HOW DO YOU HELP A SURVIVOR OF SEXUAL ASSAULT?
Keep in mind the following concepts…
The perpetrator, not the survivor, is responsible for the assault – always.
Survivors have made the best choices and decisions possible – given the constraints, fears, feelings, and circumstances at the time.
No one deserves to be raped. Sexual assault is not about something that was wrong with the survivor – or anything she or he did, said, wore, or thought.
Survivors have strength and healing capacity. Although it may take time and be difficult, every survivor can move through an individual process and recover from sexual assault.
Tell her the rape was not her fault.
Believe what she tells you.
Tell her you are glad she is alive.
Allow her to make her own decisions.
Do not tell her what to do. Offer her options.
Explain to her the options of contacting the police, hospital, rape crisis center, family, and friends.
Date Rape / Acquaintance Rape
What is Acquaintance Rape?
Acquaintance rape occurs when one individual forces, coerces or manipulates another individual he or she knows to have sexual intercourse against the other’s will and without consent. It is one of the most common types of sexual assault and one of the least understood.
It is rape if:
- Your attacker is an acquaintance, date, good friend or spouse.
- You engaged in sexual touching and kissing, but then were forced to have intercourse against your will.
- You have had sex with that person before, but this time said no.
- You froze and did not or could not say no or were unable to fight back physically.
- There was no weapon involved.
If you have been sexually assaulted, you are not to blame, even if:
- You were drinking or using drugs. Being high does not give another the right to assault you.
- You were wearing clothes that others may see as seductive. Remember, rape is an act of violence, not sexual gratification.
- You have been sexually intimate with that person or with others.
Everyone has the right to decide when she or he wants to be sexual.
There are actions you can take to reduce the risk of being involved in acquaintance rape. While there are no foolproof methods, the following are some useful suggestions:
- Communicate your limits clearly. If someone makes you feel uncomfortable, tell him or her early and firmly. Say “No” when you mean “No.”
- Be assertive. Others often interpret passive behavior as permission. It’s your body and no one has the right to force you to do anything you don’t want to do. Don’t worry about being “polite” if someone is not respecting your wishes. Being assertive can be difficult and may require training and practice.
- Be alert. Alcohol and drugs can impair your judgment and ability to make responsible decisions, and you may end up in an undesirable situation. Always have a plan to get yourself home.
- Trust your intuition. If you sense danger or you’re feeling nervous about someone else’s behavior, it’s best to remove yourself from that situation immediately.
The Myths About Acquaintance Rape
Myths & Reality:
MYTH: Rape is committed by crazed strangers.
REALITY: Most women are raped by “normal” acquaintances.
MYTH: A woman who gets raped deserves it, especially if she agreed to go to the man’s house or ride in his car.
REALITY: No one, male or female, deserves to be raped. Being in a man’s house or car does not mean a woman has agreed to have sex with him.
MYTH: Women who don’t fight back haven’t been raped.
REALITY: You have been raped when you are forced to have sex against your will, whether you fight back or not.
MYTH: If there’s no gun or knife, you haven’t been raped.
REALITY: It’s rape whether the rapist uses a weapon or his fists, verbal threats, drugs or alcohol, physical isolation, or your own diminished physical or mental state, or simply the weight of his body to overcome you.
MYTH: It’s not really rape if the victim isn’t a virgin.
REALITY: Rape is rape. The issue of virginity is irrelevant.
MYTH: If a woman lets a man buy her dinner or pay for a movie or drinks, she owes him sex.
REALITY: No one owes sex as a payment to anyone else, no matter how expensive the date.
MYTH: Agreeing to kiss or neck or pet with a man means that a women has agreed to have intercourse with him.
REALITY: Everyone has the right to say “no” to sexual activity, regardless of what has preceded it, and to have that “no” respected.
MYTH: When men are sexually aroused, they need to have sex or they will get “blue balls.” Once they get turned on, men can’t help themselves from forcing sex on a women.
REALITY: Men don’t physically need to have sex after becoming aroused any more than women do. Men are able to control the male organs even after becoming sexually excited.
MYTH: Most women lie about being raped, especially when they accuse men they date or other acquaintances.
REALITY: Rape really happens — to people you know, by people you know. It happens more often than it is reported.
Resisting Acquaintance Rape
Adapted by GMU from The Los Angeles Commission on Assaults Against Women, 1987 There are various theories about acquaintance rape resistance strategies. One widely accepted view was developed by Py Bateman of Alternatives to Fear in Seattle, WA. She describes three stages in this kind of rape:
Stage 1: Intrusion At this stage, the potential victim needs to be able to recognize intrusion and effectively communicate that it is unacceptable. Be specific about what the offensive behavior is, clear that it is not welcome, and definite that it must stop. This doesn’t rule out courteous behavior. Yet, it is a good idea to avoid apology or humor, as either might undermine the message.
Stage 2: Desensitization In this stage, the first task is to resist desensitization by not “getting used to” sexually coercive behavior. It can be difficult to deal with the negative reactions as we tell abusive men to stop. Consider enlisting the aid of a buddy with whom to discuss such interactions; she can praise your successes and help you deal with any negative reactions.
The second task is to identify the men who get clear communication, possibly repeatedly, and choose to ignore it. There can be no question now regarding their motives. These are the ones to consider potentially dangerous. Consider whether you want them in your life at all, if you have a choice in the matter. If they are hard to avoid because they are relatives, neighbors, co-workers, etc., make plans to avoid isolation with them.
Stage 3: Isolation To avoid isolation with a potentially dangerous man, look at the ways you interact with him in the course of everyday life. Refuse to accept rides with him, make sure that you do not work late when he does, line up allies who will join you if it looks like he is maneuvering you to isolation.
Often sexually aggressive men are harassing a number of women in the same circle. When we do not talk to each other, we are isolated in another way. Sharing information about your experience with such a man can help create allies, which can be very important in the case of an attempted rape, or in a formal sexual harassment complaint at work.
What to Do if You Are Raped
Go to a safe place.
If you want to report the crime, notify the police immediately. Reporting the crime can help you regain a sense of personal power and control.
Call a friend, a family member, or someone else you trust who can be with you and give you support.
Preserve all physical evidence of the assault. Do not shower, bathe, douche, eat, drink, wash your hands, or brush your teeth until after you have had a medical examination. Save all of the clothing you were wearing at the time of the assault. Place each item of clothing in a separate paper bag. Do not use plastic bags. Do not clean or disturb anything in the area where the assault occurred.
Get medical care as soon as possible. Go to a hospital emergency department or a specialized forensic clinic that provides treatment for sexual assault victims. Even if you think that you do not have any physical injuries, you should still have a medical examination and discuss with a health care provider the risk of exposure to sexually transmitted infections and the possibility of pregnancy resulting from the sexual assault. Having a medical exam is also a way for you to preserve physical evidence of a sexual assault.
If you suspect that you may have been given a “rape drug,” ask the hospital or clinic where you receive medical care to take a urine sample. Drugs, such as Rohypnol and GHB, are more likely to be detected in urine than in blood.
Write down as much as you can remember about the circumstances of the assault, including a description of the assailant.
Get information whenever you have questions or concerns. After a sexual assault, you have a lot of choices and decisions to make – e.g., about getting medical care, making a police report, and telling other people. You may have concerns about the impact of the assault and the reactions of friends and family members. You can get information by calling a rape crisis center, a hotline, or other victim assistance agencies.
Talk with a counselor who is trained to assist rape victims. Counseling can help you learn how to cope with the emotional and physical impacts of the assault. You can find a counselor by contacting a local rape crisis center, a hotline, a counseling service, other victim assistance agencies, or RAINN. RAINN is a national victim assistance organization, at 1-800-656-HOPE. RAINN will connect you to a rape crisis center in your area.
For more information, stop by SUB I Room 252C or call 703-993-4364.
Please contact the Director of Community Awareness at 219.662.7066 x17 for more information or to inquire about our informational brochures.