WHAT IS SEXUAL ABUSE/ASSAULT?
Sexual Assault is a broad term that encompasses a variety of abusive actions. Sexual Assault is oppressive and demeaning in nature and is best described as a sexual expression of aggression, control and/or power inequality.
Often there is confusion about sexual assault and consensual sex because many of the acts are similar. The difference is in consent. Consent is when sexual partners agree in some manner to participating in sexual acts. There is a wide range of how consent is given but here we'll focus mainly on when consent is not given.
When an individual is unconscious: if someone is unconscious, they are unable to give consent to any sexual act. If consent was given earlier, being unconscious effectively revokes consent.
When an individual is under the influence: if someone is under the influence of either drugs or alcohol, they are unable to give consent to any sexual act. If consent was given earlier, being under the influence effectively revokes consent until the individual is again sober enough to re-consent.
When an individual goes limp, freezes, or stops engaging: if in the middle of a sexual act after sexual consent is given, an individual goes limp, freezes or simply stops engaging in the act then consent may be no longer be present. Often sexual boundaries are fluid and any participants in sexual activity are allowed to withdraw consent in the middle of an act, or decide that some acts are okay, but others are not. A key to healthy sex would be communication. If an individual goes limp, freezes or stops engaging, this may be a good time to check in. Keep in mind that good sex comes with enthusiastic consent.
The definitions below are common definitions used when discussing sexual assault and rape. Keep in mind that the acts themselves are not in question; the issue in question is of consent.
Definition: Sexual assault/abuse includes unwanted, unwelcome and/or non-consensual sexual jokes, cat calls, obscene phone calls, voyeurism ("Peeping Tom"), exhibitionism ("flasher"), sexual photographing videotaping, forced touching in a sexual manner, forcing someone to engage in sexual touch, coerced and/or forced sexual intercourse, sometimes with added physical violence (beating, use of weapons, etc.). Sexual assault/abuse can happen to anyone regardless of race, socio-economic status, sexual preference, age, and/or gender. Sexual assault/abuse can be male on female, male on male, or female on female, or female on male. Acts of sexual violence fall into one or more of the following categories.
Stranger Rape: occurs between a victim and one or more perpetrators who are not known by the victim. Frequently this type of rape involves the use of force and/or threat of harm by physical violence (beating, use of weapons, etc.).
Power Rape: (sometimes known at date rape or acquaintance rape) occurs between a victim and perpetrator(s) who are acquainted in some manner, and usually involves a violation of trust. The perpetrator(s) may use threats of harm, coercion, mental incapacitation of the victim using alcohol and/or drugs, or physical force to overcome the victim.
Partner/Spouse Rape: occurs between a victim and her/his spouse/partner. Similar to power rape, the perpetrator may use threat of harm, coercion, mental incapacitation of the victim, or physical force to overcome the victim.
Child Sexual Abuse: is any situation in which an adult or someone significantly older than the victim threatens, forces, or manipulates a child into sexual activity. Many offenders don't need to use physical force with children. Instead, they take advantage of their position of trust and/or authority. Child sexual abuse includes sexual intercourse; sexual contact, including through clothing; exposing one's sexual organs in an offensive, sexually suggestive or otherwise inappropriate manner; inappropriate touching; engaging in activities related to child pornography; promoting prostitution by minors; permitting, encouraging or forcing a child to watch sexual activities of others; allowing others to sexually abuse/exploit a child; encouraging or forcing a child to engage in sexual activity with any person or with animals; encouraging or forcing a child to engage in sexually explicit conduct.
Approximately 1 in 4 females and 1 in 7 males are reported to have been sexually abused by the age of 18.