Sexual Assault

Sexual Assault: What Is It, Myths & What To Do

Sexual assault is an injustice that runs rampant in the US and around the world. The sheer magnitude of the issue is jarring. Every 73 seconds, someone is sexually assaulted in the US. One in six women have experienced sexual assault in their lifetime. Nearly half of multiracial women and around 45% of American Indian/Alaska Native women experience some form of contact with sexual violence in their lifetime.

Sexual assault is an issue that affects every region, every city, and should be discussed in every home. Whether you live in an area that is urban, rural, or anywhere in between, it is vital that you are informed about sexual assault.
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What is Sexual Assault?

RAINN, one of the foremost organizations in the fight against sexual assault, describes sexual assault this way:

“The term sexual assault refers to sexual contact or behavior that occurs without explicit consent of the victim. Some forms of sexual assault include:

• Attempted rape
• Fondling or unwanted sexual touching
• Forcing a victim to perform sexual acts, such as oral sex or penetrating the perpetrator’s body
• Penetration of the victim’s body, also known as rape
• Sexual assault can be any sexual behavior or act which is threatening, violent, forced, coercive or exploitative and to which a person has not given consent or was not able to give consent. Reasons that someone might not be able to give consent include being unconscious, asleep, severely intoxicated, having a developmental disability or mental health issue that significantly impairs decision making.

If you’re in a relationship, or have a partner who is pressuring you into engaging in sexual activities you’re not comfortable with, this is one of the signs of sexual abuse.

Some other indicators of sexual assault include:

• Refusing you contraceptives
• Forcing you to engage in painful or uncomfortable sexual acts
• Forcing you to perform sexual acts for money
• Threatening you if you do not have sex with them

It is important to point out that even though you may have previously consented to intercourse with this person, you have a right to say no in the future.

Physical

The trauma from a sexual assault can have a negative impact on a person's health, even years after experiencing the trauma. The mental strain from this traumatic experience can put you at risk for developing high blood pressure, sleep disorders, digestive problems and it can even effect overall brain health. However, these risks are lowered when a person seeks help through trauma counseling.

Emotional

Survivors of a sexual assault have been through one of the most traumatic experiences. The journey toward emotional healing will likely contain both progress and setbacks, but healing is possible. It is not uncommon for sexual assault survivors to struggle with depression, anxiety, PTSD, shame, bitterness and anger. It is important to share what you are feeling so your emotions don’t control you. You are a survivor.

Spiritual

It is not uncommon for those who have suffered a traumatic experience such as sexual assault to go through a spiritual break down which is also known as a crisis of faith. You're likely dealing with many unresolved feelings about how God could have allowed this to happen to you. You may have a desire for spiritual wholeness or help from a higher power, but you're feeling confused how God fits into your current journey.

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Sexual Assault Myths

While most people have a general awareness of what sexual assault is, there are some commonly held misconceptions that are important to dispel.

Misconception 1: Sexual Assault Is Rape Only

While rape is certainly a type of sexual assault, rape is only one kind of abuse that a victim of sexual violence may be subject to.

Sexual assault refers to any kind of unwelcome sexual advance and does not have to reach the point of rape before it is considered assault.

Many victims may minimize their experiences if they don’t feel their assault is as “serious” as a rape. To be sure, any unwanted sexual act or advances violate the rights of the survivor and can result in just as much post-traumatic stress.

Misconception 2: Sexual Assault is Usually Committed by Strangers

While television and movies tend to depict a random attacker perpetrating sexual assault, more often than not, sexual assault victims know their attackers.

In fact, eight out of ten rapes are committed by a person the victim knows. Whether it is a partner, family member, or acquaintance, when perpetrators know their victims, an added level of complexity is added to this heinous injustice.

Many perpetrators may force their victims into unwanted sexual contact through manipulation and may avoid consequences because victims fear accusing someone they know.

It is important to realize that no relationship – romantic, professional, or familial – justifies sexual assault. Many perpetrators take advantage of preexisting relationships in order to abuse vulnerable people. Though taking action against someone you know can be especially difficult, every perpetrator must be brought to justice and be held accountable for their wrongdoing.

Misconception 3: Sexual Assaults Occur in Dangerous Areas

While random and violent attacks in dangerous areas do happen, most sexual assaults actually occur at or near the victim’s home. Over fifty percent of sexual assault survivors report that they were at home, either sleeping or performing some other activity, when they were assaulted.

In recent years there has been an increase in awareness about the number of sexual assaults happening on college campuses. In fact 1 in 4 college females experience sexual assault.
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What You Can Do

It cannot be said too many times: sexual assault is never the victim’s fault. Whether they were drunk, dating their abuser, or walking in an unsafe area, nothing can excuse a perpetrator’s actions.

That being said, there are certain precautions you can take to protect yourself against sexual assault.

As online dating gains popularity, more and more people are meeting strangers from the internet in real life. If you’re meeting someone for the first time, screen them and their online presence as carefully as possible. Meet in public places until they prove themselves trustworthy and never give out personal information like addresses.

Being prepared with small self-defense tools like mace or a personal alarm can be efficient devices to protect against random attackers. Taking a self-defense class can also help to protect you against attackers, sexual or otherwise.

Sexual assault is an issue that affects people everyday, all across the globe, resulting in anxiety, depression, and other symptoms related to PTSD. If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, reaching out should be your first step.

Traumatic experiences like sexual assault do damage to the heart, mind, and body. Recovery takes time and support. In addition to seeking a licensed counselor, our Hope Coaches are available to to encourage you, help you on your healing journey, support you in how to report your assault, and shower you with God’s love. God desires to fill you with purpose, value, love, and peace. He can release you from the shame felt by so many victims of sexual assault.

SPIRITUAL PRACTICE

When it comes to your spiritual life, you may resist any mention of God or prayer. You may be thinking “If there is a God, why did this happen? Or He must not be loving.” Perhaps you are angry at God or feel distant from Him. If any of those describe you, God can handle your thoughts and feelings. He can handle your anger and your doubts. Call out to Him. Tell Him everything you are feeling. He wants to hear from you even though He knows how you already feel. Just try it…give it to Him…all of it. Because here’s the truth, God did not want this for you. Let’s put the blame where it is due. It was the enemy, Satan, who stole from you and wanted to destroy you. It says in the Bible, The thief’s (Satan) purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My (God's) purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.(John 10:10 NLT)

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