Just as rape and other forms of sexual violence are a problem common to all societies, so the plight of the victim is similar whether or not she is a refugee, but it is aggravated in the case of refugees by the conditions of uprooting and exile. Beyond the brutality and trauma of the act itself, with possibly life-long psychological harm, sexual violence can result in serious physical injury, unwanted pregnancy, disease and even the death of the victim, if the rapist is infected with HIV or if the victim resorts to illegal abortion in order to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. Some refugee women victims of rape have attempted or committed suicide because of the implications of the attack for their sense of security and self-worth, as well as for their future role in society. The care of children of rape victims who are surrendered by their mothers poses special problems in refugee situations. UNHCR has also received reports of abandonment resulting in death of newborn children of rape victims.
During 1994, the Venezuelan [Association for an Alternative Sexual Education (AVESA)] provided psychological attention and legal support to two sisters in their appeal against dismissal of their charge of prolonged incest by their biological father. The guilty verdict so obtained established an historical precedent in the country and was widely publicized, demonstrating that incest is a public crime causing grave physical and emotional damage.