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What is Sexual Assault?


In its simplest definition, sexual assault is unwanted sexual contact. Sexual assault includes the act of rape (oral, anal, or vaginal intercourse without consent) or forced penetration by a foreign object (including a finger).
  It also includes non-penetrating acts such as touching an unwilling person’s sexual parts (e.g. breast, buttocks, genitalia), naked or through clothing, or forcing an unwilling person to touch another’s sexual parts.  

 Force includes the use of physical assault, threats of physical assault, or sexual contact with a person who is unable to consent (e.g. unconscious, too intoxicated to consent, asleep, etc.).  

Non-forceful coercion can also be used, for example, threatening to reveal secrets, to tell others that the victim and offender had sexual intercourse, to fire an employee or fail a student (these cases also fit the definition of sexual harassment) or threatening the victim’s friends or family members are all forms of coercion.

The vast majority of sexual assaults are committed by someone the victims knows, ranging from friends and acquaintances to dates, romantic partners, and spouses or domestic partners.  Although people often think that sexual assault is something that only happens to women, this is not the case.  Both men and women are sexually assaulted, as are people of every ethnicity, age, culture, religion, economic background, or sexual orientation.


Same-Sex Sexual Assault

Although people typically think of a man assaulting a woman, sexual assault occur between people of the same-sex as well.  As with opposite sex sexual assault, the majority of same-sex sexual assault occurs between people who know each other or who are intimately involved.  Sexual assault can also be part of a bias or hate crime against someone perceived to be gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender.  Victims of same-sex sexual assault face the same difficulties as other victims, but they may also have to deal with additional issues.

These include:

  • Beliefs that a woman cannot rape another woman or a man cannot rape another man - these may make it harder for victims to find someone to talk to, obtain services, or even believe themselves that they were raped.
  • If the victim was assaulted by a same-sex partner or date, he/she may face, or fear, homophobia and heterosexist attitudes when trying to report the assault or receive medical or psychological services.
  • LGBT victims may avoid coming forward because they fear losing their family, friends, job, or housing.  Conversely, heterosexual victims may fear others thinking that they are gay or lesbian if they report a same-sex assault.
  • LGBT victims who are not yet out may also fear coming out to family, friends, and coworkers, among others. Many victims fear that their loved ones will blame the assault on the victim’s sexual orientation, especially if their family and friends are not supportive or knowledgeable about LGBT issues.
  • Victims of a sexual assault that was part of a hate crime may be traumatized not only by the assault itself, but also by the accompanying prejudice and hatred that motivated the crime.


The Facts

  • 1 out of every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime (14.8% completed rape; 2.8% attempted rape).1
  • College age women are 4 times more likely to be sexually assaulted.2
  • Nearly 5 percent (4.9 percent) of college women are victimized in any given calendar year 3
  • For every 1,000 women attending an institution of higher education, there will be 35 incidents of rape in a given academic year. For CSUSM, this means the number of rapes every year could exceed 300.4
  • For both completed and attempted rapes, about 9 in 10 offenders were known to the victim. Most often, a boyfriend, ex-boyfriend, classmate, friend, acquaintance, or coworker sexually victimized the women.5
  • Fewer than 5 percent of completed and attempted rapes are reported to law enforcement officials.6

Next: Learn about Consent



References
1.National Institute of Justice & Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. Prevalence, Incidence and Consequences of Violence Against Women Survey. 1998.
2.U.S. Department of Justice. The Sexual Victimization of College Women Report. 2000.
3.Ibid
4.Ibid
5.Ibid
6. Ibid