Sexual assault is any unwanted, forced, or coerced sexual act. Sexual assault is not sex, but a crime of violence where sex is used as a weapon, motivated by the rapists desire to have power and control over the victim. Sexual assault violates not only a person's body, but also their sense of safety and control over their life.
Who are victims of sexual assault
Anyone can be a victim of sexual assault regardless of age, race, socioeconomic status, cultural background, religion, marital status, physical or mental ability, gender, or sexual orientation. A person can be assaulted by their spouse, partner, acquaintances, or strangers.
- 1 in 6 women and 1 in 33 men in the U.S. report an attempted or completed rape in thier lifetimes.
- 20-25% of women experience attempted or completed rape during college
- 2 million injuries occur each year due to sexual violence
- 8% of American high school students report having been forced to have sex.
- Over 90% of reported sexual assaults are committed by someone the victim knows.
- Sexual assault is the most under-reported violent crime.
- Women ages 20-24 have the greatest risk and highest rates of rape and sexual assault.
- Individuals between ages 18 and 19 experience the highest rates of stalking
- The most common date rape drug is alcohol.
Men can be sexually assaulted and are less likely to report their assaults than women. An estimated 92,748 men are raped each year in the United States, and most sexual assaults of men are perpetrated by heterosexual males.
Male rape has nothing to do with sexual orientation of either the victim or the perpetrator. Rape is not an expression of sexuality, it is a crime that is motivated by a need to control, humiliate, and harm.
Common Effects of Sexual Assault
- Disbelief - denial, can't believe it happened
- Shame - feeling dirty or wanting to clean one's self
- Embarrassment - Concern about what others will think, not wanting to talk about the assualt
- Fear - of the perpetrator; that people will find out about the assault; of being pregnant or contracting a sexually transmitted disease; for ones safety; that things will never be the same again
- Anger - at the perpetrator; at others for not providing help or protection; at self
- Anxiety - nervousness, feeling on edge
Most reactions are normal responses to a traumatic experience or event, but may not feel normal when compared to reactions and feelings the victim is accustomed to.
Most violence agains women occurs within a relationship. Think about things you could do to stay safe:
- Plan to go out and hang with a group
- Go with people you feel safe with and who you know have your best interests at heart
- Look out for yourself and your friends
- Have some transportation plans to make sure you can get there and back safely
- Let someone know where your going and when you'll be home
- Alcohol and sex can be a dangerous mix.
- Avoid being alone and isolated with someone you don't know well. If you start to feel uncomfortable, go with your feelings and get to a safe place as fast as you can.
Agreeing to one type of activiity such as kissing doesn't mean there is a green light for other sexual contact. Remember it's okay to change your mind and say "no" at any stage.
How to help a survivor of sexual assault
- Believe him or her. The false reporting rate for sexual assault is only 2-5%, the same as any other type of violent crime.
- Make sure the victim is safe or has a safe place to go
- Empower the victim to make his or her own decisions
- Educate yourslef about options available to sexual assault survivors and community resources that are available. so you can provide accurate, helpful information.
- Know that it is okay if you do not feel comfortable helping a survivor yourself. Let the survivor know that you will help him or her find someone who can help.
- Miminize the survivor's experience
- Tell the survivor what they should or shouldn't do or what you would have done different
- Place partial or tatal blame on the survivor for the assualt.
REMEMBER: IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT!