April is Sexual Assault Awareness month, which is an annual campaign to promote awareness of sexual assault and educate each other on how to prevent sexual violence. Here at Westlake, we strive to advocate for those who have been victims of sexual assault and work to prevent it by establishing norms of respect, safety, equality, and helping others.
What is sexual assault?
Sexual assault happens in every community and affects people of all genders and ages. Sexual assault is any type of unwanted sexual contact. This includes words and actions of a sexual nature against a person’s will and without their consent. A person may use force, threats, manipulation, or coercion to commit sexual assault.
Forms of sexual assault include:
- Rape or sexual violence
- Child sexual assault and incest
- Sexual assault by a person’s spouse or partner
- Unwanted sexual contact/touching
- Sexual harassment
- Sexual exploitation and trafficking
- Exposing one’s genitals or naked body to other(s) without consent
- Masturbating in public
- Watching someone engage in private acts without their knowledge or permission
- Nonconsensual image sharing
Who does sexual assault impact? Victims of sexual violence include people of all ages, races, genders, and religions — with and without disabilities.
- Nearly one in five women in the United States have experienced rape or attempted rape some time in their lives.
- In the United States, one in 71 men have experienced rape or attempted rape.
- Victims often know the person who sexually assaulted them.
- Nearly three out of four adolescents (74%) who have been sexually assaulted were victimized by someone they knew well..
- One-fifth (21.1%) were committed by a family member.
- 51.1% of female victims of rape reported being raped by an intimate partner.
What is consent? Consent must be freely given and informed, and a person can change their mind at any time. Consent is more than a yes or no. It is a dialogue about desires, needs, and level of comfort with different sexual interactions. Choosing to violate another person is not about “drinking too much,” “trying to have a good time,” or “getting carried away,” nor is it about the clothes someone was wearing, how they were acting, or what type of relationship they have with the person who abused them. Violating another person is a choice.
How to get help?
If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual assault it is important to know your rights and how to get help. Victims of crime have rights that depend on the laws of the location (state, territory, tribe) where the crime occurred. Some of the laws that might apply to you if a person has committed the crime of sexual assault against you include:
- Availability of a forensic exam (rape kit) at no cost to you
- Confidential access to victim advocates
- Time limits (statute of limitations) on reporting a sexual assault to the police
- Mandated reporting of the assault if you are a vulnerable person (child or elder adult)
- Confidential communication with service providers
- Testing or storage of evidence kits
- Possible financial compensation for you as a crime victim
Other resources include:
- The Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network (RAINN) Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 or access RAINN’s online chat
- National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) offers a directory of Victim/Survivor support resources for every region. https://www.nsvrc.org/
Nora Schultz, MSSW Intern