7. My sister was forced to have sex with a guy she sort of knew in college, she said “no”, but she says after that, she froze and couldn’t do anything else. Is that rape, since she didn’t really fight back?
Yes, it is possible to be raped by your boyfriend. Being raped by one’s boyfriend is considered illegal.
A. How might you feel if this happened to you?
B. What can I do if this happened to me?
C. Who can I tell?
D. Do my parents have to find out if I call the police?
1 A. How might you feel if this happened to you? Reactions to sexual assault are wide ranging. Many people feel guilty or ashamed, so it is very important to know that sexual assault is NEVER the fault of the survivor, no matter what the circumstances are. Many people go through what is called Rape Trauma Syndrome, after being sexually assaulted. This is a normal part of the healing process. Rape Trauma Syndrome, or RTS, has several stages and just as many symptoms. A survivor might feel anger, fear, embarrassment, isolation, powerlessness, anxiety, self-blame and doubt. Nightmares and flashbacks can occur, and many people feel as if they have lost control of their life. Some people can’t stop thinking about what happened, while others try very hard to not think about it at all. The scary part is these types of feelings can pop up when least expected. Some people react by never being around individuals of the same gender that assaulted them, while others respond by having consensual sex with lots of people in an effort to take back control of what happened to them.
1 B. What can I do if this happened to me? If you have been sexually assaulted, it is your choice to decide what to do. However, we strongly encourage you to report this crime to the police immediately, because it is the only way to stop sexual assault from continuing to happen. Sexual assailants continue to assault over and over until they are caught. Also, many people feel as though they are taking back control of their lives by reporting to the police. They feel as though they are doing what they can to hold the assailant accountable for their actions. In any case, we encourage you to seek support from friends, family, or counselors to help you get through this difficult time. Talking to people who are knowledgeable about sexual assault can help guide you in recovery. Many rape crisis centers offer free or low cost counseling to survivors. You can also access local and national rape crisis hotlines for support. (RAINN, for the National Rape Crisis line is 800-656-HOPE or CVS’s 800-670-7273, which serves Contra Costa and Marin County).
1 C. Who Can I tell? You can choose who to tell if you are a survivor. If you are under the age of 18, and you tell a teacher, social worker, or doctor, these people are required by law to report this crime to the police. You have the option of calling various hotlines or confiding in family and friends. Unfortunately, there are many misconceptions around sexual assault in our society, so sometimes people we love and trust don’t always have the best reactions to disclosure. Calling a hotline and talking to someone who knows about sexual assault might be a good first step, since you know those people have a good understanding of the crime. You always have the option of telling the police. You can contact the police even if the crime took place several years ago. For more information on reporting, please check out question 4 A.
1 D. Do my parents find out if I call the police? You do not have to have your parent’s permission or consent to report sexual assault to the police, or have a sexual assault examination. In Marin and Contra Costa Counties, sexual assault examinations are performed at no cost to the survivor, and if you are over the age of 12, you can do it without your parents’ knowledge. You can even make the report under the name Jane or John Doe to add an extra layer of confidentiality. However, if the police investigate the report, chances are high that your parents could find out. This is because the police will need to contact you periodically, and they will be asking questions of witnesses and the perpetrator. If you are very concerned with your parents not finding out, we suggest you contact your local police station or rape crisis center and find out how they can help you.
Date rape drugs vary, and so do peoples’ reaction to different drugs. Generally, if you are unable to remember certain parts of the night, if you have thrown up for no reason, felt a loss of control over your body, or wake up with sore genitalia and can not remember consenting to, or having sex, those are signs that you may have been given a date rape drug.
A. What should I do if I think I have been given a date rape drug?
B. What are date rape drugs?
2 A. What should I do if I think I have been given a date rape drug? If you think you have been given a date rape drug, you should go to the hospital immediately and ask the first nurse you speak to for a urine test. You should let the nurse know that you think you have been drugged and you need a urine test. Date rape drugs are especially dangerous because they are out of your system in 10-12 hours, so it is imperative that you get tested as soon as possible to increase the chances of finding the drug within your body.
2 B. What are date rape drugs? There are several different types of date rape drugs, and the most common is GHB (gamma hydroxybutyrate). GHB can be made in a liquid or powder form, and its effects can be felt within 15 minutes of ingestion. Depending on the dosage, the effects can be different. A smaller dosage can intensify an alcohol-like buzz, and a higher dose can cause death. Other effects include becoming sexually aggressive, an out of body feeling, vomiting, memory loss, shallow breathing, and seizures. GHB is especially dangerous if it is not made properly or if mixed with alcohol and can result in death. Another date rape drug is called Rohypnol, or “roofies”. The effects of this drug can be felt within 20-30 minutes, and it is dangerous because roofies are colorless, odorless, and tasteless, which means one would not be able to taste roofies in water. Some of the effects of roofies are disorientation, short-term memory loss, extreme intoxification, reduced inhibitions, and blacking out.
NO! Sexual assault is NEVER the fault of the survivor. Although underage drinking is illegal, and could be considered a bad judgment call, sexual assault is never an appropriate punishment for bad judgment.
A. Can you consent to sex while drunk?
B. How long do you have to report this crime?
C. Do your parents have to find out you were drinking, or where you were?
3 A. Can you consent to sex while drunk? In California, the law says that one cannot consent to sex while drunk, just like one cannot consent to driving a car while drunk, or to having a medical exam while drunk. This does not mean that all sex that occurs while one or both parties are drunk is rape. Some people do not report rape because they feel that no one will believe them. They feel that it will be a “he said, she said” type of case. However, if one of the parties can prove they were drunk, then that argument flies out the window. So be careful when choosing sexual partners, if they seem drunk, then protect yourself and wait for your partner to get sober! For information on states other than California, call your local rape crisis center or police department.
3 B. How long do you have to report this crime? In California, you can always report a sexual assault to the police or your local rape crisis center, no matter when the incident occurred. However, the police may not investigate or charge the perpetrator if the crime was a long time ago. BUT, it is still wise to report, because if the perpetrator commits sexual assault again, and it is on record that the perpetrator was accused of a similar crime before, and then it is more likely that the district attorney will prosecute, and it will make a better case. You have 72 hours to complete what is known as a sexual assault examination or SART exam. This exam is very helpful in collecting evidence to help prosecute the perpetrator. In California, you have the right to have a sexual assault advocate with you the entire time you go through the process of a SART exam, because they can be difficult to go through alone. If you have just been assaulted and want to report the crime to the police, it is important that you DO NOT shower, eat, smoke, change clothes, and if you can help it, go to the bathroom. The SART exam is an excellent way to collect evidence and the nurses that do the exams are thoughtful and knowledgeable about sexual assault. For information specific to your area, contact your local rape crisis center.
3 C. Do your parents have to find out you were drinking or where you were? In some areas, you can go through the SART exam without the consent of your parents (see answer to 1D for more details), and if you tell the police officers that you want to interview in private, then you reduce the risk of your parents knowing every single detail of the assault. Many young people are afraid of their parents finding out they have been doing something they were not supposed to be doing. Many parents will not be angry with you over something so minor when they know that you have been sexually assaulted. But, you know your parents better than anyone else, so letting your parents know every detail is a decision you will have to make. If you go to the hospital for a SART exam, you could have the advocate from the rape crisis center talk to your parents first, and make sure your parents hear from an expert that sexual assault is not an appropriate punishment for underage drinking or drug use, and that if you partook in these activities it is still NOT YOUR FAULT!
Yes, sexual assault means a lot of different things, and forcing someone to give or receive oral sex is illegal in California. (For information about the laws in your area, contact your local police station or Rape Crisis Center if applicable.)
A. Can I report this crime to the police?
B. What happens when I report?
C. This happened to me, and my friends tell me to get over it, because it was not rape, and that it is not that bad, but I can’t stop thinking about it, is that normal?
4 A. If someone forces me to have oral sex, but nothing else, is that still considered rape? In California, forcing someone to commit oral sex is a crime that can be reported to the police. If this has happened to you, and you want to report it, you should call the police as soon as you can after the incident has occurred! For information specific to your area, contact your local rape crisis center.
4 B. What happens when I report? If you report any type of sexual assault to the police within 72 hours of the incident, they will ask you to consent to a SART exam, where they will collect physical evidence. In California, you have the right to have an advocate from the rape crisis center with you while you speak with the police at all times, and this is often helpful and comforting to survivors. The police will ask you to recount the incident in detail, and then they will investigate it by checking out the scene of the crime, and speaking with other people that may have been around. You can make the report as Jane Doe, so that you can increase your level of confidentiality. To learn specifically what might happen in your town or state, call your local rape crisis center and ask about local procedures. (RAINN, for the National Rape Crisis line is 800-656-HOPE or the CVS Crisis Line for Marin and Contra Costa Counties is 800-670-7273).
4 C. This happened to me, and my friends tell me to get over it, because it was not rape and that it is not that bad, but I can’t stop thinking about it. Is that normal? Unfortunately, society is not always educated about the different types of sexual assault, so you may get this type of response from certain people. It is normal to constantly think about being forced into any type of sexual act, because it is a traumatic event. If you are seeing a counselor to talk about the sexual assault, you may want to bring a close friend to a session so they can hear from an expert that being forced into oral sex is a big deal, and that it is very difficult to “just get over it.”
Your friend may have been given a date rape drug. She should go to her doctor as soon as she can to get tested for date rape drugs, or any other medical problem.
A. How long do date rape drugs stay in your system?
B. What can you say to a friend to whom this happened?
C. What are date rape drugs?
5 A. How long do date rape drugs stay in your system? Depending on your metabolism, date rape drugs can stay in your system for 8-12 hours. That is why it is very important to get to the hospital immediately if you think you have been given a date rape drug, and ask the nurse if you can have a urine sample taken right away.
5 B. What can you say to a friend who has been sexually assaulted? If this has happened to a friend of yours, the best thing you could say is “I believe you” and “it’s not your fault.” These are important words because oftentimes survivors hold a lot of guilt about sexual assault, and they don’t tell anyone because they are afraid that their friends and family will blame them too. You could ask your friend if she/he wants to go to the hospital, and you could inform them of the number to your local rape crisis center. Just listening and not passing judgment is a great way to help your friend in the healing process.
5 C. What are date rape drugs? There are several different types of date rape drugs, and the most common is GHB (gamma hydroxybutyrate). GHB can be made in a liquid or powder form, and its effects can be felt within 15 minutes of ingestion. Depending on the dosage, the effects can be different. A smaller dosage can intensify an alcohol-like buzz, and a higher dose can cause death. Other effects include becoming sexually aggressive, an out of body feeling, vomiting, memory loss, shallow breathing, and seizures. GHB is especially dangerous if it is not made properly or if mixed with alcohol and can result in death. Another date rape drug is called Rohypnol, or “roofies”. The effects of this drug can be felt within 20-30 minutes, and it is dangerous because roofies are colorless, odorless, and tasteless, which means one would not be able to taste roofies in water. Some of the effects of roofies are disorientation, short-term memory loss, extreme intoxification, reduced inhibitions, and blacking out.
It is never to late to report sexual assault. Perpetrators offend until they are caught, so even if the police can’t get enough evidence to convict him for raping your friend, he will be on record and if he is ever charged in the future, the case will be stronger.
A. How can I support my friend?
B. How long after the sexual assault do I have to get a SART exam?
C. Can I have someone go to the police station with me?
6 A. How can I support my friend? The best way for you to support your friend is by telling her that it is not her fault, and that you believe her. Survivors often feel guilty or ashamed when they are sexually assaulted, and they need to hear from other people that it is not their fault. Be specific when you are talking to her. For example, you could say something like “even though you went out with that guy a few times, it is not your fault that he raped you.” Another way that you can support her is just by listening to her when she needs to talk. Your friend must trust you a great deal to share this part of her life with you, so just continue to be a good friend by being there for her when she needs you. Either you or your friend can call the local or national hotline for survivors of sexual assault to get specific information, or just to have someone to bounce thoughts and ideas off of. (RAINN, for the National Rape Crisis line is 800-656-HOPE or the CVS Crisis Line for Marin and Contra Costa Counties is 800-670-7273).
6 B. How long do I have to get a SART exam? If you report any type of sexual assault to the police within 72 hours of the incident, they will ask you to consent to a SART exam, where they will collect physical evidence. In California, you have the right to have an advocate from the rape crisis center with you while you speak with the police at all times, and this is often helpful and comforting to survivors. The police will ask you to recount the incident in detail, and then they will investigate it by checking out the scene of the crime, and speaking with other people that may have been around. You can make the report as Jane Doe, so that you can increase your level of confidentiality. To learn specifically what might happen in your town or state, call your local rape crisis center and ask about local procedures. (RAINN, for the National Rape Crisis line is 800-656-HOPE or the CVS Crisis Line for Marin and Contra Costa Counties is 800-670-7273).
6 C. Can I have someone go to the police station with me? In California, you have the right to have an advocate with you at all times during the police interview, and also during the SART exam. Call your local rape crisis center to request an advocate to report with. You can also have a friend or family member go to the police station with you, but it may be helpful to have a rape crisis advocate, because they can explain the laws and procedures to you.
7. My sister was forced to have sex with a guy she sort of knew in college, she said “no”, but she says after that, she froze and couldn’t do anything else. Is that rape, since she didn’t really fight back?
Yes! It sounds like your sister went into shock, which is a normal reaction for people experiencing sexual assault, especially if the perpetrator is someone she knows.
A. Why don’t people fight back?
B. If I chose not to fight because I am scared, is it still rape?
C. What are date rape drugs?
D. What is multiple assailant rape?
7 A. Why don’t people fight back? A big reason people do not fight back is because they go into shock. If a person is being sexually assaulted by someone they know, love, or even trust, one can see how easy it would be for the body to shut down. Sometimes when shock occurs, the survivor is physically unable to scream or kick or punch or yell, or do any of the things that constitute fighting back. Sometimes people go into shock and they don’t even know it, so after the assault they feel even more guilty because they blame themselves for not fighting back. Another reason people don’t fight back is because they are drunk or given date rape drugs.
7 B. If I choose not to fight back because I am scared, is it still rape? Yes! Rape, or sexual assault, is defined as forced sexual contact. If someone forces you to do something against your will, then it is rape. Sometimes people don’t fight back because they go into shock. Sometimes when shock occurs, the survivor is physically unable to scream or kick or punch or yell, or do any of the things that constitute fighting back. Sometimes people go into shock and they don’t even know it, so after the assault they feel even guiltier, because they blame themselves for not fighting back. If you do choose not to fight back for any reason, understand that the sexual assault is still not your fault. The person who committed the crime is guilty, not you!
7 C. What are date rape drugs? There are several different types of date rape drugs, and the most common is GHB (gamma hydroxybutyrate). GHB can be made in a liquid or powder form, and its effects can be felt within 15 minutes of ingestion. Depending on the dosage, the effects can be different. A smaller dosage can intensify an alcohol-like buzz, and a higher dose can cause death. Other effects include becoming sexually aggressive, an out of body feeling, vomiting, memory loss, shallow breathing, and seizures. GHB is especially dangerous if it is not made properly or if mixed with alcohol and can result in death. Another date rape drug is called Rohypnol, or “roofies”. The effects of this drug can be felt within 20-30 minutes, and it is dangerous because roofies are colorless, odorless, and tasteless, which means one would not be able to taste roofies in water. Some of the effects of roofies are disorientation, short-term memory loss, extreme intoxification, reduced inhibitions, and blacking out.
7 D. What is multiple assailant rape? Multiple assailant rape is when 2 or more perpetrators sexually assault one victim.
Yes, anytime a boy is forced into sexual contact it is considered sexual assault. Boys that are sexually assaulted face different challenges than women who are assaulted. Check out the “Guys” section of this web site to learn more about it.
A. Does this mean my friend is gay?
B. Can a guy be sexually assaulted by a girl?
8 A. Does this mean my friend is gay? No. Sexual assault is about power and control, not sexual preference. Your friend was a victim/survivor of sexual assault, and nothing he did or did not do warranted the attack.
8 B. Can a guy be sexually assaulted by a girl? Yes, although it is uncommon. About 98% of perpetrators are male, although this does not mean 98% of males are sexual assailants. Perpetrators offend over and over again until they are caught. Anytime a girl uses any type of force to make a guy do something he does not want to, it is sexual assault, and illegal. One out of every 6 – 10 boys and 1 out of 12 adult men become victims of sexual assault.
Being sexually harassed at school is a difficult situation to be in. But you do have resources. Sexual harassment is illegal at school and at work, so the first thing you need to do is tell the harassers that you want them to stop. If that does not work, then you can go to a trusted teacher or administrator, and they are required to take action to stop the harassment. You can also phone your local rape crisis center to get support around the harassment and how you may feel. You may want to talk to your parents or friends, because they can be your best advocates at school and at home.
A. What is sexual harassment?
B. Can LBGTQ identified people be sexually harassed?
C. Why don’t people report sexual harassment?
D. What are the benefits of reporting sexual harassment?
9 A. What is sexual harassment? Sexual harassment is any unwanted sexual attention. In California, it is illegal to harass others at school and at work. Sexual harassment can come in the form of comments of a sexual nature, grabbing, groping, exposing sexual body parts, repeated requests for dates, words like fag, queer and gay, bra snapping, wedgies, cornering, leering, elevator eyes, etc. For information specific to your area, contact your local rape crisis center.
9 B. Can LBGTQ identified people be sexually harassed? Yes, LBGTQ identified folks are sexually harassed on average of 24 times per day! They experience sexual harassment in the form of direct taunting (being called gay or fag), threatening notes left on lockers, etc, or by just overhearing the use of “gay” and “fag” and similar words at school.
9 C. Why don’t people report sexual harassment? There are many reasons why people don’t report sexual harassment. They are afraid of revenge, they don’t want to get the harasser in trouble, they don’t know it is illegal, or they don’t want to be seen as a snitch. Sometimes young people who have been sexually harassed think people won’t believe them, they think it is their fault, they think sexual harassment is a normal part of growing up or they don’t think the school will address the issue.
9 D. What are the benefits of reporting sexual harassment? Reporting sexual harassment can be a good thing for many reasons. Reporting lets people know that what they are doing is wrong and needs to stop. Sometimes victims of sexual harassment feel they have taken the situation back into their own hands by reporting. If sexual harassment is reported to the school, the school must take actions to stop the harassment, so it increases the chances of the harassment stopping. There are many reasons, but the main one is that people who are sexually harassed do not have to go through it alone, and there are people who are concerned and want it to stop, but they need to be told!
No. Sexual orientation has nothing to do with sexual assault. Sexual assault happens because the assailant is seeking to dominate, humiliate, or control their victim. It is very different from consensual sex, in which both people are sexually attracted to each other, and want to be sexually active.
A. What are some sexual assault issues that are specific to the LBGTQ community?
B. Does same-sex sexual assault happen?
C. Why would a male assailant target a woman if he knew she was a lesbian?
10.A What are some sexual assault issues that are specific to the LBGTQ Community? A lot of people think sexual assault is something that only happens between a man and a woman. This is a myth. Sexual assault happens within all communities, including LBGTQ. So that means men can attack men, and women can attack women. Keep in mind that men who attack men and women who attack women are not necessarily LBGTQ identified, after all, sexual assault is not about sexual attraction. Some survivors of the LBGTQ community have a more difficult time reporting because they may believe that they will have to deal with “potential discrimination and disbelief by the criminal justice system, unwanted media attention, and disclosure of their sexual orientation.”* Sometimes with same-sex assault, survivors don’t report because “many homophobic individuals portray LBGTQ people as being sexually promiscuous and predatory”* and survivors are afraid of perpetuating that myth. There are many issues specific to sexual assault in the LBGTQ community, and if you are interested in finding out more, please go to CALCASA’s website (www.calcasa.org) and inquire about the report called “Sexual Assault Prevention in the LBGTQ Community (Part I).
10B. Does same-sex assault happen? Yes, it does. Same-sex assault is underreported, just like opposite sex assault, and there are several factors involved. People are afraid of negatively stereotyping a community that is already targeted for hate crimes, that the police will not respect or believe them, or that they could lose their job, family, and friends.
10C. Why would a male assailant target a women if he knew she was a lesbian? Lesbians and other members of the LBGTQ community are targeted for hate crimes because of their sexual orientation. Sometimes lesbians are targeted because of how they are dressed or look, which may be seen as looking like a guy. Sometimes men then rape women in an attempt to “feminize”* them. In addition, it is important to remember that sexual assault does not occur because the assailant is so sexually attracted to the survivor that they can not help themselves. Sexual assault is not about sexual attraction, so sexual orientation doesn’t really play a part in the reasons behind the assault.
First of all, thank you for your question. You bring up a lot very interesting points and we hope to address them all.
The short answer to your question is, “Yes”. Since GHB is a date rape drug that can make someone lose consciousness, it can change the way a person would normally behave when sober. It is easy to take advantage of a person while s/he is in a different state of mind, so it is definitely possible for a person to be forced into performing oral sex on another person while under the influence of GHB.
The term, “force”, which we use here, involves the use of coercion and manipulation. Therefore, a person can be forced to do something, such as perform a sexual act, which would be considered sexual assault. This is because if a person does not give consent and is forced into sexual contact of any kind then that sexual contact is a form of sexual assault. Being under the influence of drugs/alcohol means that, according to the law, a person is not able to give consent to sexual contact. Therefore, a situation where drugs were used to make one woman incapacitated and unable to give consent or to control her own actions, and who is then forced to perform a sexual act on another woman, would be considered sexual assault. Although we stereotypically think of sexual assault as occurring between a man and a woman we know that sexual assault can occur between people of all sexes and includes a wide range of scenarios.
A longer explanation covers more about the meaning of consent, sexual assault and date rape drugs. The definition we use for sexual assault is “forced sexual contact”. According to this definition, a person does not have to be only the receiver of sexual contact in order for the incident to be considered sexual assault. A person can be made to commit a sexual act, such as oral sex, by means of physical force, manipulation, coercion, or when a person is under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol. It is important to remember that under the law, a person under the influence of any drug or alcohol cannot consent to sexual contact. And, without consent, a sexual act is considered forced.
GHB, or Gamma hydroxybutryate, when given to a person prevents him or her from giving consent. GHB is a drug with history; it was developed over forty years ago with the purpose of being used as an anesthetic but was rejected by the medical community quickly due to its unpredictable effects. Doctors were never sure how a patient would react to GHB because when it was tested the effects ranged from memory loss, reduced heart rate, seizures, and respiratory failure, to coma.
Nowadays, GHB has many different uses, the most popular being as the leading ‘date rape drug’. In this context, a person can pour the liquid drug into another person’s drink, alcoholic or nonalcoholic, without the other person knowing because it is difficult to detect and has little or no taste or smell. In these situations, a person may unknowingly drink GHB, which leaves them drowsy and even unconsciousness for many hours. In this state a victim is vulnerable to sexual assault.
GHB has also become a popular drug for some people to use recreationally. In this context, GHB is taken in small doses has effects similar to the drug ‘ecstasy’, where a person is conscious and mobile (able to move freely around) but in an altered state of mind; this has earned it the nickname of “liquid ecstasy”. As mentioned before, when a person is under the influence of any drug, whether it is alcohol, marijuana, ecstasy, or GHB, they cannot consent to sexual contact, such as oral sex with another person.
We know from statistics that in nearly 77% of sexual assaults the victim and the perpetrator know each other. This means that they were acquaintances. They could have been dating, just friends, family members, classmates, coworkers, neighbors, etc.
In these situations of acquaintance rape there is a violation of trust. It’s shocking for a survivor of acquaintance rape to realize someone that they trusted would hurt them like that. But it is never the victim’s fault. No one ever asks to be raped or deserves to be raped. Just because someone doesn’t believe a person is capable of rape or sexual assault, doesn’t mean they are at fault in any way if that happens. In fact, it is easier for perpetrators to take advantage of someone they already know, because they already have their trust.
There is also a strong myth that all rapists are psychopaths. This is not the case. There is no profile for a rapist. They really are people from all segments of society who choose to hurt people in a sexually violent way.
Sexual assault affects many people. If this has happened to you or someone you know, please contact your local rape crisis center.
We know that rape is about power and control; so when a group of people is vulnerable, in this case young people under the age of 18, they are unfortunately at a higher risk to be targeted. Some perpetrators of statutory rape may decide to have sexual contact with a minor because they find it easier to take advantage of a younger person who might not be as experienced as an adult. Young people are vulnerable to being pressured by adults in various ways. Here is a list of ways that adults tend to have more power and authority than younger people:
Adults might feel more powerful because they are older and may think it’s easier to get young people to trust them, and to have sex with them. This is why it is illegal for adults to have sexual contact with young people – in general, adults have more power over young people, and statutory rape laws are there to protect youth from being manipulated or taken advantage of by older people.
The definition of statutory rape is when someone over 18 has sex with a minor. The law states that a person under 18 cannot legally consent to sex. This definition and law exist to protect younger people from being manipulated, coerced and hurt by older people. It makes the adult in the situation responsible for any actions taken against the minor.
If you have other questions about sexual assault or rape please contact your local rape crisis center or you can submit a question on the “Ask Us” sections of this website. We’re here to help.
Much of the silence surrounding rape stems from the nature of this crime, a history and culture of sexism in America, and the challenges involved with prosecuting these cases. Based on the Bureau of Justice statistics on crime, we know that sexual assault is the most underreported violent crime in the United States; it is difficult to report for many reasons.
In some instances a survivor of sexual assault goes through a phenomenon known as “victim blaming”, whereby not only the survivor but other people as well tend to blame the survivor for the crime. These other people can include friends, family members, etc. Unfortunately, by being pressured to think that the rape is their own fault many survivors of sexual assault have been made to feel ashamed, guilty, or embarrassed about the incident, which are feelings that often interfere with a person reporting this crime. It’s important to know that rape is never the victim’s fault. No one asks to be raped. Sexual assault is only the fault of the person who committed the crime, which is a crime of power and control.
Over 77% of rapes in this country are perpetrated by an acquaintance of the survivor, which can be anyone from a co-worker, to family member, boyfriend, or even the corner store clerk. It can be very difficult for a survivor to report a rape that someone close to them committed because of the violation of the trust that existed between the two people. When a person you know hurts you, this break of trust is devastating. Many survivors find it difficult to “turn in” or report someone they are or were formerly close to and even trusted. There may also be a sense of loyalty that can cause a survivor of acquaintance rape or date rape to protect their perpetrator. The decision to report sexual assault can be confounded by the feelings that the survivor had for the perpetrator or because of the survivor’s concern about the effect that reporting the assault may have on other relationships in their life. Because rape is often not publicly discussed many people don’t know the many situations that constitute this crime. For example, women may not know that they are protected under the law against having unwanted sexual contact forced upon them by their husband or someone she agreed to have sex with before or while she is under the influence of alcohol or other drugs.
In some instances it can be difficult to collect enough physical evidence to prosecute rape cases and this uncertainty is daunting for some survivors. However, with new forensic technologies it is becoming easier and easier to get the evidence needed for conviction. The forensic process usually requires the survivor to visit the hospital within the first 72 hours after an assault occurs; even with these advances only 25% of rapes are reported to authorities within 24 hours.
For a very long time rape was not illegal in this country, nor was it talked about publicly; this silence created an environment whereby to this day many survivors are afraid they will not be believed by the police, friends or society in general. For a long time the myth that women falsely report rape to get attention or seek revenge has existed, which unfortunately deterred many people from coming forward about their experience with sexual assault. We know, however, that less than 2% of sexual assault reports are false, which is the same rate for all other felonies.
It is also important to remember that anyone can be a victim of rape-this includes children and men. Children and youth are often very vulnerable to sexual assault and frequently don’t yet know that what is happening or happened to them is wrong; in some cases they have been made to believe by the perpetrator that the assault is their fault or that someone they care about will be hurt if they disclose. Children and youth may also be afraid to report sexual assault because they don’t want to disrupt their family or they might have been threatened with violence if they speak up. Statistically speaking, 1/10 men are victims of sexual assault in their lifetime and 1/6 boys will be sexually assaulted before they turn 18. Stereotypes around masculinity deter many male survivors from reporting this crime.
Rape has existed for a very long time in this country and it has only been since around the 1970’s that it has been brought out into the open and that survivors have been encouraged to report. Although reporting and prosecuting is not the only way for a survivor to heal, it can be an important step for many people and it helps send the message that this is a violent crime and will absolutely not be tolerated in any way, shape or form. Many survivors find relief in reporting. However, even if a person chooses not to report a sexual assault to the police, he or she can still find someone to talk to about the incident and get medical care. If you have trouble finding someone safe to talk to, like a parent, a teacher or a counselor, feel free to contact us on our crisis line: 1 (800) 670-7273. If you live outside the California Bay Area please call 411 to get the number for your local rape crisis center.