About Sexual Assault
Facts About Sexual Assault
- Sexual assault can happen to anyone, regardless of race, age, social status, educational level, or gender (sex).
- Sexual assault is never the result of the victim's actions. The rapist is the only one responsible for his decision to sexually assault someone.
- Sexual assault is any non-consensual sexual act; if ‘no' is not an option, it is sexual assault. It can take the form of unwanted verbal, visual, or physical contact. Unsolicited sexual comments, being forced to touch another person in a sexual manner, being forced to watch or perform sexual acts, and rape are all examples of sexual assault.
- Rape is the forcible penetration by a penis, finger or object of the vagina, mouth and/or anus of the victim.
- Most rapes are committed by someone who is known to the victim. Many survivors of non-stranger rape have a difficult time recognizing that the assault is a crime. Survivors often know, and until the assault, had no reason to distrust the perpetrator. As a result, survivors sometimes worry that their actions caused the assault to take place. This is never the case.
- The majority of sexual assaults are never reported to the police for a variety of reasons, which include:
- Fear of retaliation from the perpetrator.
- Fear of not being believed or of being responsible for the crime.
- Shame, and/or embarrassment.
- Desire to keep details of the assault private.
- Lack of trust in the criminal justice system.
The use of gender specific pronouns is for sentence simplification.
CARDV services are available for all qualifying individuals.
For more information please visit: http://www.rainn.org/ or http://www.ocadsv.com/
Some Statistics about Sexual Assault
- Every two minutes, someone in the United States is sexually assaulted. That translates to 30 assaults each hour, 715 assaults each day, 21,452 assaults each month, and 272,350 assaults a year (RAINN, Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, 2006).
- Of the 1.3 Million women living in Oregon, about 230,000 have been raped at least once in their lifetime (Kilpatrick, DG & Ruggiero, KJ., 2003).
- 1 in 6 women and 1 in 33 men will experience completed or attempted rape at some point during their life (NIJ, National Institute of Justice, 2006).
- Rape can happen at an early age, according to the National Violence Against Women Survey, 54% of women and 71% of men, who have been raped, were first raped before the age of 18 (NIJ, National Institute of Justice, 2006).
- More than 6 out of 10 women who have been raped are assaulted by non-strangers (Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2005).
- Among women rape survivors, 78.2% were raped by one person multiple times over their lifetime (NIJ, National Institute of Justice, 2006).
- 1 in 13 women will be raped by their intimate partner during their lifetime (NIJ, National Institute of Justice, 2006).
- 13% of sexual assaults involve a weapon (US Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2004).
Consent vs. Coercion
- acceptance or agreement given with free will.
- actively given, not assumed.
- only possible when there is equal power between the parties.
- never given in response to fear or social pressure.
- something that cannot be granted if the survivor was under the influence of alcohol or other drugs; or mentally handicapped in some way.
The use of force or intimidation to obtain compliance. In every case of sexual assault, some form of coercion or force is used. This force ranges from emotional coercion to threats or physical force.
- Emotional Coercion: This is verbal pressure used to get the victim to submit. The victim may eventually give in to get the perpetrator to leave her alone, or because she becomes convinced it's the socially appropriate action.
- Implied Threats: These threats may not be verbalized, but they are well understood. The victim knows that if she doesn't comply, there is potential for additional violence.
- Verbal Threats: Also known as blackmail, verbal threats force another person to comply by causing fear or anxiety that will control the victim's behavior.
- Physical Force without a Weapon: While this is an easily recognized form of coercion, many times the victim may not suffer visible physical injuries during the assault.
- Physical Force with a Weapon: The weapon may or may not be used, but its presence is threat enough.
If You Are a Survivor of Sexual Assault
It was NOT your fault. The perpetrator is solely responsible for his actions.
Place the blame where it belongs. Guilt or self-blame is a frequent response to sexual assault. Survivors worry that they could have prevented the assault. Choosing to make-out, stay out late, or wear certain clothes does not cause someone to sexually assault another.
It's OK to be angry. Survivors tell us they feel a wide range of emotions: anger, shame, dirtiness, shock, fear, guilt, helplessness, disbelief, exhaustion, and depression. These feelings are normal; give yourself time to process them.
Nightmares and flashbacks are normal. Nightmares are a common, often terrifying, response to traumatic events. Many survivors also experience flashbacks; intense feelings of re-experiencing the assault. Flashbacks are often triggered by a sight, smell or sound connected with the assault.
Seek support. You do not have to deal with this on your own. When you're ready to talk, contact an advocate, counselor, supportive family member or trusted friend. The CARDV hotline is available 24 hours a day. There may also be a support group in your community, which many survivors find to be a beneficial part of their healing process.
It is possible to heal from sexual assault. It will take time and work, but healing is possible, and it's worth it. You have already survived the hardest part on your own; you don't have to do the rest alone.
Contact CARDV. CARDV offers 24 hrs/day support via our hotline at 541-754-0110 or 1-800-927-0197. CARDV advocates are available to meet with you in person for support or can accompany you to the hospital, to law enforcement if you decide to report, or can attend legal proceedings with you. CARDV also holds a weekly Sexual Assault Support Group – call the Hotline for more information regarding time and location.
How to Support a Survivor of Sexual Assault
Survivors tell us these things may be helpful...
Believe her. Let the survivor know that you believe her.
Listen to her. Offer non-judgmental, non-blaming listening. Listen with compassion without asking questions that begin with why, or imply that she is responsible in any way for the assault. Let her express her feelings in a time and manner that is comfortable for her.
Be empathetic. Place yourself in her shoes, and try to see the situation from her point of view. Be patient, gentle, and encouraging while you listen. Validate her feelings by paraphrasing what she's told you and reflecting them back to her.
Be non-judgmental. Focus on what the survivor is telling you, and listen to what she needs. Avoid statements that question her actions or place blame on her.
Tell her she's not alone. Sometimes survivors find it helpful to join a sexual assault support group; the support of other survivors can be very powerful.
Respect her decisions. Let her make her own choices without pressure, including her decision to report or not report the assault. This is an important part of the healing process. It is her life, and she needs to be allowed to regain some of the control that she has lost.
Encourage her to seek additional support. Let her know it's OK to contact an advocate at CARDV or a professional counselor to help her work through the feelings she is experiencing. Remember, you can still continue to support and listen to her. Helping her build a strong support network is one of the best things you can do.
Take care of yourself. Supporting someone through such a traumatic experience as sexual assault can be very emotionally draining. Remember that the CARDV hotline and support services are for you, too.
Adapted from resources at the Sexual Assault Resource Center and
the Oregon State University Sexual Assault Support Services.
Rape Trauma Syndrome
When an individual is raped or sexually assaulted and experiences trauma and terror, their daily lives are disrupted emotionally and physically. Survivors of sexual assault frequently report symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as well; these symptoms can last for years. This pattern is also referred to as Rape Trauma Syndrome.
1. The Acute Phase
The acute stage begins directly after the assault and may last days or weeks. It is not uncommon for survivors to experience symptoms of shock in addition to other emotional and physical distress, which may include:
- Short term memory loss
- Difficulty focusing
- Physical soreness or tension
2. The Outward Adjustment Phase
During this period, the survivor begins to resume a more normal daily life, while still experiencing substantial emotional turmoil. Survivors tell us they sometimes try to suppress these emotions in an attempt to regain the control they feel they have lost as a result of the sexual assault. However, some survivors may not be able to focus on anything but the assault, and are often plagued by flashbacks. It is common to make major life changes such as changing jobs or moving in an attempt to escape the incident. Some survivors may withdraw from many activities or personal relationships; or may attempt to stay so busy that there is no time left to deal with the pain and confusion they are feeling. Often times this is disruptive to the survivor's life; work, school, home life, or the ability to simply perform daily tasks can become difficult. These consequences may last weeks, months or years. Survivors tell us they also experience additional effects of the sexual assault, such as:
- Fear of sexual intimacy, or lack of sexual desire. Flashbacks during sexual intimacy are common.
- Decreased sense of personal safety, or increased general anxiety.
- Disrupted sleep patterns: nightmares, insomnia, difficulty getting to sleep, or staying asleep.
- Extreme agitation in certain situations, such as crowds, dark places, or when alone.
- Depression, and/or anxiety.
- Feeling dirty or damaged.
- Loss of appetite, nausea, or over-eating.
- Rage, anger, sadness, helplessness.
- Guilt or belief that the assault could have been prevented or was caused by the survivor's actions.
- Use of alcohol and other drugs to cope with emotional distress.
- Feelings of self-harm, or suicide.
3. The Integration Phase
During this stage the survivor begins to integrate the assault into her life. It is no longer the central focus or profound disruption that it was previously. Survivors tell us that the incorporation of effective and healthy coping strategies into their lives is an important part of this phase. A good support system of friends, family, advocates and/or mental health professionals helps the survivor to deal with the impact of the sexual assault. It is not uncommon to still suffer from flashbacks, but with good support systems it is possible to effectively work through these incidents without it taking over a survivor's life again.
Remember each survivor's healing process is unique. Survivors tell us they sometimes experience more than one stage at a time, or do not follow the sequence of phases outlined above. Healing is an individual and life long process. While it may not be possible to forget what happened, the pain will begin to subside with time.
Beginning to Heal
Survivors tell us It's common to feel like you're going crazy after an assault, but you're not crazy. It's OK to feel confused and overwhelmed by what has happened, remember you just suffered a major trauma. This is a normal part of the healing process, and it will pass with time.
Build a support network. You can never have too much support. When you're ready to talk, contact an advocate, counselor, supportive family member or trusted friend. Some survivors benefit from joining a support group as a part of their healing process. Contact CARDV for more information on times and locations.
Use healthy coping. Going for a walk, talking to an advocate, or spending time with safe people can help to lessen some of the stress.
Simplify your life. Consider dropping any activities that add to your workload or cause additional stress in your life. Spending more time with supportive people, and minimizing your contact with people or situations that may be hurtful is important. You are healing emotionally from a major trauma; this same advice is often given to people recovering from a physical trauma or surgery.
Reach out for help. It's normal to need extra support in the middle of a crisis. If you are feeling suicidal or wanting to self-harm, it is OK to talk about it. You deserve to live, and be healthy. Call the CARDV Hotline 541-754-0110 or 1-800-927-0197, Benton County Mental Health at (541) 766-6844 or 1-888-232-7192 or Linn County Mental Health at 1-800-304-7468.
Be patient. Healing takes time, so be gentle with yourself. It's easy to get frustrated with the healing process; you may feel like you're on an emotional roller coaster for a while. Dealing with a crisis is exhausting, and you will feel its effects for a while.
Adapted from resources at Oregon State University Sexual Assault Support Services
and The Courage to Heal (Davis & Bass).