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What is Sexual Assault?

People's first dignity is the right over their own body. If they feel dread, fear, shock, horror, humiliation, disgust, or even reluctance over anything another person is trying to make them do with their body, they are being sexually assaulted.

Sexual assault includes any type of sexual conduct or contact that is nonconsensual, forced or coerced. The continuum of sexual assault includes rape, attempted rape, statutory rape, acquaintance rape, marital/partner rape, sexual harassment, child molestation, incest, sexual exploitation, stalking, exposure, and voyeurism. Sexual assault occurs any time a person is forced into any sexual act. Force includes physical violence, verbal threats, threatening to "out" someone, overpowering the person, manipulation, using a weapon, drugging someone, abusing authority or taking advantage of someone or their situation. For example, a person who is incapacitated from drugs or alcohol cannot give consent to sex. Consent has to be mutually given and freely given by both parties.

Sexual Assaults can occur in any type of relationship. It can happen with friends, acquaintances, family, co-workers, and intimate partners (including spouses) and strangers. It can also happen between doctors and patients, students and teachers, clergy and parishioners, parents and their children. Sexual assault crosses all socioeconomic boundaries. Sexual assault can happen to anyone of either gender at any age. Other offenses happen when the personal space or safety of an individual is violated (e.g., obscene phone calls, being stalked, or being exposed to pornography without consent).

Remember, sexual assault is a crime motivated by the need to control, humiliate, and harm. It's a crime even if you already know the person who attacked you and even if you've had consensual sex with them in the past. It's a crime even if you were too afraid to fight back. It's a crime even if you were drinking, taking drugs, given drugs, or unconscious. It does not matter if it happened years ago or if you have been told "It wasn't a big deal." It does not matter if it was not a completed rape, or if you were not physically hurt. Any type of sexual assault, at any time is a crime and only the perpetrator of these crimes can be held responsible for their actions.