In this series on sexual assault (aka sexual violence, rape), I’m going to lean on best practices largely provided by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service. This topic is sensitive enough that nothing needs to be interpreted as subjective.
- This Straight, No Chaser will address the definition and scope of sexual assault, including actions to take if you’re a victim of sexual assault or an attempted sexual assault.
- Another post will discuss concrete physical and mental consequences of sexual assault and steps you can take to lower your risk of sexual assault.
- Another post will discuss signs of sexual assault in children.
The scope of sexual assault is so vast that it’s surprising more isn’t being done to prevent it. Can you imagine the fervor we’d have if 20% of the population had cancer?
- Nearly 20% (1 in 5) women have been victims of sexual violence at some time in their lives. The rate for men in 1 in 71.
- It is estimated that 20-25% of college women in the U.S. have experience a rape or rape attempt while in college.
- When surveyed, 8% of high school students report having been forced to have sex.
These self-reported numbers are generally accepted as underestimates. The stigma, shame, fear of repercussions and unlikelihood of successful prosecution deter many victims of sexual violence from reporting abuse.
Is sexual assault as simple as you know it when you see it (figuratively)? Sexual assault and abuse are any sexual activities that you do not agree to, including …
- Any inappropriate touching of another’s sexual organs
- Vaginal, anal, or oral penetration and intercourse regardless of “no” or without expressed consent
- Rape or attempted rape
- Child molestation
The scope of sexual assault also includes any inappropriate verbalizations or viewing of another person– basically anything that engages another to participate in unwanted sexual contact or attention. The following are included:
- Voyeurism (someone unknowingly viewing your private sexual acts)
- Exhibitionism (someone exposes him/herself to you in public)
- Incest (sexual contact between family members)
- Sexual harassment
If you are the victim of sexual assault, there are important steps to take immediately:
- First, get away from the attacker to a safe place as fast as you can.
- Next, call 911 or the police or go to the emergency room where the staff can call the police and/or arrange for you to file a police report should you so desire.
- Call a friend or family member you trust.
- Call a crisis center or a hotline to talk with a counselor if you are experiencing feelings of fear, shame or guilt, all of which are normal after an assault. Emergency room staff will also be able to connect you to a local rape crisis center.
- Although the urge will be overwhelming to do so, do not wash, comb, or clean any part of your body. Do not change clothes, touch or change anything at the site where the assault occurred. The entirety of your current state is needed evidence, and the emergency room or other hospital staff will need to collect evidence. The evidence obtained from you using a rape kit will include fibers, hairs, saliva, semen, or clothing that the attacker may have left behind.
- Go to your nearest emergency room as soon as possible. You will need to be examined, treated for any injuries and screened for possible sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and/or pregnancy.
Sexual assault is never the victim’s fault. Help is available but only if you ask. Here is information on services available to you.
- National Domestic Violence Hotline 800-799-SAFE (7233) or 800-787-3224 (TDD)
- National Sexual Assault Hotline 800-656-HOPE (4673)
You will also have access to many local resources through your emergency room or police department. The important point is to get to safety and to help.
Feel free to ask your SMA expert consultant any questions you may have on this topic.
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