Campaign helps people who experience sexual violence to get help faster

1 in 5 women (22%) and 1 in 16 men (6%) in the Netherlands have experienced sexual violence. These are sexual acts that someone is forced to perform,1 and often have a major impact. If you have had sex against your will, it is good to ask for help as soon as possible. For example, many medical, psychological and forensic options are available within seven days. For this reason, on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, the Ministry of Justice and Security is launching the ‘What can help me’ campaign to encourage people who have experienced sexual violence to seek help.

People who experience sexual violence often don’t have the courage to talk about it. People are afraid of not being believed, wonder if it was somehow their own fault or don't understand why they just froze. When faced with unwanted sex, 70% of people literally ‘freeze’ with fear. They often feel guilty about this freeze reaction. This is because people don’t expect it from themselves, even though it is a natural physical reaction. Asking for help can help people deal with such an unwanted sexual encounter.

During the first seven days, important medical, psychological and forensic options exist. These include preventing pregnancy, STDs or HIV infection, as well as psychological help to reduce the likelihood of post-traumatic stress disorder. This is important, as research shows that 47% of people who have been raped fit the post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) diagnosis three months later.2 In the first few days, DNA traces of the perpetrator can also be secured. If you wish to report the matter to the police, this will help when it comes to providing evidence.

Sander Dekker, Minister for Legal Protection:

'Victims of sexual violence often shy away from seeking help, because they don't realise that what happened to them is unacceptable, or because they're ashamed. However, asking for help can help you get your life back on track. I hope that this campaign will encourage both women and men who are victims of sexual violence to ask for help. This applies not only to people to whom this has just happened, but also to those suffering as a result of an unwanted sexual encounter in the past.'

‘What can help me’

By means of the ‘What can help me’ campaign, the Ministry of Justice and Security aims to encourage people who have had sex with someone they know against their will to seek professional help as soon as possible. Among other things, the campaign can be seen on billboards, in nightclubs, in schools and online. On the website, people who have had unwanted sexual encounters that have had a significant impact on them can discover what others have experienced and read about their feelings and doubts, as well as why they sought professional help and how this has helped them. The stories will help victims to understand that what happened to them is not OK and that professional help can benefit them.

The campaign was created in collaboration with partners such as the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport, the Dutch Centre for Sexual Violence (CSG), Victim Support Netherlands and the police.