Sexual violence is just about men’s behaviour…right?

“Most sexual assault in the UK is perpetrated by men, so preventing it is up to them, not me. Right?”

University of Leeds
3 min readFeb 21, 2024

Sexual assault affects people of all genders — 1 in 4 women and 1 in 18 men. While the majority of physical offences like rape or assault are committed by men, sexual violence is more than that. It starts with everyday language and behaviours. And we can all show up in a way that makes an impact, whether it’s reflecting on your own behaviour or calling out someone when they cross the line.

“I’ve never assaulted, raped or abused anyone. I don’t think I’m part of the problem, so how could I be part of the solution?”

The sexual violence pyramid demonstrates how sexual violence starts with attitudes and beliefs, which are often shown through language. Have you ever teased a friend for getting with too many people, or not enough? Have you ever boasted about someone you’ve gone home with? Have you ever laughed at a sexist joke, or made one yourself?

Each of these is an opportunity to change your behaviour and language, which can lead to changing attitudes and beliefs. If we can each do our bit to chip away at the bottom of the sexual violence pyramid, we can help to prevent serious physical expressions of violence like rape or assault. Find out more about sexual violence so you can recognise it and act.

The sexual violence pyramid that shows the different levels of sexual violence. This includes the foundations: sexism, ableism, racism, homophobia and transphobia; then attitudes and beliefs; normalisation of violence; removal of autonomy; and physical expression.
The pyramid of sexual violence

“I’m with you. I want to help prevent sexual violence, but nothing I do could change anyone else’s behaviour or beliefs.”

Social motivation — or in other words, peer pressure — is a major driver for behaviour change. Often we only hear about peer pressure in a negative sense, like feeling pushed to do something you’re not comfortable with. But by speaking out when something doesn’t feel right to you, or making changes to your own behaviour, you can influence other people to do better.

The bullet points below give you a starting point — what else could you do?

  • Question yourself. What’s driving your behaviour and language? If you feel uncomfortable but can’t quite put your finger on it — trust your instincts.
  • Question your mates. If they’re telling that story about that time they took someone home after buying them shots all night, don’t just laugh along. If they send you an intimate photo or video someone sent them in confidence, don’t look at it, and let them know it’s not okay. If they’re pointing out someone fit on the bus, tell them it’s weird to stare.
  • Support victims. 5 in 6 women and 4 in 5 men who have experienced sexual assault don’t report it to the police for fear of retaliation, being re-traumatised by the process, or worrying they don’t have enough evidence. The Harassment and Misconduct team can help you whether you’ve experienced something directly, or if something’s happened to someone you know and you’re worried about it.

We all have a part to play in preventing sexual violence; find out how you can get involved and make positive change. It’s time to show up for Leeds.