Understanding Sexual Violence
Sexual violence is a crime of power and control. The term sexual violence refers to sexual contact or behavior that occurs without explicit consent of the victim. Some forms of sexual violence include:
- Penetration of the victim’s body, also known as rape
- Attempted rape
- Forcing a victim to perform sexual acts, such as oral sex or penetrating the perpetrator’s body
- Fondling or unwanted sexual touching
What is consent?
“Consent means affirmative words or conduct demonstrating an uncoerced, mutual agreement to engage in specific sexual activity and includes enthusiastic, voluntary, and informed permission that can be withdrawn at any time.” (ICESA, 2018)
What is rape?
Rape is a form of sexual assault, but not all sexual violence is rape. The term rape is often used as a legal definition to specifically include sexual penetration without consent. For its Uniform Crime Reports, the FBI defines rape as “penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.”
What is force?
Force doesn’t always refer to physical pressure. Perpetrators may use emotional coercion, psychological force, or manipulation to coerce a victim into non-consensual sex. Some perpetrators will use threats to force a victim to comply, such as threatening to hurt the victim or their family or other intimidation tactics.
Who are the perpetrators?
The majority of perpetrators are someone known to the victim. Approximately 3 out of 4 of sexual assaults are committed by someone known to the victim, such as in the case of intimate partner sexual violence or acquaintance rape.
The term “date rape” is sometimes used to refer to acquaintance rape. Perpetrators of acquaintance rape might be a date, but they could also be a classmate, a neighbor, a friend’s significant other, or any number of different roles. It’s important to remember that dating, instances of past intimacy, or other acts, like kissing, do not give someone consent for increased or continued sexual contact.
In other instances the victim may not know the perpetrator at all. This type of sexual violence is sometimes referred to as stranger rape. Stranger rape can occur in several different ways:
• Blitz sexual assault: When a perpetrator quickly and brutally assaults the victim with no prior contact, usually at night in a public place
• Home invasion sexual assault: When a stranger breaks into the victim’s home to commit the assault
• Contact sexual assault: When a perpetrator contacts the victim and tries to gain their trust by flirting, luring the victim to their car, or otherwise trying to coerce the victim into a situation where the sexual assault will occur
Survivors of both stranger rape and acquaintance rape often blame themselves for behaving in a way that encouraged the perpetrator. It’s important to remember that the victim is never to blame for the actions of a perpetrator. (Informational content adapted from https://www.albionfellowsbacon.org/)
GET IN TOUCH
Safe Place Sexual Assault Center
PO Box 235
Batesville, Indiana 47006
This project is supported in part (or in whole) by grant, 03215VAGX006403 from the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office for Victims of Crime through the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute. Views contained herein are those of the author and do not represent the position of USDOJ or ICJI.
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