The Violence Pyramid represents a continuum of threatened violence ranging from attitudes, to remarks, to assault. Sexual violence is a physical expression of underlying attitudes and beliefs, which can be changed.
Level 1: Attitudes and Beliefs
Sexual violence starts with attitudes and beliefs, including like racism, sexism, ableism, and homophobia. As offenders cultivate these beliefs through exposure and reinforcement by those around them, their belief that certain types of people are not equal to them is strengthened, moving them up the base of the pyramid.
Level 2: Verbal Expression
Offenders express feelings of superiority, testing the waters with jokes or stereotypical statements; even harassing others sexually, or bragging about verbally or physically marginalizing others. The offender can stagnate at this level or internalize a sense of entitlement and move up to the third and final stage of the pyramid – physical violence. Offenders normalize the dehumanization of others, and treat others as less than human.
Level 3: Physical Expression
As offenders move up the pyramid, they feel empowered by their entitlement. This is where sexual entitlement manifests as sexual violence. Offenders believe it’s their right to use sex as a means of control. They often justify the pain they inflict on others because they believe the survivor deserves the assault. They don’t feel responsible for the crime they’ve committed, and may not even recognize their actions as assault.
Source: CCASA, Violence Pyramid