sidesThis is our first blog post in a series on sexual assault. Check back for future installments.

Unfortunately, the news never runs out of stories about sexual assaults that occur all over our country. In television shows, we see sexual assault portrayed every week. Despite all of this exposure, many people hold misconceptions about what the term really means.

One of the fifty survivors who took the stage with Lady Gaga at the 88th Annual Academy Awards, Harry Davis, was sexually assaulted when he was fourteen years old. In an article for Huffington Post, he writes that he thought he had been sexually assaulted, but his experience didn’t match the typical sexual assault story he’d see on television: “. . . portrayals of rape victims as women who had been drugged or who had been dragged down an alley by a stranger and fought tooth and nail without success.”

His story was different—he knew his perpetrator, and he didn’t fight. “I told him I wanted to go home, and when he made it clear that wasn’t going to happen, I just shut down, willing everything in me to just get this over with.”

He suffered from what people have called SVU Syndrome (named for the popular television show Law & Order: SVU), which is the idea that because your assault didn’t resemble what happens on television and because it “wasn’t that bad,” that it wasn’t really assault.

That isn’t the case. There are three key ideas to remember when it comes to sexual assault: It happens without consent, it can happen to both sexes, and it is in no way the victim’s fault.

The Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network (RAINN) defines sexual assault as sexual contact or behavior that occurs without explicit consent from the victim. It is a crime of power and control. Some forms of sexual assault include rape or attempted rape, forcing a victim to perform sexual acts, and/or fondling or unwanted sexual touching.

It’s important to know that sexual assault doesn’t always include physical force against the victim. VictimsofCrime.org reports that attackers can use threats or intimidation to make a victim feel afraid or unable to refuse them. It is also sexual assault if the victim is drunk, drugged, unconscious, underage, or mentally disabled, all conditions that make it impossible to legally agree to sexual contact.

Not all sexual assaults are the same, and every survivor has a different story. Just because your sexual assault doesn’t resemble one that you saw in the news or on a television show doesn’t mean that your assault wasn’t real or is any less important.

If you’ve been sexually assaulted and you need someone to talk with, a therapist can help you start the steps of healing. If you’d like to set up a time to meet up with Reka, you can contact her by phone at 402-881-8125, by email at reka@omaha-counseling.com, or via Twitter or Facebook.

photo credit: Sides via photopin (license)