Abuse of Power and Sexual Assaults
There are thousands of instances where a person holding a powerful position engages in sexual assault or abuse. The person could be a workplace superior, doctor, teacher, coach, priest, etc.
Perpetrators who abuse power to sexually harass or assault victims can be anyone. Though sexual assaults are so named, they are not about sex or love between two people. They are about using sex to exert authority or dominance.
That is why a large number of sexual assault cases involve the violation of power by people of power and authority. Since such people are known and trusted in society, the victim feels helpless in the situation.
For a victim of sexual assault, it becomes a mammoth challenge to face the perpetrator due to the latter’s high-ranking position.
What is Sexual Assault?
Sexual assault refers to any type of sexual activity or conduct which is done against the wishes or consent of the victim. The perpetrator uses a range of intimidating tactics to exert control over the victim.
The tactics may include manipulating the victim in one way or another, humiliating the victim, or even using physical force for control and gratification
Whichever tactic or method the perpetrator uses doesn’t matter. All actions or words of sexual nature against the victim’s consent are considered to be sexual assault or sexual abuse.
Perpetrators of sexual abuse may come from different backgrounds or fields of work, but they often people in roles of authority.
- Gym owners
- Priests and clergy members
- Police officers
These perpetrators take advantage of the influential positions they hold. Since people trust them so much and hold them in high regard, it becomes easy for perpetrators to engage in acts of sexual assault.
The use of physical force in cases of sexual abuse is uncommon. On the other hand, the victim usually does not have any visible injuries.
Examples: Sexual Abuse and Violation of Power
The USA Gymnastics sex abuse scandal. Many female athletes alleged that the USAG national team doctor, Larry Nassar, sexually abused them; some for many years. The scandal also involved gym owners, coaches, and USAG staff.
The Indianapolis Star published the first report on this sex scandal in September 2016. In the U.S., the USAG sex abuse scandal is one of the largest, with hundreds of women filing lawsuits against Nassar.
After pleading guilty to child pornography and first-degree sexual assault charges, Nassar was sentenced to prison.
The USAG disregarded the warnings in many of these incidents. In fact, it admitted doing so officially in a 2013 lawsuit.
In an Associated Press investigation, it was found that around 1,700 priests and clergy members, who were credibly accused of sexual abuse, have now taken up roles such as teachers, coaches, and counselors.
Since these priests and monks left the church, they have perpetrated several crimes which include sexual assault and possession of child pornography, the AP’s problem found.
The clergy abuse scandal of the early 2000s was a massive one and it had been going on for around two decades. After the first series of sexual assault incidents hit the Roman Catholic dioceses, the Dallas Charter came into existence.
It was set up for sexual abuse reporting and training to prevent such assaults. Some lawyers raised concern for bringing more transparency in the diocese system of functioning and making the names of the accused priests and monks public.
The majority of dioceses, however, decided against making the list public. Some dioceses did give out the list either by choice or under the burden of lawsuit settlements.
The survivors of the sexual abuse complained that the cases were reported unfairly and that many names of priests and clergy members were withheld. “The Dallas Charter was supposed to fix everything. But that didn’t happen,” said the Rev. Thomas Doyle, a canon lawyer who alerted the bishops of the rampant abuse.
How the Abuse of Power Happens
Many incidents of sexual assault have the same basic narrative. The perpetrator holds a position of authority or dominance and engages in an act of sexual abuse to establish control over the victim.
Examination of such acts of sexual misconduct reveals the unequal power equation between the perpetrator and the victim.
The perpetrator is an authority figure who uses his position to exert control whereas the victim has less or no power so the victim finds it extremely difficult to confront the perpetrator.
So, the perpetrator continues to violate the victim unless the latter musters up the courage to speak up. In most cases of sexual assault, the abuse starts with small misconduct. Then, it goes on to increase over time. The majority of the perpetrators are men. The majority of victims are females.
How Sexual Assault and Power are Connected
The connection between sexual assault and violation of power becomes evident when you understand that sexual assault isn’t about sex. In fact, sexual assault or abuse is actually an act of violence.
In an incident of sexual abuse, the authority figure tries to get into a stronger position than the victim so that the former can control the situation. So, the perpetrator tries to use various means such as coercion, manipulation, and physical force.
What motivates these perpetrators to engage in acts of sexual violence is their understanding that they are much more powerful than the victim. They also know that the victim is fully aware of their great power and authority.
You must have heard about sexual abuse in workplaces, where a manager or senior-level professional victimizes their executive. It is not just the workplace where such acts of sexual violence happen.
In fact, stories of sexual assaults have risen from numerous places and settings and the narrative is often similar; someone with greater authority victimizes someone with less or no power.
Have You Been a Victim of Sexual Assault?
Anyone can become a victim of sexual abuse, regardless of their age, gender, caste, religious and economic background. If you have been a victim of sexual abuse, first of all, you should never feel ashamed or isolated.
Perpetrators exercise their authority to control the situation as best as they could. But, as a victim, you should know that you have the power to control the situation, provided you take the right steps at the right time.
All calls are confidential and protected by the attorney-client privilege even if the attorney-client relationship is not officially established.