Understanding Sexual assault can be very challenging for some people. This is understandable because the experience of Sexual assault can be a unique one for victims. Sexual assault can be a one-time occurrence or can occur multiple times over a period of time. It can also take place by a person being over powered physically which is called rape. When a person is overpowered psychologically or spiritually with the intention of gaining sexual contact, this also a form of called sexual assault. There are so many different factors that determine if sexual assault took place. These factors include, but are not limited to: when the assault took place, if the predator was an acquaintance or a stranger, how many times the assault took place, the setting of the sexual act, the level of physical contact, and etc. No matter what variables make up each individuals experience, the end result is that an individual was a victim of sexual assault. It is important to have a general understanding of what of the legal definition of sexual assault, but also to understand that this abusive act is not limited to the definition. To better understand the realities of Sexual assault click the link Sexual Assault Myths & Realities.
Definition: Sexual Assault is unwanted physical contact of a sexual nature that includes groping, fondling, attempted rape, and rape. Unwanted physical touching of a victim’s breasts, buttocks, or genitals is also a sexual assault.
What is Sexual Assault?
Although legal definitions vary from state to state, sexual assault is a general term for any type of sexual activity that occurs without consent. This could include behavior like unwanted touching or kissing, sexual contact with someone who is under the influence of drugs or alcohol and unable to give an informed "yes" or "no", or rape or attempted rape.Sexual assault can happen to anyone, regardless of age, gender, race, or sexual orientation. Every person and experience is different. If you are a survivor of sexual assault, there is support available. The Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network has a 24-hour hotline that can direct you to local resources – 1-800-656-HOPE.
How do I Know if I Have Consent?
Consent must be informed (the person being acted upon knows what is happening) and mutual (both parties have input and both want to participate in a given sexual act.)Communication is important. Consent is not implied; talk to your partner about what is comfortable for him or her every step of the way. Pay attention to both verbal and non-verbal communication - the absence of a "no" does not imply consent, nor does a prior sexual relationship. A person who is mentally or physically incapacitated by drugs or alcohol cannot give consent.
Sexual Assault Statistics
Here are some startling statistics by Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) website:
Every 2 minutes, someone in the U.S. is sexually assaulted.
1 out of 6 American women (17.7 million) has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime.
3% of American men have experienced an attempted or completed rape in his lifetime.
44% are under the age of 18
80% are under age 30
Approximately 2/3 or rape are committed by someone known to the victim.
The average age of a rapist is 31-years-old.
In 1 in 3 sexual assaults, the perpetrator was intoxicated — 30% with alcohol, 4% with drugs.
In 2001, 11% of rapes involved the use of a weapon — 3% used a gun, 6% used a knife, and 2 % used another form of weapon.
Location & Time of Sexual Assaults:
More than 50% of all rape/sexual assault incidents were reported by victims to have occurred within 1 mile of their home or at their home.
1 in 12 rapes take place in a parking garage.
43% of rapes occur between 6pm and midnight.
It is estimated that there were 3,204 pregnancies as a result of rape between 2004-2005.
Effects of Rape:Victims of sexual assault are:
3 times more likely to suffer from depression.
6 times more likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.
13 times more likely to abuse alcohol.
26 times more likely to abuse drugs.
4 times more likely to contemplate suicide.
Reporting of Rape:
54% of sexual assaults are not reported to police.
97% of rapists never spend a day in jail.
Myths & Realities: Our Society's Misconceptions
MYTH: Sexual assault happens because sex-starved men can't control themselves.
REALITy: Sexual assault is a devastating weapon used to dominate another person. For the offender, it's all about achieving a feeling of power and control, not about lust or uncontrollable sexual desires.
Sexual assault is a brutal crime of violence, yet it's usually committed by ordinary people leading outwardly respectable lives. In fact, 80% of reported sexual assault cases involve an offender who is known by the victim: an acquaintance, co-worker, friend or relative (Statistics Canada, 2003).
MYTH: Sexual assault usually occurs in a dark, isolated location.
REALITy: More than half of all sexual assaults take place in the victim's own home, or within 1.6 kilometres of it. Another 20% of sexual assaults happen in the home of a friend, neighbour or relative.
MYTH: Only young, attractive women are sexually assaulted.
REALITy: Nobody is immune to sexual assault. Women and men, children and seniors, the disabled - people who have been sexually assaulted or sexually abused are found in every Alberta city and hamlet, in every cultural and demographic segment of our society.
MYTH: Women say "no" when they really mean "yes."
REALITy: "No" means NO. End of story. Today's culture conditions us to believe that the line of sexual consent is conveniently blurry. When a woman drinks too much, accepts a ride home with a man or even winds up on his sofa or in his bed, her consent to have sex is often assumed or taken for granted.
The Criminal Code of Canada defines "consent" as a "voluntary agreement" to engage in sexual activity. If a woman says "no" to sex verbally or shows it through her conduct, that consent doesn't exist. If she's asleep, drunk or passed out, she's incapable of consenting to sex. And even if a woman does initially agree to engage in sexual activity, that consent instantly disappears if she changes her mind AT ANY POINT.
If a woman says "no" and a man doesn't accept it but instead continues to pressure or force her into any sexual activity, he's committing sexual assault. And he can't claim being drunk or high on drugs as his own excuse for believing someone consented to having sex with him.
Healthy sexual relationships include elements of equality and respect. The bottom line: if BOTH people in a sexual encounter haven't knowingly, willingly and clearly agreed to be involved, it's likely that sexual assault has occurred. And that's a crime.
MYTH: Most victims of sexual assault are at least partly responsible for the assault; their appearance, actions or behaviour directly contributed to what happened to them.
REALITy: Nobody ever deserves to become a victim of violent crime, which is exactly what sexual assault is. Sexual assault is NEVER the fault of the person it happens to, not under any circumstances.
Offenders will often claim that a woman's dress or behaviour "made" them act out to rationalize their crime. It doesn’t matter where the victim was, what they were wearing (or not wearing), or how they were talking or acting. And it doesn't matter whether they were drinking or using drugs. Offenders choose sexual assault; they are responsible for their choice to hurt another person.
MYTH: She didn’t fight back and there are no bruises. Sexual assault only occurs when there's an actual struggle or physical injury.
REALITy: Sexual assault is a violent crime whether or not physical resistance or injury occurs. Many sexual assault victims are shocked by what's happening and simply "freeze." Many women are too intimidated or terrified to try defending themselves. They may decide that the overwhelming power or size of the attacker makes it very dangerous to resist.
Eighty per cent of reported sexual assault cases involve an offender who is known to the victim: an acquaintance, co-worker, friend or relative (Statistics Canada, 2003). These offenders may be more likely to use tricks, verbal pressure, threats or "mild" force rather than extreme violence.
MYTH: Sexual assault would decrease if women made a bigger effort to protect themselves.
REALITy: Sexual abuse and sexual assault have always been regarded as "women's issues" that women are supposed to deal with. Efforts to stop sexual assault have generally been focused on getting girls and women to change the way they conduct their daily lives in order to reduce risk: not walking alone, avoiding isolated areas, watching how they dress - even carrying pepper spray.
But we know that these defensive tactics don't prevent sexual assault. Public safety is not the sole responsibility of women or of the victims of sexual violence. Most men will never commit a sexual crime, yet men are responsible for the huge majority of sexual abuse and sexual assault.
Real, long-term change won't happen until men do their part to challenge the attitudes and behaviours that put down and degrade women. If we keep thinking about the sexual abuses and sexual assaults committed by men as a "women’s issue," we're not going to do much about truly preventing that violence.
Every woman has the right to live in a society where male violence against women is not acceptable. Not legally, not morally, not socially. Pepper spray and self-defence classes won't do much to make that happen. For change to occur, non-offending men need to stand up against sexually abusive behaviours and attitudes they see in other men.
MYTH: Men can't be sexually assaulted.
REALITy: Sexual assault is not an experience only women endure. Men can be, and are, sexually assaulted every day. It can happen to any guy, regardless of his sexual orientation, size, strength, appearance, occupation, race or culture. It happens at home, at work, in locker rooms and in cars - just about anywhere a perpetrator thinks he can get away with it.
It's not unusual for a male victim to "freeze" out of shock or fear of physical harm. Few, if any, men have ever considered the possibility of such a thing happening and are therefore totally unprepared.
Studies show that 10 to 20% of males (boys, youths and adults) are sexually violated at some time in their lives. And on the rare occasions when a sexual assault against a male gets reported, the victim is often doubted, labeled "gay" or even blamed for what's happened to them.
We don't hear about male sexual assault because the men it happens to often choose to suffer its effects alone and in silence.
MYTH: Men can't be sexually assaulted by women.
REALITy: Women can and do sexually abuse and assault men, but it's a crime that rarely gets reported by the victim. If you include emotional blackmail as a way of forcing a male to submit to sexual assault, then the number of crimes greatly increases.
Sexual assault of a male by a female does not have to involve penile penetration; a female attacker can use sex toys or other foreign objects on an unwilling male. It's also not uncommon for males to experience involuntary erections during a sexual assault.
MYTH: Only gay men sexually assault other men.
REALITy: The vast majority of male offenders who sexually abuse or assault other men identify themselves as heterosexual. Some offenders target males simply because it gives them a greater feeling of dominance, power and control than abusing a woman.
Sexual assault is about violence and anger, not lust or sexual attraction. The vast majority of males who target boys for sexual abuse are not gay.
MYTH: Kids lie about being sexually abused.
REALITy: It's commonly believed that children make up stories or lie about sexual abuse, but this is extremely rare. Young children usually don't have the knowledge or language skills to misinterpret adult behavior or to invent such stories. It's much more common for sexually abused children to minimize what’s happened to them - or to recant their stories after disclosure - than it is for non-abused children to lie about sexual abuse (Health Canada, 1997).
In fact, the majority of children who are sexually abused don't tell anyone that it has happened to them.
MYTH: Boys who experience child sexual abuse will grow up to become abusers themselves.
REALITy: Although premature sexual experiences can cause profound emotional damage to boys, most male survivors don't repeat the abuses that happened to them.
In fact, statistics show that many men who commit sexual abuse or sexual assault actually suffered from something OTHER than child sexual abuse (most likely physical or emotional abuse or witnessing domestic violence) when they were young.