Sexual Assault

What is Sexual Assault?

Sexual assault is defined as any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient. This can include forced intercourse or rape, attempted rape, unwanted touching or fondling above or under clothes, incest, molestation, forced oral sex, or sodomy. Such behavior doesn't have to involve physical force; it can also be verbal or visual, which may include sexual coercion (use of intimidation, threats or guilt), indecent exposure, sexual harassment, or voyeurism (when someone watches private sexual acts without consent). 


Approximately 4 out of 5 sexual assaults are committed by someone the victim knows, whether it be a classmate, co-worker, neighbor, acquaintance, friend, family member or partner. It’s important to remember that sexual assault is about exerting power and control over another person. The only blame for such an act lies with the perpetrator; no one ever deserves to be assaulted.



Source: Office on Women's Health, Department of Health and Human Services; Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network; The United States Department of Justice. 


Sexual assault results from an uncontrollable, impulsive sexual urge of biological origin.


Sexual assault is motivated by hostility, power, and control. Clinical studies of offenders find that sexual assaults are not motivated by sexual desire or by the desire to meet biological needs. Rather, they are motivated by hostility, power, and control (Groth, 1979). Unlike animals, humans are capable of controlling how they choose to act on or express sexual urges.


Most sexual assault are committed by strangers.


Most sexual assaults are committed by someone the victim knows. Studies show that approximately 80% of adult women reporting sexual assault knew their assailant (Russo, 1990; Sorenson, 1987). In FY 1995, 83% of the women and men seeking support from Virginia sexual assault crisis centers knew their attacker.


Men cannot be sexually assaulted.


Men are victims of sexual assault. It is estimated that 1 out of every 4-10 men will be sexually assaulted either by another male or by a female during his lifetime (Sorenson, 1987 and Burgess, 1992). In FY 1995, 7.5% of the individuals seeking services from Virginia sexual assault crisis centers were male.


Spouses cannot sexually assault each other.


Spouses can and do sexually assault each other. Marital status does not give either partner the right to have sexual intercourse without the other spouse's consent. Marital sexual contact without consent in Virginia is a criminal offense. In FY 1995, 7.5% of individuals seeking services from Virginia sexual assault crisis centers were assaulted by their spouse.


The crime of rape is usually reported to the police.


The crime of rape is usually not reported to the police. Rape is an under-reported crime in the United States with educated estimates that for every rape reported to the police, 3-10 are not reported (Koss, 1987).


Sexual assault happens to women who “ask for it” by dressing provocatively or by acting seductively.


Sexual assault is not a result of the way a person dresses or acts. It is the assailant who decides to assault another individual. The victim is not an accessory to the crime.

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