What is sexual assault?

 

      Sexual assault is any kind of sexual contact against a person’s will and without consent.  It can be accomplished by direct force, threats of force, manipulation, or trickery.  This includes rape, inappropriate touching, or sexual harassment.

 

      Lack of consent can occur by saying “no,” or if the victim is unable to give consent (i.e. fears for their personal safety, intoxicated, etc.) Also age, mental impairment, or incarceration can limit the ability of a person to give consent.  Consent is given when a capable adult, under no pressure from their partner, affirms they want to engage in a certain behavior.  Consent is limited to that behavior only.

 

      In the state of Indiana, rape refers to intercourse without consent.  Sexual assault refers to a broader range of sexual behaviors including unwanted touching or sexual harassment.

 

Common Reactions to Sexual Assault

      Sexual assault is a traumatic event that causes a person to feel as though all control has been ripped away from them.  Survivors of sexual assault experience a wide variety of reactions to this traumatic event.  There are no “normal” responses to a sexual assault.  There are, however, some common reactions reported by survivors of this traumatic event.  Several common physical reactions include:

       -Changes in appetite (eating too much/too little, not feeling hungry, etc.)

          -Changes in sleeping patterns, difficulties falling asleep, having nightmares

          -Feeling shocked, numb, or detached from reality

           -Feeling ill or nauseous

           -Having difficulties concentrating

           -Drinking excessively or using drugs

           -Engaging in self harming behaviors

           -Feeling dissociated from the event

           -Inability to remember details of the event

     Several common psychological reactions include:

           -Feeling depressed (sad, blue, apathetic, etc.)

           -Feeling anxious or jittery

           -A lack of interest in things that once made them happy

           -Feeling moody

           -Feeling extremely worried about their safety

           -Re-experiencing previous traumas or having flashbacks from the recent trauma

           -Feeling guilty or shameful

           -Feeling embarrassed

           -Avoiding things or people associated with trauma

           -Fear of “being damaged” or worthless

           -Feeling responsible for the assault

           -Blocking details of the event from one’s mind

           -Denying anything actually happened

      Several common social reactions include:

           -Withdrawal from family or friends

           -Difficulties in interpersonal or romantic relationships

           -Difficulties trusting others

           -Discomfort with sex

           -Decline in academic or work performance

           -Becoming angry with others more easily

           -Difficulty in forming new relationships

      Again, it is important to note that these are common reactions that people who have recently survived a sexual assault may experience.  Each survivor will experience the assault differently and have different reactions to it.  It is important to realize that these are “normal” reactions to an “abnormal,” traumatic event.