April is sexual assault awareness month, a time where we acknowledge those who have been physically and mentally hurt through sexual means.
Sex is a beatiful and intimate part of our lives, yet this medium meant to provide pleasure is often used as a vessel for harmful control and domination.
RAINN.org, the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization, is a great resource to learn about sexual assault.
They define sexual assault as “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, and penetration of the victim’s body (also known as rape)”.
According to RAINN, an American is sexually assaulted every 73 seconds.
Anyone can experience this horrible violation, but it is important to acknowledge that the majority of victims are women. In fact, according to the CDC, 1 in 3 women will experience sexual violence at some point in her lifetime.
Age is an important factor to pay attention to as well. According to Joni Seagar in The Women’s Atlas, “UNICEF estimates that 120 million girls and women under the age of 20 have been subjected to forced sexual acts at some point in their lives”.
Being a college aged woman puts us at a high risk. Women aged 18-24 are three times more likely to experience sexual assault than women in general.
Unfortunately, a lot of women have interalized rape myths and believe they were at fault because of the way they dressed, how much they drank, etc. This is NOT true.
Sexual assault crimes are the only crime where we blame the victim or expect the victim to fight back. People tend to focus their energies on what the victim was doing, but hello what was the rapist doing??
Don’t blame the victim, the perpetrator is the one who committed the crime.
Now, let’s talk about who these perpetrators seem to be. A lot of us perceive that rape is done by strangers. While rape by strangers do happen, it occurs is less than 25% of the time.
It is rarer, but this by no means implies that it is any less damaging. Chanel Miller, the victim in the infamous Brock Turner case exemplifies this by her impact statement, “You don’t know me, but you’ve been inside me”.
This powerfully written statement showcases how violating sexual violence is no matter who the perpetrator is. To learn more about her experience, I encourage you all to watch her illustrative story, I Am With You.
The most common type of perpetrator is actually someone already known to the victim.
8 out of 10 rapes are committed by someone the victim knows whether they are an acquaintance, relative, or dating/spousal partner.
When sexual assault occurs by a partner it is commonly reffered to as domestic violence. However, the language is shifting toward the term “Intimate Partner Violence” because:
Calling this issue domestic violence can imply that it only happens at home or in a domestic space, when abuse can happen in other places as well.
People have the tendency to associate domesticity with femininity which centers the problem on women. This is not a women’s issue, it is a men’s issue.
Referring to this issue as “domestic” violence erases the perpetrator.
This language induces the false perception that sexual assault is just a problem for adults, when children and teens sufffer too.
So, to be more inclusive and spread more awareness I encourage you to use the term “intimate partner violence” when discussing sexual harm committed by a dating or marital partner.
Red Flags to look for in intimate partners:
Quick involvement and fast paced beginning to relationship
Desire for isolation (they don’t want you to spend time with other people)
Being jealous or possessive
Someone who breaks your privacy
Expects rigid gender ideals
Remember, as I learned in my women’s studies class,
Good relationships are about trust, not control.
Violence is not sexy.
Love should not hurt.
Sexual assault comes in many different forms and can often be seemingly invisible. No matter what situation you are in, know that you are not alone.
If you are struggling through sexual violence of any form please utilize the resources below or talk to a trusted friend.
Books to Learn More:
The Women’s Atlas by Joni Seager
WOMEN Images and Realities; A Multicultural Anthology by Kelly, Parameswaran, & Schniedewind
Yes Means Yes; Visions of Female Sexual Power and a World Without Rape by Jessica Valenti
Asking For It by Louise O’Neill
Women Talking by Miriam Toewes
The Unfinished Revolution; Voices From the Global Fight for Women’s Rights by Minky Worden
When You Ask Me Where I’m Going by Jasmin Kaur
Purple Sparks: Poetry by Sexual Assault Survivors by Evans & Myles
SPU classes to take:
SJC 1000 - Introduction to Justice, Equity, and Cultural Studies
SOC 2000 - Sociology of Gender
WST 2350 - Introduction to Women’s Studies
HSC 3000 - Issues in Women’s Health
ENG 3004 - Literature, Gender, & Sexuality
POL 3330 - Global Women’s Issues
SOC 4210 - Gender in the Global Context
Websites to learn more:
Websites to receive help:
Sexual Assault Hotlines:
RAINN - 800-656-4673
Day One - 1-866-223-1111