What is sexual violence?
Sexual violence refers to any action that pressures or coerces someone to do something sexually they don't want to do. It can also refer to behavior that impacts a person's ability to control their sexual activity or circumstances in which sexual activity occurs, including oral sex, rape or restricting access to birth control and condoms.
It is important to know that just because the victim "didn't say no", doesn't mean that they meant "yes". When someone does not resist an unwanted sexual advance, it doesn't mean that they gave consent. Sometimes physically resisting can put a victim at a bigger risk for further physical or sexual violence. Some think that if the victim didn't resist, that id doesn't count as abuse. That's not true. This myth is hurtful because it makes it more difficult for the victim to speak out and more likely that they will blame themselves. Whether they were intoxicated or felt pressure, intimidated, or obligated to act a certain way, sexual assault.abuse is never the victim's fault.
Some examples of sexual violence and abuse include:
- Unwanted kissing or touching
- Unwanted rough or violent sexual activity
- rape or attempted rape
- refusing to use condoms or restricting someone's access to birth control
- keeping someone from protecting themselvew from sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
- Sexual contact with someone who is very drunk, drugged, unconscious, or otherwise unable to give a clear and informed "yes" or "no"
- Threatening someone into unwanted sexual activity
- Pressuring or forcing someone to have sex or perform sexual acts
- Using sexual insults towards someone
Keep in mind
- Everyone has the right to decide what they do or don't want to do sexually. Not all sexual violence is violent "attacks".
- Most victims of sexual violence know the assailant.
- Sexual violence can occur in same-sex and opposite-sex relationships.
- Sexual violence can occur between two people who have been sexual with each other before, including people who are married or dating.
- Sexual activity in a relationship should be fun!
Sexual Violence in Numbers
1 in 3 women have been victim of either an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime
321,000 American women are sexually assaulted each year
Estimated 54% of sexual assaults are not reported to the police
85% of offenders are not under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of incident
More than 50% of sexual assaults involved acquaintances or friends
Steps To Safety
If you have been sexually assaulted, first try to get to a safe place away from the attacker. You may be scared, angry and confused, but remember the abuse was in no way your fault. You have the following options:
Contact someone you trust
- Many people feel fear, guilt, anger, shame and/or shock after they have been sexually assaulted.
- Having someone there to support you as you deal with these emotions can make a big difference.
- Call Hope Alliance to speak with an advocate.
Report to the police
- If you do decide to report what happened to the police, you will have a stronger case if you do not alter or destroy any evidence
- This means don't shower, wash your hair or body, comb your hair or change your clothes, even if that is hard to do.
- If you are nervous about going to the police station or hospital, it may help to bring a friend with you.
Go to the ER or health clinic
- It is very important for you to seek health care as soon as you can after being assaulted.
- You will be treated for any injuries and offered medications to help prevent pregnancy and/or STIs.
- Call Hope Alliance and an advocate will meet you at the hospital so that you don't have to be there alone. No matter the time or day, we will go with you.
*Information from National Domestic Hotline
I knew my rapist
"I was raped. That is a statement to type. Worse, I was raped by someone who claimed to be a friend, my confidant. It took me several years to seek help.
Hope Alliance's staff was so kind and helpful. The counseling really helped me work through the trauma. I am so thankful for them all!"
My son is a survivor
"My 10 year old son came to me one day in tears. He told me an older kid had been raping him all summer. My soul shattered. I am a sexual assault survivor and did everything I could to prevent my children from being a survivor as well. I didn't know what to do, didn't know where to turn. The kid that did this to my son was one of my dearest friend's son.
I was so thankful to find Hope Alliance. Both my son and I got counseling and it is the best thing we could have done. Now my son won't have to struggle with the shame or secrecy about his trauma and if it does reappear, we can go back to Hope Alliance and help him understand and overcome the new issues, too."
Tips For Helping Survivors
Have you been approached by a loved one that has told you her or she has been sexually assaulted? This can be very difficult for many people to hear and even harder for the survivor to disclose to you. Please use the following information to help you as you support your loved one.
There's no timetable when it comes to recovering from sexual violence. If someone trusted you enough to disclose the event to you, consider the following ways to show your continued support.
The effects of a sexual assault can persist for long periods of time. The victim can experience a wide variety of side effects due to the assault including depression, anxiety and flashbacks. Avoid saying things like, "You should be over this by now" or "Why are you so focused on this?"
Check In Periodically
The event may have happened a long time ago, but that doesn't mean the pain is gone. Check in with the survivor to remind them you still care about their well-being and believe their story.
Know Your Resources
Encourage the victim to reach out to Hope Alliance Crisis Center (1-800-460-7233) for counseling and other assistnace in his/her recovery. If the victime isn't in the area, encourage them to contact RAINN (800-656-4673).
Speaking To Survivors
"I believe you./ It took a lot of courage to tell me about this."
It can be extremely difficult for survivors to come forward and share their story. They may feel ashamed, concerned that they won't be believed, or worried they'll be blamed. Leave any "why" questions or investigations to the experts — your job is to support this person. Be careful not to interpret calmness as a sign that the event did not occur — everyone responds to traumatic events differently. The best thing you can do is to believe them.
"It's not your fault./ You didn't do anything to deserve this."
Survivors may blame themselves, especially if they know the perpetrator personally. Remind the survivor, maybe even more than once, that they are not to blame.
"You are not alone./ I care about you and am here to listen or help in any way I can."
Let the survivor know that you are there for them and willing to listen to their story if they are comfortable sharing it. Assess if there are people in their life they feel comfortable going to, and remind them that there are service providers who will be able to support them as they heal from the experience.
"I'm sorry this happened./ This shouldn't have happened to you."
Acknowledge that the experience has affected their life. Phrases like "This must be really tough for you," and "I'm so glad you are sharing this with me," help to communicate empathy.