Love Doesn't Have To Hurt
All About Sexual Assault – The Basics:
Sexual assault is “sexual contact without consent.”
It is important to ask for consent before going further sexually with someone – one cannot assume that his/her partner is “giving signals” that it’s OK.
There are varying degrees of assault, but assault is still assault – consent must be given when engaging in physically intimate acts.
As a relationship progresses from the first kiss on, it’s important to continue asking for permission to take the next steps that follow the first kiss.
Part of being in a successful relationship is knowing the other person’s zones of comfort.
Body language is not an accurate indicator of a person’s feelings. A person can’t rely on the “look” that his/her date is giving to gauge feelings and desires.
When in doubt, ask your date how he/she is doing- it’s the best way to know how he/she is feeling. Even asking your date for permission to kiss him/her is the recommended course of action.
Gender roles can be defied in the world of dating – it’s perfectly acceptable for a woman to assert herself and ask for a kiss, or for a man to make sure it’s okay to kiss his date before taking any action. Both genders appreciate it when their dates are considerate of how they feel.
Generally, men feel that asking a woman for a kiss shows lack of masculinity. However, women find this gesture romantic and respectful.
Not asking if it’s acceptable to go further with your partner sexually can result in sexual assault, even among those who feel that they would never be the type to commit a sexual assault.
Sexual assault is a vile and horrifying experience for anyone to think about or experience. Men tend to struggle to see the horror in sexual assault. These are advised to think of male-on-male assault and the disgust that it invokes in them each time any kind of assault is addressed in their presence.
Many victims of assault tend to not seek out help because they fear their ordeals will be made public to others or they see getting help as a sign of weakness. Both of these statements are false.
Rape crisis centers, assault coalitions and crisis hotlines are excellent sources of support for victims of sexual assault and their friends/family members.
Many assailants tend to blame the victim in a sexual assault situation because the victim is portrayed as having “asked for it” or was labeled a “tease” by the assailant. Many non-involved parties will also side with the assailant because he doesn’t seem like the kind of person that would ever assault someone – or they don’t want to believe that the person could be capable of such behavior.
If you know someone who has been sexually assaulted, it’s important to help them seek out the proper resources and to let him/her know that you will always be there to assist in any way possible.
When someone concedes to engaging in an intimate behavior because he/she fears the repercussion from resisting the assailant’s advances, it is NOT considered consent.
Assailants also use diversionary tactics to get their way, i.e. reverting to an approved form of intimacy and then trying again to move further after the partner is comfortable and unassuming.
The word “rape” has been replaced with “sexual assault” in most parts of the United States. However, the two terms are not synonymous with one another. The differences are as follows:
Rape is sexual intercourse of any kind that is committed without a person’s consent and is done so in a violent manner.
Sexual assault is used as a legal term for rape but also involves non-intercourse sexual acts. This term is used in cases where an individual is incapable of consent.
Sexual assault traumatizes the victim as well as the victim’s close friends and family. Many victims and their family members and loved ones don’t seek out the help they need.
There is not a 100% foolproof method to “prevent” sexual assault. No one is capable of this – not the victim, his/her family or his/her loved ones. However, awareness can help to prevent sexual assault from occurring.
Sexual assault can be man-woman, woman-man, woman-woman and man-man. Assaults with multiple assailants can also occur. Victims or assailants do not fit into any one particular mold.
A man’s girlfriend, wife, mother, sister or co-worker can be a victim. In this regard, sexual assault can hit close to home for many men.
Sexual assault can be seen by men as the “’not my problem’ problem.”
Males commit the vast majority of sexual assaults. Even in non-heterosexual assaults, men tend to be the assailants.
10-20% of men are victims of sexual assault in their lifetime.
According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “one in six women …experience an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime.”
The following tools can be used if you are in an uncomfortable situation that may be headed towards a potential sexual assault:
End a date with someone who doesn’t show you respect. It’s just that simple.
Use “weapons” derived from the clothing and jewelry you wear in the event you are faced with a physical threat.
Self-defense tools such as pepper spray, mace, safety whistles, etc. may prove effective in the event of an attempted sexual assault.
The following dating tips may come in handy if you are looking to prevent a sexual assault from occurring:
Create physical space between yourself and your date and make sure to assert yourself verbally regarding your need for space and your wish for him/her to respect your personal boundaries.
Be prepared when going into potentially romantic situations – make your boundaries known early on and be prepared and on guard when going into situations. Remember, though – nothing can completely prevent a potential assault situation.
Go on a group date with a group of respectful and trusted peers rather than a single date if it’s your first time going out with a potential suitor and you’re feeling uneasy.
Go on a date during daylight hours to help create a safer environment. Also, go out to a public place with many others present, i.e. amusement park or sporting event, to help ensure a safe and non-pressuring environment.
Drive yourself to the date location or have a trusted friend drop you off and pick you up. This helps you take matters into your own hands when it comes to beginning and ending the date on your terms.
Pick a location close to your home area and “go dutch” so that you don’t feel you owe your date anything when the date is over.
Make sure that both you and the other person don’t feel pressured in any way i.e. no “pity dates” and no pressure regarding who pays for what, whether or not you should kiss one another, etc.
Avoiding alcohol and other drugs is the best bet – this helps eliminate some of the potential of being a victim or an assailant and doing something you would regret while under the influence of a substance.
Use the “buddy system” at parties and social events – create a network of friends to support if they need it and to have around to support you in turn.
If you have a cell phone, make sure it’s fully charged before you go out. If not, bring spare change or a calling card with you if you need to make a phone call.
Carry with you a card that lists local emergency hotlines and important phone numbers.
Statistics about Sexual Violence:
At least four in every 10 incidences involves non-married persons
60% of the participants in a 500-person survey of females 15-24 years of age were currently involved in an abusive relationship. All of the women experienced violence in a relationship at one point in their lives.
More than half of assault victims know their assailant as a casual acquaintance at least and a significant other in many cases
Those with partners that display jealous and controlling behaviors are more likely to be sexually assaulted, abused or stalked by their partners.
One in six women in the U.S. will be a victim of sexual assault. One in five female college students will fall under this statistic.
You May Be in an Abusive Relationship:
If your partner criticizes you and puts you down, or you put down your partner and criticize him/her.
If being in the relationship makes you feel less attractive and/or competent.
If you and your partner ignore one another and devalue one another
If you both have become separated from friends and family since beginning the relationship
If you call one another names and are dishonest with one another
If you both endure physical and mental abuse from one another and/or are forced to have sexual contact
If You Think You Are in a Relationship that may Result in Sexual Assault or Abuse:
GET OUT! Trust your gut instinct.
Confide in someone you trust – a professor, family member, friend or counselor
Change any contact information (cell phone number, instant messenger screen name, email address, etc.) and privatize any of your social networking profiles so that the person cannot contact you
If You Have Been a Victim of Rape, You May be Feeling:
Shock and Disbelief
“I can’t believe this happened to me!”
“I feel numb”
Most sexual assault victims react with feelings of pure shock and disbelief. It is not uncommon for you to feel numbness or to want to withdraw from people. Victims tend to avoid the situation altogether and avoid people or places that remind them of what happened.
Remembering What Happened
“I can’t stop thinking about what happened”
“The memory consumes me”
For victims of assault there may be times when your mind is preoccupied with only thoughts and feelings about the assault. When you think about the situation, you may experience some of the feelings that you had during the assault. You may feel afraid and powerless.
“I fee extremely angry about what has happened to me!”
“I feel like something has been taken from me, it makes me very sad.”
Victims of rape can have a variety of strong emotions after the assault. They may experience intense feelings: such as anger, sadness, guilt, embarrassment, depression and fear.
“I can’t eat; I feel nauseas all the time.”
“I have trouble sleeping, I have nightmares.”
Victims of sexual assault can experience many types of physical symptoms after an assault. Some victims will have problems with sleeping; they will experience intense headaches and stomachaches, cause a change in eating habits. If you are a victim of an assault you may find that it is difficult for you to concentrate and keep to your routine. There also may be changed in your feeling about sex; you may have a loss of interest in sex and a want to avoid sexual situations.
Fears About Your Safety
“I can’t go anywhere alone, I am afraid.”
“When I go home at night I search my room to make sure no one is there.”
It is most common for victims of sexual assault to now fear for their safety. It is the most universal response. You may be fearful of certain places and situations that did not bother you before the assault. You may be afraid to be alone and be paranoid that it will happen again. After an assault you may be vulnerable for a sometime.
Blame and Shame
“I feel like this is my fault, I shouldn’t have trusted him”
“I feel like people are going to look at me different”
To have feelings of guilt and shame are normal after a sexual assault. Victims often blame themselves as well as hold themselves responsible. They may also have feelings of guilt of self-blame because of the myths that people believe about rape that blame and criticize the victim.
Some victims of sexual assault may fell ashamed. They may feel dirty, self conscious and humiliated after an assault. Their symptoms are usually caused by the helplessness that victims often feel at the time of the assault.
Why You Should Receive Medical Attention After an Assault:
Where to Go for Help:
It is important to seek medical attention right away after a sexual assault. Even though you may feel fine physically, your body may be unaware and numb or in a state of shock, so it’s essential to seek medical care as soon as possible. Even if there are no visible signs of physical injury, your need for treatment is and should be considered as an emergency. Taking care of your own health under these circumstances is a key step in your healing process.
By seeking medical help you will be able to
- Be examined and treated for injuries
- Be tested for exposure to STDs
- Be tested for pregnancy
- Be able to discuss ways in which you can reduce the risk of pregnancy
- Collect evidence in case you decide to report the assault to the police
On and Off Campus Resources
LOCAL HOSPITALSWays to Take Care of Yourself:
Lehigh Valley Hospital
1200 S. Cedar Crest blvd.
St. Luke’s Hospital
1837 W Linden St
Allentown, PA 18104
Sacred Heart Hospital
421 Chew Street
Allentown, PA 18102
301 S 7th Ave Ste 225
Reading, PA 19601
St. Joesph's Medical Center
12th and Walnut Streets
Reading, PA 19601
Getting support from your family and friends is very important. After an assault you are going through a difficult time and you may feel ashamed or unable to talk about the assault right away. But identifying with people you trust will help. People you trust will help confirm your feelings and verify your strengths.Talk about it
Talking about the assault is a good way to get your feelings. You may choose when, where and with whom you talk to about the assault, but getting things out in the open will help in the healing process.Find ways to reduce stress
Think of something that you enjoy doing. Weather it be some sort of hard exercise like running, exercise classes or walking. Or it could be relaxation methods such as yoga, reading a book, or meditation. Take time out to do things you love, take time out for yourself in general.Stay healthy
Be sure to maintain a healthy and balanced diet. Often when experiencing something as traumatizing as rape, it can change your eating habits. Be sure to eat right and get on a regular sleep cycle. As much as possible. You may want to avoid stimulants suck as caffeine and nicotine.Release anger
After an assault, a common feeling that victims have is anger. They are angry at themselves and the situation. First, remember that the assault is NOT at all your fault. Try and take the anger you may feel and find a way to release it in a healthy manner. Perhaps you could write a letter to your attacker expressing the pain and anger you feel. It is up to you if you’d like to send the letter or not. You should also consider taking self defense classes. It is a great way to help you release anger and as an added bonus you will have learned how to protect yourself in the future.Hug people you love
Hugging releases the body’s natural pain killers.
Ways to Spot a Violent Person:
Quick to get involved romantically
Tries to isolate you from family and friends
Places blame on others
Rigid sex roles
Excessive mood swings
Playful use of force with sex
Quick to get involved romantically
Ways to Prevent Emotionally Abusive Relationships:
How to Help a Survivor:
Keep the lines of communication open
Don’t blame one another for personal problems and dilemmas
Don’t allow feelings of frustration to manifest into feelings of anger and rage
Show concern for one another
Maintain eye contact when communicating with one another
Maintain specificity and a positive demeanor in conversation
Allow the other person to respond to what you have to say
Show the other person that you understand his/her point of view
For Friends, Parents, and Partners of Survivors
One of the main things that YOU can do is “be there” for your friend, daughter/son, or partner. It is important that she/he has the support of friends and family, it can be very helpful in the healing process. As a friend, parent or partner there are many things that you can do to help… ·Talk
Tell your friend right away that you care about them and want to help in any way that you can.Listen
Be a good listener. Let your friend do the talking and let them decide what, when and how they do it. Don’t pressure your friend by asking lots of details and questions.Believe
It is not the victims fault. Believe what your friend is telling you. Many victims feel uncomfortable talking about it because they are ashamed and already blame themselves for that happened. Don’t ignore what happened or try to “smooth it over”Ask
Ask your friend if there is anything they need or want.Encourage
Encourage your friend to seek medical attention. Even if they do not seem physically hurt or it happened a while ago. Encourage them to seek support and talk to a counselor in person, or encourage them to call a 24 hour hotline.Assist
Help your friend find information and resources. If your friend asks, accompany them to get help. Go with them to get medical care or to report the assault with the police.UnderstandTry and understand what your friend is going through. It is a very difficult time for them. They have just been though an emotionally painful experience. Just being there when your friend needs you, will help a lot. Be patient with your friend. Understand that the healing process takes time. Respect
Always respect your friend’s privacy. Do not disclose personal information to others that they shared with you. After all they chose to confide in you because they trusted you. Let your friend decide who they tell and who they do not.Take care of yourself
If someone you know is raped, you might be very shaken up as well. There is nothing wrong with getting some support for yourself even if your friend does not want to talk to a counselor. A counselor can help you better understand what you are feeling and what your friend is going through. It may also help you get ideas on how to help your friend.
As a friend, parent, or partner of a survivor, you are important and there are many things you can do to help. Make sure you let them know you want to be there for them when they need your support. The support you give to the survivor will help determine how the healing process will move faster. Make sure you assure them that they are NOT to blame for the assault. Be positive and encourage the victim to get help. Let the survivor be in control of the decisions she makes. Be aware that each victim will react differently and in their own way and own time.
“What do you know about dating violence?” by Berks Women in Crisis
“May I Kiss You?” by Mike Domitrz
“What Men Can Do” and “Rape: A Men’s Issue” publicity from Mencanstoprape.org
“Love, Sex, & Healthy Relationships” by The Commission on the Status of Women and The KU Women’s Center
Brown University Health Education “Sexual Assault & Rape”
“Surviving Sexual Assault” by Lara Long, Center4research.org