain necessary support and treatment.
The NPEIV approach to sexual violence policy evolves from the fundamental principles of autonomy, equality, voice, access to justice, access to services, public health and safety, and prevention. Each of these principles is defined below and will serve as the NPEIV guideposts as we seek to identify laws and policies that best promote these principles or, conversely, prevent these principles from being realized in society.
The freedom of an individual to make un-coerced, informed, intelligent, and voluntary decisions, and to have laws and policies that prioritize and promote concepts of personal autonomy and bodily integrity as fundamental human and constitutional rights.
Gender equality in the context of sexual violence means such violence is redressed in all legal venues at a rate and in a manner equal to the redress of other forms of violence, free from unjust skepticism and stereotypes, and under exactly the same substantive and procedural legal standards and protections as violence that occurs on the basis of other protected class categories such as race and national origin.
Voice means having the right to be heard in all legal venues whenever a victim’s substantive or procedural rights are threatened or violated, whether by the state or private actor, and irrespective of established precedent providing such right to be heard.
Access to Justice:
Access to justice means having an enforceable right to seek redress of all harms related to sexual violence in all legal venues, including a right to judicial review.
Access to Services:
Access to services means having an enforceable right to receive trauma-informed treatment, advocacy, and support related to all harm associated with sexual violence.
Public Health and Safety:
Current responses to sexual violence typically focus on intervention after an assault has occurred. Public health approaches to sexual violence direct our efforts on prevention of sexual violence before it is perpetrated. Public health approaches also move beyond ensuring the health of individuals, to the health and safety of an entire population by addressing risk and protective factors related to all levels of social ecology.
Prevention focuses on all efforts (primary, secondary, tertiary) intended to stop the perpetration of unhealthy, harmful, dangerous, and illegal behavior and acts, as well as victimization and re-victimization by others. The prevention of sexual violence involves understanding both risk and protective factors related to the promotion, inhibition, and elimination of its perpetration
 This policy statement is intended to provide an overarching framework from which to view all types of sexual violence. Additional position papers addressing specific types of sexual violence will be written separately. The position papers will include background information, statistics, and citations upon which this policy statement is based.