Sexual Assault: The Facts

Facts about Incest

  • If you have been sexually abused you are not alone. One out of every three girls and one out of every six boys is sexually abused before they are eighteen.
  • Sexual abuse happens to children of every culture, race, religion, and gender.
  • Children are abused by fathers stepfathers, uncles, brothers, grandparents, neighbors, family friends, babysitters, teachers, strangers and sometimes aunts and mothers. Although women do abuse, the vast majority of abusers are heterosexual men.
  • All sexual abuse is damaging, and the trauma does not end when the abuse stops.
  • You were a victim of sexual abuse if when you were a young child or teenager, you were:
    • Touched in sexual areas
    • Shown sexual movies or forced to listen to sexual talk
    • Made to pose for seductive or sexual photographs
    • Subjected to unnecessary medical treatments
    • Forced to perform sexual acts on an adult or sibling
    • Raped or otherwise penetrated
    • Fondled, kissed or otherwise held in a way that made you uncomfortable
    • Made to watch sexual acts or look at sexual parts
    • Bathed in a way that felt intrusive to you
    • Encouraged or goaded into sex you didn't really want
    • Told all you were good for was sex
    • Objectified and ridiculed about your body
  • If you are unable to remember any specific instances like the ones mentioned above but still have a feeling that something abusive happened to you it probably did.

Facts about Date Rape

  • Acquaintance rapes usually do not happen on the first date because the person is on his/her best behavior at that time. Second or third dates are more likely times for acquaintance rapes to occur because the potential victim has let her/his guard down and the date is more likely to end up in a more secluded place such as one of his or her homes.
  • Acquaintance rapes seem to occur most often in the victim's or assailant's home. Alcohol and loud music are frequently part of the scenario in a dating situation. Loud music seems to be effective in covering the victim's protests. Multiple male living units are also frequent sites of sexual assaults.
  • When the rapist is a stranger the initial motivation is the need to overpower, humiliate and dominate the victim. The initial motivation in some acquaintance rapes, and in many date rapes, is sexual. In other words, the offender expects consensual sex and plans to have sex, not to rape. When the date does not consent to sex and resists, the offender often becomes angry and takes what s/he feels is his/her right. The offender uses force to have sex. S/he overpowers, dominates and humiliates in the process, and may intend to do so while raping, despite the initial motivation. In fact, many offenders think they did not do anything wrong or even raped.
  • Men who commit acquaintance rape often do not think they have done anything wrong because they have been socialized to believe that it is the male's role to be sexually aggressive in sexual relationships. They also believe that a woman never means "No!" when she says "No" in a sexual situation. The consequence for the assailant (if he is not stopped) is that he may continue to abuse victim after victim because he thinks this is acceptable behavior.
  • Because men have much more experience with physical force than women, men do not need weapons to intimidate women. The two most common forms of coercion used by men are the threats of ending the relationship and the argument that sex should be performed. Force, however, is the most successful strategy for getting the victim to comply. Often the weight and strength differential is force enough to accomplish the victimization.
  • Low self-esteem can be a risk factor in date rape. The woman who believes that the needs and feelings of others are more important than her own may defer to a more powerful person and as a result may be at risk for sexual assault.

What To Do If You Are Raped

  • Go to a friend's. This is not the time to be alone. At the very least you need emotional support. If there is no one to go to, then call someone to talk to, no matter how late it is.
  • Get medical attention. Do not shower or clean yourself first. As soon as possible, go to a hospital or school health center to be examined and treated for possible venereal disease. You may have internal injuries, which you are not aware of. If you decide to press charges, physical specimens collected son after the rape will be valuable evidence.
  • Report the attack to the police or college officials. Whether or not you plan to file charges. Reporting a rape does not commit you to filing charges. You can make the decision later. Have someone go with you. You can go the next day but the sooner the better. Rarely do rapists attack one woman only; they get away with it and so they continue to do it. If you turn him in. You may break that pattern and save someone else from being molested.
  • Consider whether you want to file charges with the police. If you do decide to press charges, the chances of conviction with acquaintance rape are low, although police, judges and schools are increasingly more sympathetic than in the past. Some states have rape shield laws, so that past sexual behavior of a woman can not be brought up.
  • Get help and support. At the very least call Safe Haven's hotline 203-753-3613. You have been through a trauma and need help to deal with the situation and your feelings. Women who get counseling get over their experiences faster and with fewer lasting effects than those who receive no help.
  • Do not blame yourself. You may feel it is your fault for not having said "no" more clearly or for having trusted the man in the first place. Even if your body responded sexually to the rapist, it does not mean that you "enjoyed" the experience or that it is your fault. Even if you were na├»ve, not cautious or even foolish, it is not your fault. Your behavior did not cause the rape; the rapist caused the rape.

Effects of Date Rape

Different people react to stress and trauma differently. However, most rape victims go through definable stages of rape trauma syndrome. This syndrome is comprised of 3 parts: trauma, denial and resolution.

Trauma

  • Fear of being alone. This may be especially acute shortly after the rape but can also continue for a while afterwards.
  • Fear of men. Some women may be fearful and angry at all men. Counseling can be especially helpful in preventing this from becoming a long-lasting problem. Victims of date rape, especially, are left doubting their choice of partners and wondering how they can ever again date safely and if they will be able to trust themselves and others.
  • Sexual problems. For some people, this may continue for a long time since the sexual act now has been associated with so many negative feelings. Again, counseling can often be helpful in overcoming these problems.
  • Depression. This can sometimes come and go over along period of time. Generally the more a survivor can talk about her situation, the less severe the depression.
  • Afraid to trust. This may manifest itself long after the actual rape has occurred when the survivor begins to date again and wonders if it will happen once more.Fear of retaliation. Unfortunately, this may be a legitimate fear especially if charges are pressed. Such retaliation is illegal. Any threat of retaliation should be reported immediately to the police. If this in not sufficient a lawyer should be contacted to help obtain a restraining order.
  • Concern over the reaction of her family/friends. It is not always necessary for a survivor to tell her family and/or all of her/his friends, if s/he is very sure that they will not support her and will react badly. However, family and close friends may be more supportive than the victim anticipates.Physical problems. These include venereal disease, as well as physical symptoms of stress, such as stomachaches, headaches, back problems, inability to sleep or diminished appetite.
  • Feelings of anger, helplessness, guilt, pain, embarrassment, or anxiety. These are all typical reactions and generally disappear with time. In any case, keep in mind that whatever happened and however it happened; rape is the fault of the rapist, not the victim.

Denial

  • Not wanting to talk about it. There is a sense of wanting to get on with life and put the experience in the past. This may, in fact, last for months.

Resolution

  • Dealing with fears and feelings. The primary way to work through these feelings is to talk to someone, be it a friend, member of the clergy, hotline or counselor.
  • Regaining a sense of control over life. This will happen usually only after a victim has dealt with her/his fears and feelings. At this point, s/he will be ready to put the experience behind him/her and go on with life; s/he is ready to be in charge again.