Guide To 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. Between 2009 and 2013, CPS found evidence that around 63,000 children per year were victims of sexual assault.

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.

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 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 Only Rape

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 posttraumatic 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

Another myth promoted by depictions of sexual assault in film and television is that victims tend to be in already-dangerous areas when they are assaulted.

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.

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.

Sadly, only about 300 of every 1,000 rapes are reported to the police, for a variety of reasons. To help bring perpetrators to justice and prevent more attacks, calling 911 can help point you to the best resources for legal and physical help. You can also call 800.656.4673 for more help and resources.

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, TheHopeLine’s Hope Coaches are available to to encourage 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.

To learn more about issues like sexual abuse, emotional trauma, and abusive relationships, browse our library of podcasts, ebooks, and blogs. To learn more about warning signs of abuse and the path to recovery, find answers to questions like these:

  • How Can I Recover From Sexual Assault?
  • What Is PTSD?
  • What Can I Do About An Abusive Relationship?

FAQ on Sexual Assault:

Will I always be sad after being sexually assaulted?

It is normal to feel sad, but there is hope. With emotional support, and appropriate medical and psychological treatment, people recovering from sexual assault can regain feelings of joy and can lead happy and healthy lives. It is possible to unveil the lies you're telling yourself and you can walk in truth and freedom to fulfill your dreams and destiny. 

Learn more

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