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Types & Early Warning Signs of Gender Violence

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Gender violence, which often reinforces structural inequities, comes in many forms, including sexual harassment and violence, human trafficking and slavery, and toxic relationships. Also known as gender-based violence (GBV), this global systemic issue transcends race, socioeconomic status, assigned gender, among other factors.

While it can impact anyone, gender violence is especially prevalent against women. Recent analysis from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates “one in three women will experience sexual or physical violence in their lifetime.” These tragedies are only magnified in times of crisis. Emerging data has found an “increase in calls to domestic violence helplines in many countries” since the coronavirus pandemic, states UN Women’s article “The Shadow Pandemic: Violence Against Women During COVID-19.” 

It’s therefore crucial to detect and monitor early signs of gender violence in real-time to create actionable solutions and potentially save lives. 

Sexual Harassment & Violence

Sexual harassment involves any “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature,” according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

These behaviors can include catcalls, derogatory remarks about someone’s gender, making conditions of employment dependent on sexual favors, coercion and manipulation into sexual activity, or unwanted touching or physical contact, states an analysis from U.S.-based, anti-sexual assault nonprofit RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network).

Throughout these forms of harassment, the perpetrator takes advantage of their own power in an attempt to control another person. As a UN guide about sexual harassment notes, such conduct is “unwelcome whenever the person subjected to it considers it unwelcome.”

Sexual violence or assault occurs when a perpetrator inflicts unconsented sexual contact or behavior on a victim, usually of a physical nature. Examples include forcing a victim to perform sexual acts, incest, and rape.

Statistics demonstrate sexual violence is tragically prevalent.

In its recent data analysis, UN Women reports that women and girls are disproportionately impacted by sexual violence:

  • Around 736 million women globally have been victims of physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence, non-partner sexual violence, or both at least once
  • In 2018, about one in seven women had experienced physical and/or sexual violence from an intimate partner in the last 12 months
  • 37% of women aged 15 to 49 living in countries classified by the Sustainable Development Goals as “least developed” have been victims of physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence 
  • 137 women are killed by a member of their family every day

Sexual violence or assault occurs when a perpetrator inflicts unconsented sexual contact or behavior on a victim, usually of a physical nature.

The frequency of global rape varies depending on the region. However, despite these staggering findings, sexual violence continues to go largely unreported. Out of every 1,000 sexual assaults, only 310 are reported to police, meaning that more than two of three go unreported, according to research conducted by RAINN.

This chronic underreporting is largely due to fear of retaliation, stigma, desire to protect the perpetrator, and lack of support, and is only intensified by the pandemic, according to the UN Peacekeeping agency and Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict. 

These factors not only shame or frighten victims into silence, but perpetuate harmful, disempowering stigmas about sexual violence, enabling it to continue. 

International sexual assault and violence hotlines are available as a confidential resource for those needing to talk with someone trained to help.


Human Trafficking & Slavery

Human trafficking involves the exploitation of men, women, and children for sexual and labor purposes. These victims are often coerced, forced, threatened, deceived by fictional work or promises of a better life, lured to escape poverty or discrimination, or a combination of other types of fraud, manipulation, or grooming. 

A modern form of slavery that commodifies human lives, traffickers target vulnerable victims of any gender or race and profit at their expense by forcing them to perform labor or engage in commercial sex, according to the U.S. Department of State. 

Forced labor, or “labor trafficking,” is the process by which traffickers coerce and forcibly compel someone to work. The circumstances and forms of coercion vary. Traffickers might impose bondage or debt to be paid (debt bondage), completely confine a domestic worker to their employment (domestic servitude), force children into slavery-like situations (forced child labor), or unlawfully recruit child soldiers.

Sex trafficking, another horrifying element of gender violence, includes forced sex acts (such as prostitution) by coercion through violence, force, fraud, psychological threats, or any combination of these means, according to the U.S. State Department. Tragically, it impacts both adults and children.

Human trafficking cases have been found in every country of the world, humanitarian aid organization World Vision International cites in its factsheet titled “Understanding Human Trafficking and Slavery.”

Modern slavery imprisons an estimated 40.3 million people, according to the most recent figures. Among those enslaved, 24.9 million are forced into labor and 15.4 million into marriage, according to an analysis by the International Labor Organization, a UN agency for fair labor standards. Women and children are also disproportionately affected by forced labor, it reads—with one in four victims of modern slavery children, and women comprising 99% of victims in the commercial sex industry.

Several international human trafficking hotlines are available for victims or others to report a crime. Hotlines for unlisted territories are also available by region through an internet search.

Human trafficking involves the exploitation of men, women, and children for sexual and labor purposes.

Toxic Relationships

In a recent fact sheet, the World Health Organization (WHO) deems violence against women—particularly intimate partner violence and sexual violence—not only a human rights violation, but a “major public health problem.”

Almost one-third (27%) of women 15 to 49 years old who have been in a relationship have been subject to some form of physical and/or sexual violence by their intimate partner, it continues.

Toxic relationships can manifest in different ways across age groups and cultures, but there is one constant shared with other related forms of partner abuse: the leveraging of power and control—often through existing power imbalances—to undermine another person.

In toxic relationships, there is usually a “pattern of behaviors used to gain or maintain power and control,” according to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, a confidential service for domestic violence victims in the United States and its territories.  

While partners might appear ideal in the early stages of relationships, toxic warning signs become more apparent throughout time, according to additional resources from the 24-hour program. 

These behaviors can include: 

  • Criticism
  • Extreme Jealousy
  • Isolation From Family or Friends
  • Insults or Demeaning Comments (Especially Around Others)
  • Prevention From Making Personal Decisions
  • Pressure to Have Sex
  • Pressure to Use Drugs or Alcohol 
  • Intimidation & Threats
  • Destroying Belongings

Sexual violence is also rarely an isolated instance, and frequently occurs alongside other physical and emotional abuse, an analysis by RAINN states. Oftentimes, many women physically assaulted by their intimate partner have also been sexually assaulted by that same partner, it continues.

Resources are available for survivors of domestic violence in Spain. Victims can dial 016, 600-000-016 via WhatsApp, or email

The U.S. National Domestic Violence Hotline is available 24/7 by calling 1-800-799-7233(SAFE) or texting “START” to 88788. Various other national options are also searchable by region.

Though world leaders might rely on government reports about gender violence to inform new litigations, this can be time-consuming—especially in the face of such widespread human rights violations. 

Up-to-the-minute technology and information via artificial intelligence (AI) helps leaders make more contextual, effective, and timely decisions. 

In the midst of what’s been called the “Preventable Pandemic” by the United Nations, it’s critical world leaders utilize this evolving technology to detect and monitor early warning signs of gender violence, with the hope of creating more complete social understanding and real-time, actionable solutions.

The Citibeats platform leverages ethical AI for social understanding. By interpreting unstructured data in real-time, we generate insights about gender equality narratives to create actionable solutions. 

Beyond gender violence, our comprehensive suite sheds light on some of today’s most pressing topics, such as migration, sustainability, and vaccines. Schedule a demo today to discuss how Citibeats can inform your community’s decisions with up-to-date information.