On RAINN Day, Therapy Threads Discusses Sexual Assault
Every 98 seconds, another person in the United States is sexually assaulted. In the midst of new stories and crime reports, it’s disheartening to hear report after report about a new sexual assault case. Sadly, we aren’t even hearing half of it. Rape is by far the most underreported crime, with an astonishing 63 percent of rapes going unreported each year.
Sexual violence can take many different forms. It includes sexual assault, child sexual assault, intimate partner sexual violence, incest, sexual assault of men and boys and drug-facilitated sexual assault. Rape is a form of sexual assault, but not all sexual assault is rape.
Much of what we “know” about sexual assault is false. For one, it’s not always committed by a stranger, in fact, seven out of 10 sexual assaults are committed by someone known to the victim. Ninety-three percent of victims under the age of 18 know the abuser. It can even occur by someone you are intimate with. Spousal rape, marital rape, intimate partner rape and intimate partner sexual violence are all just as much sexual assault as any other. It’s not just women and girls who experience it. It can, and does, happen to men and boys as well.
On top of this, much of the world still doesn’t know what consent looks like. In 2013, the FBI updated its definition of assault, removing the word “forcibly” from the definition and changing it to “Penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.”
The laws of consent vary state by state. Some states are implementing “yes means yes” laws. According to USA Today, “With a "yes means yes" standard, silence doesn't count as consent. Neither does a lack of resistance. Consent — which can be given through words or actions — must be voluntary and mutual and can be withdrawn at any time.”
RAINN provides an important list of what consent looks like and doesn’t look life. Although it doesn’t have to be verbal, verbal cues can help to clear up boundaries. According to RAINN, positive consent looks like “communicating when you change the type or degree of sexual activity with phrases like ‘Is this OK?’, explicitly agreeing to certain activities, either by saying “yes” or another affirmative statement, like ‘I’m open to trying,’ or using physical cues to let the other person know you’re comfortable taking things to the next level.”
Consent is not assuming that how a person is dressed, flirting or kissing is an open invitation for more. Consent is not when someone is incapacitated from drugs or alcohol. It is not pressuring someone into it. It is not when someone is under the legal age. It’s not an assumption that it’s okay because you’ve engaged in a sexual act together before.
According to USA Today, “Ending rape means changing more than definitions; it means changing culture — and young people know it. The Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation poll that found men and women don't always see eye to eye on consent did find widespread agreement on something: To prevent sexual assault, 93 percent said men should respect women more.”