Sexual Assault and Rape
Rape and sexual assault are acts that affect every group of people, regardless of age, gender, sexual orientation, education level, income level, race, background or ethnicity. Many times people who have been victims of rape or sexual assault are left with many unanswered questions. The following information may help to answer some of those questions and also gives tips on how to avoid situations that may put you at risk of rape or sexual assault.
What is sexual assault?
Sexual assault and abuse is any type of sexual activity that you do not agree to, including inappropriate touching, vaginal, anal, or oral penetration, sexual intercourse that you say no to, rape, attempted rape, child molestation, exhibitionism (exposing oneself in public), incest, voyeurism (act of observing unsuspecting individuals, usually strangers, who may be naked or in the process of disrobing) and sexual harassment. Sexual assault can be verbal, visual, physical or anything that forces a person to join in unwanted sexual contact or attention.
Sources: IUPUI Health Services, SmarterSex.org
What is rape?
Rape is any forced sexual intercourse, including vaginal, anal, or oral penetration. Penetration may be by a body part or an object. Rape victims may be forced through threats, coercion or physical means.
Source: Rape, Abuse and Inceest National Network, Rainn.org
What is consent?
Mutual consent is only achieved when both partners consciously indicate a willingness to participate in the sexual activity. This is a tricky issue and should be discussed and reached without coercion by either party. If you are involved in a situation where you or your partner are intoxicated or unconscious and cannot say "no", this is not mutual consent.
Source: IUPUI Health Services
How frequently does sexual assault and rape occur?
- One out of four women will be sexually assaulted during college.
U.S. Department of Justice (2005). The Sexual Victimization of College Women.
- Approximately 80% of female victims experienced their first rape before the age of 25 and almost half experienced the first rape before age 18 (30% between 11-17 years old and 12% at or before the age of 10). Center for Disease Control and Prevention (2010). cdc.gov
- Female first year students are at highest risk for sexual or physical assault from the day they arrive on campus until Thanksgiving break.
Campus Outreach Services, 2003
- 90% of women know the person who sexually assaulted or raped them.
Fisher, Bonnie S., Francis T. Cullen, and Michael G. Turner (2000). The sexual victimization of college women. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice.
- 75% of the time, the offender, the victim, or both have been drinking. Fisher, Bonnie S., Francis T. Cullen, and Michael G. Turner (2000). The sexual victimization of college women. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice.
- Less than 5% of completed and attempted rapes of college students are brought to the attention of campus authorities and/or law enforcement. Karjane, H.M., Fisher, B.S., & Cullen, F.T. (2005). Sexual assault on Campus: What colleges and universities are doing about it.
- 3% of college men report surviving rape or attempted rape as a child or adult. Tjaden, P., and N.Thoennes. "Prevalence, Incidence, and Consequences of Violence Against Women: Findings From the National Violence Against Women Survey," 2-5, Research in Brief, Washington, D.C.: National Institute of Justice, Department of Justice, 1998.
What do I do if I am sexually assaulted or raped?
- Find a safe environment - anywhere away from the attacker. Ask a trusted friend to stay with you for moral support.
- Preserve evidence of the attack - don't bathe or brush your teeth. Write down all the details you can recall about the attack & the attacker.
- Get medical attention. Even with no physical injuries, it is important to determine the risks of STIs and pregnancy.
- To preserve forensic evidence, ask the hospital to conduct a rape kit exam.
- If you suspect you may have been drugged, ask that a urine sample be collected. The sample will need to be analyzed later on by a forensic lab.
- Report the rape to law enforcement authorities. A counselor can provide the information you'll need understand the process.
- Remember it wasn't your fault.
- Recognize that healing from rape takes time. Give yourself the time you need.
How do I help a friend who has been sexually assaulted?
First, understand that you will have strong feelings that you will need to acknowledge. You may feel overwhelmed with many different feelings and it is important for you to acknowledge this. You may be overcome with feelings of anger towards the rapist (which is ok) and toward your friend (which is not ok). You may feel a sense of powerlessness and confusion (imagine what your friend is feeling or is fighting very hard not to feel). In addition to these feelings and others, your friend may also be experiencing deep-seated feelings of regret, degradation and shame. This is where you come in.
- You will need to sift and sort through your feelings (and getting counseling yourself may be important) but you will need to put them aside to be there for your friend in a non-judgmental, supportive manner. It is not your friends' fault. Rape/sexual assault/non-consensual sex is not their fault. Sex is about mutual consent and the word mutual is stressed.
- Do not express your opinion. Help them to identify all their options. They have complex and important decisions to make and it will be a difficult struggle for them. Allow him or her to express their feelings the full range. Just listen. Be empathetic. Validate and believe them. Help them feel safe. They may need to think of ways they can be safe and changes they can make that will help them feel safer.
- There are destructive myths about rape/assault. Rape/sexual assault/ non-consensual sex is a violent act about power over. Tell him or her you do not believe these myths. This can be empowering and you may also need to advocate for him or her in the medical and legal system.
- Although they may not want to, it is still extremely important for them to seek medical attention. It is also important for him or her to talk to a mental health counselor or a rape crisis services person. It is perfectly ok to attend these appointments with your friend and it may help them.
- It is important for them to receive medical treatment as soon after the assault as possible. Even though he or she will want to wash and change clothes, it is important for them to remain in the same clothing and not to wash until after the exam.
- Rape/sexual assault/non-consensual sex is traumatic and each person will go through unique individual responses. It is not uncommon for person who has been raped to protect the perpetrator.
- He or she will need care, comfort, and a way to heal. They will need to know that it is not their fault; to get medical treatment, and do deal with their feelings (i.e. not numb them). Above all, believe in their healing capacity and their ability to heal.
How do I reduce my risk for sexual assault?
If at home…
- Make sure all windows and doors can be locked securely, especially sliding glass doors. Use the locks and keep all entrances well-lit.
- Use the peephole in the door.
- Check the identification of any sales or service person before letting them in.
- Don't let any stranger into your house if you are home alone - no matter what the reason or how dire the emergency is supposed to be. Offer to make an emergency phone call while they wait outside.
- Never give the impression that you are home alone if a stranger telephones or comes to the door.
- Get to know your neighbors and find someone you can turn to if you're worried.
- If you live in an apartment, avoid being alone in the laundry room or garage alone, especially at night.
- If you come home and find an open door or signs of forced entry, do not go in!
- Let a roommate or neighbor know where you are going, who you will be with, and when you will be home.
- Be alert to your surroundings and the people around you.
- Stay in well-lit areas.
- Walk confidently and at a steady pace on the side of the street facing traffic.
- Walk close to the curb. Avoid doorways, bushes and alleys.
- Wear clothes and shoes that give you freedom of movement.
- Don't walk alone at night and always avoid areas with few people.
- Be careful when people stop you for directions. Always reply from a distance and never get close to the car.
- If you are in trouble, attract attention any way possible. Scream, yell for help or yell "fire".
- If you feel you are being followed, don't go home, go to a safe place.
- Don't wear headphones.
- Carry a whistle to use in case of an attack.
When in your car…
- Keep your car in good working condition and always have at least a half tank of gas.
- Park in well-lit areas, and always lock your car, even if you will be gone only a short time.
- When you return to your car, always have you keys ready and check the front and back seats and the floor before getting in.
- Drive with all the doors locked.
- Never pick up hitchhikers.
- If you are being followed, don't go home, go to a safe place.
Only 10% of sexual assaults are perpetrated by strangers.
What To Do If You Are Attacked
- Keep your head. Stay as calm as possible, think rationally and evaluate your resources and options.
- It may be more advisable to submit than to risk severe injury or death. You have to make this decision based on the situation. But don't resist if the attacker has a weapon.
- Keep assessing the situation as it is happening. If one strategy doesn't work, try another. Possible options to not resisting are negotiating, stalling for time, distracting the assailant and escaping to a safe place, verbal assertiveness, screaming to attract attention, and physical resistance.
- You may be able to turn the attacker off, with a bizarre behavior such as throwing up, acting crazy, or picking your nose.
Source: U.S. Department of State Bureau of Diplomatic Security
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Domestic Violence Program
Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault
Sexual Assault Crisis Line
Crime Victims' Hotline
National Victim Center
- What is sexual assault?
- What is rape?
- What is consent?
- How frequently does sexual assault and rape occur?
- What do I do if I am sexually assaulted or raped?
- How do I help a friend that has been sexually assaulted?
- How do I protect myself from sexual assault?
- What To Do If You Are Attacked
- Victim Services