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What Is Sexual Assault?

Author
Amanda Turner
July 31, 2022

There are several different types of sexual assault. If you’re not sure whether you’ve been sexually assaulted, you’re not alone. Many survivors of sexual assault find it tough to determine whether what they went through was assault. 

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If you experienced sexual contact or behavior without your consent, you were the victim of sexual assault. Sadly, one in five women reports being sexually assaulted in her lifetime. Since many women who experience sexual assault choose not to report the assault, it’s likely that the actual number of women who have been sexually assaulted at some point in their lifetime is much higher. 

How the Law Defines Sexual Assault

Rape is a type of sexual assault, but not all sexual assaults involve rape. Usually, the law uses the term rape to describe sexual penetration without the explicit consent of the victim. Sexual assault includes rape, attempted rape, unwanted sexual touching, unwanted fondling, and forcing someone to perform sexual acts (such as oral sex or touching). This is by no means an exhaustive list of types of sexual assault. 

According to the National Center for Victims of Crime,

Sexual assault takes many forms including attacks such as rape or attempted rape, as well as any unwanted sexual contact or threats. Usually a sexual assault occurs when someone touches any part of another person's body in a sexual way, even through clothes, without that person's consent.

If the victim lacks the ability to consent to sexual activity (for example, if they’ve had too much to drink or are otherwise incapacitated), sexual acts are not consensual. This is true even if the act occurs with someone who the person has previously consented to engage with in sexual activity. 

If you’ve been coerced into sexual activities through threats (emotional or physical) or have otherwise been pushed into sexual activity that you did not want, this can also be considered sexual assault. Some people have the misconception that in order for an incident to be considered sexual assault, the survivor has to be screaming for help, or fighting off their attacker. This is not true. When a sexual assault occurs, some people go into a self-preservation mode, in which they comply with the demands of their attacker for their own mental, emotional, and physical safety. This is not the same thing as consent. 

The Emotional Effects of Understanding You Were Subject to an Assault

Woman sitting with cop at police station

If you’ve been through a sexual assault, or you think you may have been sexually assaulted, it can be hard to wrap your head around what happened. You may wonder if you gave the wrong impression, deserved what happened to you, or were otherwise responsible for the incident. 

The bottom line: if you did not give consent and an unwanted sexual encounter occurred, you are a survivor of sexual assault

"While it’s infuriating that so many people are sexually victimized, it can also be empowering to know that you have the ability to choose what happens next."

Realizing that you were the victim of sexual assault can feel difficult and lonely, and you may be unsure of what you should do next. It’s normal to feel sad and angry, and you may struggle with moving forward in life after your assault. While you have nothing to feel embarrassed about, it’s normal to feel uneasy or uncomfortable talking about your assault with others. There are a wide range of feelings that can come after sexual assault, and there’s no one right way to feel after your safety, trust, and body have been violated. 

While it’s infuriating that so many people are sexually victimized, it can also be empowering to know that you have the ability to choose what happens next. Whether you choose to press charges, engage in therapy to begin the healing process, or heal in your own way is up to you. 

You didn’t deserve what happened to you. If you want justice following sexual assault, you don’t have to figure out your next steps alone. 

What Survivors Need to Know

For many survivors of sexual assault, reporting the incident to law enforcement cereates a sense of empowerment and control that can be helpful in the healing process. Deciding to report an assault is a personal decision that can help you move forward. 

If you are in immediate danger, call 911 right away. If the assault has already occurred and you’re ready to report the incident, call your local police department. If you’re in college, you can contact campus police, and they will direct you on next steps. 

As a survivor, it’s important to take the necessary steps to protect your health following a sexual assault. As soon as possible, go to the emergency room or urgent care clinic to discuss the need for emergency contraception and STI testing. Your doctor will work with you to help you discover the best way to take care of your health following an assault. 

Your doctor and other members of your care team can also help you report an assault. They can perform a forensic exam that can provide you with the data and information to help you file charges against your accuser.

"There is no right or wrong way to heal after sexual assault."

Working Through Uncomfortable Emotions

There is no right or wrong way to heal after sexual assault. Many people who experience sexual assault find that therapy is helpful, or that participating in support groups can be both cathartic and educational in helping you move forward.

Were You or Someone You Care About Assaulted By A Rideshare Driver or a Church Leader? You’re Not Alone. 

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If you or a loved one were a victim of improper sexual behavior by a Mormon Church member, you may be entitled to compensation.

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Sadly, many people have been the victims of sexual assault perpetrated by rideshare drivers (such as Uber and Lyft drivers) and religious leaders (including those in Mormon and Baptist churches). If you’ve been the victim of sexual assault, you may be entitled to compensation. Therapy and missed work due to issues caused by your assault can create financially difficult circumstances through no fault of your own. We’re here to help. Reach out to us today for a free case evaluation and to learn more about the sexual assault cases against Lyft, Uber, the Mormon church, and the Baptist church.

Free Case Evaluation

If you or a loved one were a victim of improper sexual behavior by a Baptist Church Minister, you may be entitled to compensation.

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