The month of April is Sexual Assault Awareness month. Sexual assault by definition is any intentional sexual contact, characterized by use of force, physical threat or abuse of authority, or when the victim does not or cannot consent. Sexual assault includes rape, nonconsensual sodomy (oral or anal sex), indecent assault (unwanted, inappropriate sexual contact or fondling), or any attempts to commit these acts.
Consent is not given when a person uses force, threat of force, coercion, or when the victim is asleep, incapacitated, or unconscious.
- Consent will not be deemed or construed to mean the failure by the victim to offer physical resistance.
- Consent is NOT the absence of NO; it IS the presence of YES
Sexual assault is a crime, one of the most heinous crimes committed against another human being. One of the greatest myths regarding sexual assault is that it is a crime of passion, when in fact; it is a crime of aggression. A sexual assault perpetrator acquires his or her gratification through the power and control that they are able to exercise over their victim, and not by the sexual act itself.
The typical rapist:
- Plans and premeditates his attacks
- Uses multiple strategies to make his victim vulnerable, i.e. gains victim’s trust, acts like the “nice guy”
- Uses alcohol deliberately…. as a weapon …. to his advantage
Predators are skilled at sensing fearfulness, especially in someone who has been victimized before. He will violate your personal space by standing too close and if he sees fear on one’s face (common in someone who has a history of trauma/abuse) he knows he can dominate you. But, if one exhibits anger or that of being turned off by his advances, he will sense that you are someone he cannot push around, and more often than not, he will back off.
Myths revolving around sexual assault:
- Most sexual assaults are stranger attacks.
- Sexual assaults are: “an honest mistake between two people who drank too much” or “miscommunication.”
- Most sexual assaults are non-stranger attacks, i.e. someone the victim knows, has been involved with, a friend, neighbor, or relative.
- 90% of all sexual assaults are committed by repeat offenders.
Sexual Assault Warning Signs:
Be alert for any of these behaviors and prepare to intervene:
- Sexually charged comments and gestures
- Disrespectful behavior
- Treating people like objects
- Encouraging someone to drink too much
- Inappropriate touching or unwelcomed intimacy
- Targeting someone who is vulnerable
- Attempting to isolate someone
- Using alcohol or drugs to increase vulnerability
- There is safety in numbers: Travel in groups of trustworthy individuals and make a pact; if you go out together, leave together
- When going out, always have plan B, especially if you are going to be drinking
- Never leave your drink unattended or out of your sight
- Solicit others help to remove a potential victim from a potentially dangerous situation
- Create a distraction to separate a potential victim from a potential offender
The bystander intervention approach is key to finding and expanding the possibilities to stop sexual violence before it is perpetrated.
The bystander approach offers several clear benefits:
Discourages victim blaming: instead of asking questions such as:
“How could YOU have let this happen to you?” or “Why didn’t YOU say anything?”
With bystanders as active participants, the sense of responsibility shifts away from the victim and towards family, friends and the community as a whole. The questions than become:
“How could WE let this happen in OUR community?” or “How can WE learn to say something when WE see something?”
This approach offers the chance to change social norms:
Friends don’t let friends hurt others!