Number of incidents of sexual violence reported per 10,000 population

Number of incidents of sexual violence reported per 10,000 population

Number of incidents of sexual violence reported per 10,000 population

This is the rate of sexual violence occurences in a given population.  For this indicator, the reference population in an emergency setting is almost always a refugee camp, but it can also be a village, large shelter, etc.

This indicator is calculated as:

(# of incidents of sexual violence reported in specified reference period/Total reference population) x 100

In the emergency phase, sexual violence incidents are most commonly defined as rape.

Data Requirement(s):

Information on the number of incidents of sexual violence reported within a specified period of time (e.g., 6 months) and information on the total number of people in the population of interest

Reports of sexual violence incidents filed with any authority, such as UNHCR protection or other staff, police, local authorities, or health facility staff

The term “sexual violence” covers “all forms of sexual threat, assault, domestic violence, interference and exploitation including involuntary prostitution, statutory rape and molestation without physical harm or penetration” (UNHCR, 1995). In the emergency phase, rape is the form of sexual violence that receives most attention. Note, however, that reproductive health programs should include prevention and response to other forms of sexual violence, as well as gender-based violence, after the emergency phase.

Sexual violence is strongly associated with situations of forced population movement.  In this context, all actors in the emergency response must be aware of this issue and preventive measures must be put in place. The UNHCR’s Guidelines for Prevention and Response to Sexual Violence Against Refugees (1995) should be adhered to in the emergency response. Measures for assisting refugees who have experienced sexual violence, including rape, must also be established in the early phase of an emergency.

Women who have experienced sexual violence should be referred for health services as soon as possible after the incident.  Protection staff should also be involved in providing protection and legal support to survivors of sexual violence.

Key actions to reduce the risk of sexual violence and respond to survivors during the emergency, include the following:

  • Design and locate refugee camps, in consultation with refugees, to enhance physical security;
  • Ensure the presence of female protection, health staff, and interpreters;
  • Include the issues of sexual violence in the health coordination meetings;
  • Ensure refugees are informed of the availability of services for survivors of sexual violence;
  • Provide medical response to survivors of sexual violence, including emergency contraception as appropriate; and
  • Identify individual or groups who may be particularly at risk to sexual violence (single female heads of households, unaccompanied minors, among others), and address their protection and assistance needs

Where possible, the evaluator should obtain data on age and sex-specific incidence rates.

violence, emergency

Reported sexual violence in emergency settings almost always involves female victims and male assailants. Sexual violence against women occurs during all phases of an emergency:

(1) Emergency

Sexual violence has been an instrument to persecute, humiliate, torture, and dominate women and their families.  Systematic and politically motivated sexual violence has led many communities and individuals to seek asylum in other areas or countries.  (UNHCR, 1993).

(2) Exodus

Women are particularly vulnerable during the process of relocation while crossing military lines, areas of civil conflict, and borders.  Perpetrators at this stage are most likely to include bandits, smugglers, border guards, police, members of military forces, and civilians from the host population.

(3) Post-Emergency/Stabilization/Settlement

Refugee or internally displaced women have been subjected to many forms of sexual violence: rape, sexual extortion, sexual molestation and threats, and forced prostitution.  Women in emergency situations are vulnerable when regarded as sexual property by male refugees and camp guards, when coerced to have sex in return for basic needs, and when subjected to attackers while traveling long distances to ration distribution points.  (UNHCR 1999).

Many acts of sexual violence against women in emergency settings go unreported because women fear acts of retribution, are ashamed, fear rejection by a spouse or by the community, feel powerless, lack support, or distrust public/refugee services.  A gender appropriate response to sexual violence includes the presence of female medical staff to attend women who have been exposed to sexual violence, a safe environment for reporting sexual violence that respects confidentiality, and integrated care for women exposed to sexual violence (including medical care, psychosocial care, and protection). [UNHCR, 1999]

Related content

Sexual and Gender-Based Violence