This is part two of a three part series on sexual assault. In our last blog post, we gave an overview of sexual assault. In our next blog post, we will discuss the term ‘consensual.’
According to RAINN (Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network), rape is defined as the penetration (no matter how slight) of the vagina or anus with any object or body part, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.
Richard Morgan, a writer at the Washington Post and a victim of rape himself, says that “some people still see rape according to the old cliché: vile men dragging innocent women into dark alleys and then brutalizing them. As we are finally learning, the reality is much more complicated than the conventional-wisdom cartoon.”
Rapists don’t choose just one type of person; sexual assault happens to men and women, young and old, gay or straight. The cliché or stereotype that women are only raped by men they don’t know is one of the reasons that many rape victims are afraid to come forward. They are afraid that because they knew their rapist, or because they are male, or because they didn’t resist physically, that their assault wasn’t rape.
She was asking for it; look how she was dressed.
It’s because he is gay, so he’s probably promiscuous anyway.
She shouldn’t have been out alone at night.
A man can’t be raped.
Boys will be boys.
These types of statements are not only hurtful, they are untrue. No one is “asking for it.” It doesn’t matter if they were out alone at night, were dressed in a certain manner, or were drinking.
Sometimes, when a person is raped, you will hear people or even the media saying things like those listed above. Comments like these, at least those made towards women, fall under the term Rape Culture. According to Marshall University, Rape Culture is an environment in which rape is prevalent and in which sexual violence against women is excused in the media and popular culture.
It’s important to remember that a person who suffers from sexual assault is never at fault. Because of the attitudes we are so often exposed to in the media, it can be difficult to know what rape is, and too often, an assault survivor isn’t even sure if their assault constitutes rape. You can find information about rape on RAINN, and this Cosmopolitan article does an excellent job of explaining the common misconceptions about sexual assault.
Sexual assault is a traumatic event, both physically and emotionally, and can change how you feel about yourself and those around you. Counseling and support groups can help you work through these issues and support you in recovery. The sooner you get help, the sooner the healing can begin.