The Silent, Violent Epidemic
What is Sexual Assault?
Sexual assault can be defined as “any sexual activity involving a person who does not or cannot (due to alcohol, drugs, or some sort of incapacitation) give consent” (What is Sexual Assault, 2009). Not only is sexual assault verbal, it is also visual, or anything that forces a person to join in unwanted, forced, or coerced sexual contact or attention. Therefore, sexual assault can describe many things, those of which include:
- rape, including partner and marital rape
- unwanted sexual contact (touching or grabbing)
- unwelcome exposure of another's body
- child sexual abuse
- incest or molestation
- sexual harassment
- sexual exploitation of clients by therapists, doctors, dentists, or other professionals
The act is a crime of violence where sex is used as a weapon, in which it is motivated by the desire to have power and control over the victim. Not only is a person’s body violated with sexual assault, but also one’s sense of safety and control over their life is disturbed as well. Absolutely no one, in any way, deserves to be sexually assaulted (Sexual Assault Support, 2015).
Sexual Assault Has No Preference
- Women: 1 out of every 6 American adult women have been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime, leaving more than 23 million women in the United States as victims of sexual assault. (Resources, 2015).
- Young women: Most women who have been raped were younger than 25 when the rape happened. While almost half of female victims were under 18, 15% of sexual assault and rape victims are under age 12 (Resources, 2015).
- Men: Almost 2 million men in the United States have been raped. Almost 6% of men have experienced sexual coercion, and almost 11% of men have experienced unwanted sexual contact. Males are least likely to report a sexual assault, though they make up 10 percent of all victims. About 1 in 33 American adult men have experienced an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime (Resources, 2015).
- Lesbians, gays, and bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people: Bisexual women have higher rates of sexual assault than lesbians and heterosexual women. While nearly half of all bisexual women have been raped, more than half of transgender people have been sexually assaulted (Sexual Assault, 2015). 46.4% lesbians, 74.9% bisexual women and 43.3% heterosexual women reported sexual violence other than rape during their lifetimes, while 40.2% gay men, 47.4% bisexual men and 20.8% heterosexual men reported sexual violence other than rape during their lifetimes (Statistics About Sexual Violence, 2015).
Without Consent, It Is Sexual Assault!
With consent, it means that:
- You know and understand what is going on
- You are not unconscious, blacked out, or intellectually disabled of any sort
- You know what you want to do and you are able to say exactly that
There are times, however, that you cannot give legal consent to sexual activity or contact. For example, if you are:
- Threatened, forced, coerced, or manipulated into agreeing
- Not physically able to due to being under the influence or passed out or asleep
- Not mentally able to due to an illness or disability
- Younger than 16 years old in most states or 18 in other states
With this being said, consent is a clear "yes" to sexual activity. Not saying "no" does not mean you have given consent. "It does not matter if you are dating or have ever been intimate with the person who sexually assaulted you; it does not give that person the right to force you to participate in sexual acts if you don’t want to, even if you have had sexual activity of any sort with them in the past" (Bulletins for Teens: Sexual Assault, 2012). Past consent does not mean future consent, therefore, regardless if you have had sex before, you always have the right to say “NO” and change your mind at any given time.
How To Protect Yourself:
- Use a buddy system when going to bars or parties
- Never leave any food or drink unattended
- Park only in well lit areas with a high rate of foot traffic
- Avoid walking alone at night or in dark places
- Have your keys in your hand as you are walking to your vehicle
- Know your limits when it comes to alcohol, and keep a clear head to make positive decisions
- Be aware of your surroundings and know where the exits are
- Avoid being alone with strangers
- Make sure someone knows where you are and what your plans are
- Do not accept beverages from people you don’t know
- Follow your gut and leave a negative situation
- Do not participate in activities in which you feel uncomfortable, degraded, or exploited
There are always precautions that can be taken to decrease one’s likelihood of being a victim of sexual assault!
What To Do If You Have Been Sexually Assaulted:
- Save everything that might have the attackers DNA on it: Don't take a bath, change clothes, brush your teeth or use mouthwash, use the bathroom, eat or drink anything, and do not disturb the crime scene in any way.
- Seek medical attention as soon as possible: Victims can be notified of any unknown injuries and testing for sexually transmitted diseases can also be provided.
- Reach out for help: Call a friend or family member you trust, or call a crisis center or hotline. Sexual assault is physically and emotionally traumatic.
- Report the sexual assault to the police: The sooner you tell, the sooner your attacker can be sought.
After a sexual assault experience, it can be very hard to know what to do, how to feel, or know what your options are. However, the victim should know that they are never alone. It is very important for victims to know that you have been through a traumatic experience and no matter the circumstances, it was not your fault.
My Viewpoint on Sexual Assault:
Bulletins for Teens: Sexual Assault. (2012). Retrieved November 25, 2015, from https://www.victimsofcrime.org/help-for-crime-victims/get-help-bulletins-for-crimevictims/bulletins-for-teens/sexual-assault
Resources. (2015). Retrieved November 25, 2015, from https://www.clevelandrapecrisis.org/resources/statistics/national-statistics-aboutsexual-assault
Sexual Assault. (2015, September 18). Retrieved November 25, 2015, from http://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/sexualassault.html
Sexual Assault Support. (2015). Retrieved November 25, 2015, from http://www.crisiscallcenter.org/sexualassault_24hvh.html
Statistics About Sexual Violence. (2015). Retrieved November 25, 2015, from http://www.nsvrc.org/sites/default/files/publications_nsvrc_factsheet_mediapacket_satistics-about-sexual-violence_0.pdf
What is Sexual Assault? (2009). Retrieved November 25, 2015, from http://www.pandys.org/whatissexualassault.html