Recognizing Sexual Assault Awareness Month

Sexual Assault and Rape

By Sarah Reno Baker

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” ~MLK Jr.

How many times have we heard, “She asked for it,” regarding sexual assault or rape? Now we take that same statement and say, “He asked for it.” Seriously.  Who asks to be violently assaulted or raped?  No one. Humans do not ask to be hurt.  We do not ask for another person to take from us what is ours. Sometimes our society cannot grasp the trauma that is caused by sexual assault or rape. People need their voices heard. Humans have the right to be believed. It is time to shatter the silence.
The Joyful Heart Foundation understands the difficulties with sexual assault and rape. The organization takes pride in what they do and is respectful to every individual’s journey. “At Joyful Heart, we understand how difficult the pain of these experiences can be, and we honor the strength, courage, and time it takes to heal”.
Sexual Assault and Rape
Sexual assault and rape are different. Sexual assault is done without a person’s consent and refers to an unwanted sexual act. People often believe sexual assault is only violent physical incidents, but this is not the case.  According to The Joyful Heart Foundation, “Sexual assault refers to any sexual, physical, verbal or visual act that forces a person against their will”. This also includes attention or sexual contact that is unwanted. Rape on the other hand, is forced sexual intercourse. Penetration is not only by a body part, but also by objects.

We must take a stand against the silence. A victim is not at fault when sexual assault or rape occurs.
Through a study from the Centers for Disease control in 2010 for the United States, it was found that one in five women are raped in their lifetime.  This is approximately 22 million women. The study also concluded that one in 71 men are raped in their lifetime. This is approximately 1.6 million men. There is a misconception about rape. Many people believe that rape occurs mostly by strangers, but this is not the case.  Survivors of assault by an acquaintance, friend, relative, or intimate partner is at 60 percent. By the age of 18, 42 percent of women have been raped. Furthermore, under the age of 25 accounts for 79.6 percent of female rape victims. One in four women and one in six men experience an unwanted sexual experience in their lifetime.

Take a stand against silence.  One sexual assault or one rape is one too many.
Signs and Effects
There are signs that can help a person flag a potential perpetrator.  Abusive behavior can be derogatory sexual terms, an aggressive behavior, sexually harassing others, and threating others by sexual objects. Everyone’s response to trauma is unique.  Shock, fear, guilt, and shame consume the survivor. Sexual assault can harm a person’s health by physical, and mental aspects. A person that has survived abuse for years will have a different coping mechanism than a person who has experienced sexual assault for the first time.

Stop the stigma against silence and sexual assault. Understand that humans are unique and their reactions are also unique.

Effects of sexual assault and rape are massive. Mental effects for a person that has experienced this type of trauma can be, but not limited to, Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and dissociation.  Emotional effects can be fear, guilt, feeling weak due to reaction, vulnerability, lack of trust, blame, anger, shock, numbness, loss of control, disorientation, and helplessness.

Take back your silence.  Take a stand.  You are worthy.

National Crisis Hotlines
Rape, Abuse and Incest National Hotline, 1-800-656-HOPE,
Planned Parenthood, 1-800-230-7526,
National Domestic Violence Hotline, 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or 1-800-787-3224,

This column is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical or psychological advice or treatment.