Stranger, Acquaintance & Intimate Partner Abuse

Click the links below to skip to the following sections:

Acquaintance Sexual Assault

Intimate Partner Sexual Assault

Stranger Rape


3 Major Categories
  • Blitz sexual assault- The perpetrator rapidly and brutally assaults the victim with no prior contact. Blitz assaults usually occur at night in a public place.

  • Contact sexual assault- The suspect contacts the victim and tries to gain her or his trust and confidence before assaulting her or him. Contact perpetrators pick their victims in bars, lure them into their cars, or otherwise try to coerce the victim into a situation of sexual assault.

  • Home invasion sexual assault- When a stranger breaks into the victim's home to commit the assault.


Common Reactions
  • Shock

  • Numbness

  • Loss of control

  • Disorientation

  • Helplessness

  • Sense of vulnerability

  • Fear

  • Self-blame for "allowing" the crime to happen

  • Feeling that these reactions are a sign of weakness




Acquaintance Sexual Assault


Most sexual assaults occur between two people who know one another. This doesn’t make the assault any less traumatic but it can be a source of confusion, embarrassment, hurt, broken trust, and guilt and lead to misunderstanding and under-reporting. Regardless of who commits the sexual assault, it is still a crime that leaves the survivor injured and traumatized. Survivors of sexual assault, especially when committed by an acquaintance, often feel a sense of responsibility for the attack and don't report the crime to the Police.


If you are interested in any type of sexual contact with another person you should ask. Since sexual assault is any type of sexual activity that is not agreed to by both people involved, it would be in the best interest of both parties to discuss sexual wants, boundaries, and values.


Consensual sexual activity involves the presence of the word “yes’ without incapacitation of alcohol or other drugs, pressure, force, threat or intimidation.


You should respect the response of the other person. Sexual activity is a choice. A person has the right to say yes or no each and every time a sexual activity is considered.


When considering whether you have consent for sexual contact, consider:


  • Is the other person under the influence of alcohol or drugs?

  • What is my relationship with this person?

  • Am I pressuring?

  • Am I manipulating?

  • Am I using any kind of force?

  • Is there any reason for the other person to be afraid of me?

  • Is the other person of legal age to consent?

  • Is the other person asleep or passed out or not participating?

  • Is the other person indicating they do not want sexual contact by pushing away, moving away, or saying no?

    Consent is NOT PRESENT when the other person is impaired by the use of alcohol or drugs, fears the consequences of not consenting, says no either verbally or physically, is not an active participant in the activity, or is below the legal age of consent.

  • You have the right to say "NO" to any unwanted sexual contact. If you are unsure about what you want, make that uncertainty clear. Communication between both of you is essential. Listen carefully. Take time to hear what the other person is saying. If you feel the other person is not being direct, or is giving you a "mixed message", ask for clarification.

  • If you don't know your date well, consider driving your own car and asking to meet your date in a public place. If you do accept a ride from a date, always carry some "mad money" so that you can call a cab if you need to cut the date short.

  • Communicate your limits. If you say "NO," that’s ok. If you say “YES,” that’s ok. As long as you and your partner are comfortable with the decision of whether or not to engage in sexual activity.

  • Listen to your gut feelings. If you feel uncomfortable or think you may be at risk, leave the situation or call someone who can help.

  • Use common sense. Realize that you do not have the right to force anyone to have sex just because you paid for dinner or drinks.

  • Don't fall for common stereotypes. When someone says "NO", don't assume that they really mean "Yes". "NO" means "NO". If someone says "NO" to sexual contact, believe it and stop.

  • Don't make assumptions about someone’s behavior. Don't automatically assume that someone wants to have sex just because they are drinking, dress provocatively (in your view), or agree to go to your room. Don't assume that just because someone had sex with you previously that they are willing to have sex with you again. Also don't assume that just because someone consents to kissing or other sexual intimacies that they are willing to have intercourse.

  • Attend large parties with friends you can trust. Agree to look out for one another. Try to leave with a group, rather than alone or with someone you don't know very well.

  • "Get involved" if you believe someone is at risk. If you see someone in trouble at a party, don't be afraid to intervene. You may save someone the trauma of a sexual assault.

  • STAY SOBER ON A DATE. Alcohol impairs judgment and memory.

  • Remember that sexual assault is A CRIME. It is never acceptable to use force in sexual situations, no matter what the circumstances.


If a sexual assault has occurred, talk to a friend, family member, counselor, Sexual Assault or Rape Crisis Center, or the Police. It is very important that you get medical and emotional support to help you cope with the crisis.




Surviving Intimate Partner / Domestic Violence


For many individuals, surviving sexual abuse when it occurs in intimate or domestic relationships carries unique struggles and concerns (these relationships include dating relationships, marriages, co-habitating partners, and individuals who have children without being romantically or sexually involved).

- Survivors may feel conflicted over acknowledging their partner’s behavior as abuse, since society often does not recognize the existence or harm of intimate partner violence. Labeling their experience as abuse may cause them great shock and distress.


- Survivors may feel invested in or affectionate towards their abusive partner.


- Survivors may worry about how leaving their partner might affect their family.


- Survivors may believe that their fiscal situation, living arrangements, or preexisting disability prevents them from leaving their partner.


- Survivors may fear that their partner may retaliate.


- There are often fewer places of safety or refuge for survivors of intimate/domestic sexual violence because the abusive partner has access to many realms of the survivor’s life.


- Since abusers often keep their partners socially isolated, survivors may lack support networks that will validate and protect them.


- Survivors of color and LBGTQIA survivors may not be able to remain anonymous in their communities and may be given limited support in their community.


- LBGTQIA survivors whose lives are financially intertwined with their abuser may have no legal process to assist in making sure that assets are evenly divided after a separation, unlike their married, heterosexual counterparts.


- Trans or gender non-conforming survivors may be denied entrance to emergency housing facilities or shelters due to their gender/genital/legal status.


- Long-term abuse can cause survivors to doubt their abilities to trust and care for themselves without their partner’s presence.

Sexual abuse can manifest in intimate/domestic relationships in subtle ways, and refers not only to initiating sexual behavior without an individual’s consent, but also:


- Interfering with birth control, controlling decisions about birth control / pregnancy


- Engaging in risky sexual behaviors without a partner’s consent


- Controlling a partner by threatening to have affairs


- Shaming a partner for their sexuality, sexual behaviors, choices, or lifestyle (e.g. for choosing to participate in or not consent to certain sexual acts)


- Using sexually derogatory language, names, or jokes


- Using guilt to coerce a partner into having sex


- Withholding forms of sexual intimacy or affection (e.g. cuddling) unless a partner engages in particular sex acts


- Distributing intimate correspondence, photos, or videos without a partner’s consent


If possible, get to a place where you feel safe. Reach out to trusted friends and family, domestic violence advocates and shelters, and other options for emergency housing (for more info, see our section on resources). Strategize a safety plan for yourself (and your children if applicable). If necessary, obtain a Civil-No-Contact order so the abuser cannot approach or contact you (for more info, see our section on legal rights).  If you have been able to leave your abuser and are living alone, please be careful about any unidentified mail or packages.  Seek any medical care you may need, and (if possible) long-term counseling to help you through your recovery.

If you cannot get to a safe place, brainstorm a list of reasons to give the abuser for you to leave the house when you feel endangered. Come up with a code word or phrase that means “call the police” and teach it to trusted friends and family. Try to use a computer outside your home for financial and social affairs, and change your username and passwords. Keep a phone on you when possible.



I Believe is a compilation of resources and does not claim ownership of these resources.  I Believe is only the creator of the content that has been copyrighted by I Believe The appearance of external hyperlinks does not necessarily constitute endorsement by I Believe of the linked web sites, or the information, products or services contained therein. I Believe does not exercise any editorial control over the information you may find at these locations.  All links provided are consistent with the mission of this website. Please let us know about existing external links which you believe are inappropriate.