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Sexual Coercion Is Still Sexual Assault

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Illinois State chapter.
TW: This article details sexual coercion and other types of sexual assault. If this topic is triggering, please do not read ahead.
What is Sexual Assault?

Unwanted sexual contact or behavior where consent was not obtained or freely given.

The legal definition of sexual assault varies from state to state.

How Is sexual assault defined in Illinois?

Criminal Sexual Assault: An act of sexual penetration and defendant;

  • Uses force or threat of force
  • Knows that the victim is unable to understand the nature of the act or is unable to give knowing consent;
  • Is a family member of the victim, and the victim is under 18 years of age; or
  • Is 17 years of age or over holds a position of trust, authority, supervision, in relation to the victim, and the victim is at least 13 years of age but under 18 years of age

You can read the rest of the sexual assault legal definitions and penalties here.

What are forms of sexual assault?
  • Attempted rape
  • Penetration of victim’s body; rape
  • Unwanted sexual touching
  • Forcing a victim physically or nonphysically to perform sexual acts
Sexual Assault Consent GIF by AMAZEorg - Find & Share on GIPHY
What is sexual coercion?

Unwanted sexual activity that occurs after being pressured, tricked, threatened, or forced nonphysically. In other words, the perpetrators won’t take no for an answer.

How might someone use sexual coercion?
  • Repeatedly asking for sex
  • Making someone feel bad, guilty, or obligated
  • Making someone feel like it’s too late to say no
  • Saying that not having sex will ruin the relationship
  • Lying or threatening to spread rumors
  • Making promises to reward sex
  • Threatening loved ones
  • Threatening your job or school career

You can learn more about sexual coercion here.

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Who are the perpetrators?

Most perpetrators are known to the victim. Sexual coercion usually happens by someone the victim has a relationship with. The most common term used for acquaintance rape is “date rape.” Acquaintance rape or sexual assault does not always happen by a date but may include a neighbor, classmate, etc. There are times when the victim does not know the perpetrator, referring to stranger rape, which can happen in various ways. An example is blitz sexual assault—when the perpetrator assaults the victim brutally and quickly but has no previous contact with the victim.

What is consent?

An agreement between two parties to engage in sexual activity.

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Safe Sex Assault GIF by INTO ACTION - Find & Share on GIPHY
What is not consent?
  • Refusing to acknowledge no
  • The partner is disengaged, nonresponsive, or visibly upset
  • Assuming that wearing certain clothes, flirting, or kissing is an invitation to something more
  • Someone being under the legal age of consent, defined by the state
  • Someone being incapacitated because of drugs or alcohol
  • Pressuring someone by using fear or intimidation
  • Assuming you have permission to engage in a sexual act because you’ve done it in the past
Speak Up Sexual Assault GIF by INTO ACTION - Find & Share on GIPHY
My Clothing is Not Consent
How is consent defined in Illinois?

A freely given agreement to the act of sexual penetration or sexual conduct in question. The consenting age in Illinois is 17, unless the perpetrator holds a position of trust, authority, or supervision in relation to the victim, then the age of consent is 18.

  • Lack of verbal or physical resistance or submission by the victim resulting from the use of force or threat of force by the accused shall not constitute consent
  • The manner of dress of the victim at the time of the offense shall not constitute consent
  • A person who initially consents to sexual penetration or sexual conduct is not deemed to have consented to any sexual penetration or sexual conduct that occurs after he or she withdraws consent during the course of sexual penetration or sexual conduct

You can read more about how Illinois legally defines consent and about the capacity to consent here.

You can read more about consent here and here

Where am I getting my information?

My main source of information is RAINN (Rape, Abuse,& Incest National Network) which, is the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization. In addition, from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services from the Office on Women’s Health.

Why is this important to know?

It is essential to understand what consent, sexual assault, coercion, etc., is because it is a crime but, also the long-lasting effects on someone mentally. According to Matthew Tull, PH.D. writing for Very Well Mind, survivors can experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or symptoms of PTSD and other mental health disorders that are commonly linked with PTSD. Survivors may also experience physical effects such as digestive problems. They were not given the choice of what they wanted to do with their bodies; the perpetrator took that choice from them. Sexual assault is something that happens very often. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC) reported that one in three women and one in four men would experience sexual violence at some point in their lives. 

Resources

I wanted to write about sexual assault and sexual coercion due to April being Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

Saam GIF by National Sexual Violence Resource Center - Find & Share on GIPHY
Support Survivors during Sexual Assault Awareness Month
You Got This GIF by Unpopular Cartoonist - Find & Share on GIPHY
it was never your fault
Nadia Smith

Illinois State '25

Hello! My name is Nadia Smith. I am a sophomore here at Illinois State University. I'm majoring in Sociology and minoring in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. I've always had an interest in writing, so I'm excited to be able to do this at Her Campus! I am also the Secretary for SEMIS. I spend my free time taking care of my plants, watching TikToks, hanging out with friends, and watch movies/tv shows.