When someone has been sexually assaulted, it is very common for victims to question themselves. It’s normal for them to be confused. Unfortunately, it is also quite normal for victims to blame themselves and wonder what they could have done to avoid being assaulted. If you think that you have been sexually assaulted, here are some steps you can take. Even if you are not sure if what took place was an assault, it’s vital that you talk to someone. Although it is scary, talking opens the doors to understanding what happened and then healing from it.
If you don't know for sure that what happened to you was sexual assault, there are people out there that are happy to listen. The Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. They have volunteers from all over the country who are ready and willing to offer you an anonymous, safe, judgement-free place to talk.
The best thing about RAINN is that it offers two choices for you to speak to someone. You can talk to anonymously on the phone (800.656.HOPE) or anonymously chat with a volunteer (www.rainn.org).
It’s important to know that consent is what makes sex an enjoyable experience. According to RAINN:
“There is no single legal definition of consent. Each state sets its own definition, either in law or through court cases. In general, there are three main ways that states analyze consent in relation to sexual acts:
- Freely given consent: Was the consent offered of the person’s own free will, without being induced by fraud, coercion, violence, or threat of violence?
- Affirmative consent: Did the person express overt actions or words indicating agreement for sexual acts?
- Capacity to consent: Did the individual have the capacity, or legal ability, to consent?
A person’s capacity, or ability, to legally consent to sexual activity can be based on a number of factors, which often vary from state to state. In a criminal investigation, a state may use these factors to determine if a person who engaged in sexual activity had the capacity to consent. If not, the state may be able to charge the perpetrator with a crime. Examples of some factors that may contribute to someone’s capacity to consent include:
- Is the person at or above the age of consent for that state?
- Is the person considered a vulnerable adult, such as an elderly or ill person?
- Does the person have a developmental disability or other form of mental incapacitation?
- Does the person have a physical disability or incapacity?
- Was the person sleeping, sedated, strangulated, or suffering from physical trauma?
- Was the person intoxicated?
- Was the alleged perpetrator in a position of authority, such as a teacher or correctional officer?
Even though the laws regarding sexual assault and rape vary from state to state, it is important for you to know that if you did not want something to happen to you, then it should not have happened. Victims are often not believed, and unfortunately with social media it is very common to see people being blamed for their own sexual assaults.
What happened to you is not your fault. It doesn’t matter if you were drinking - even if you are underage. No matter if you were dating that person, or even married to them. You never have to do anything that you are not willing to do. If someone made you do something that you didn’t want to do, that is wrong.
That is why it is so amazing that organizations like RAINN exist. They believe you. They want to help. No matter how scared you are, they are there with no judgment. All you have to do is reach out. We here at Project Consent are sending you strength and support.