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.
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.
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.