Content warning: This article contains information about sexual assault, and rape. If you have been sexually assaulted, this guide may be painful or difficult to read.
If you have been sexually assaulted, it can be really hard to determine what to do. While it was happening, you might be even confused if it’s considered as sexual assault. Not until a few days, weeks, months, or even years passed.
You may be feeling a rollercoaster of emotions — from confusion to shame, anger to even guilt. You may also reach to the point that you put the blame on yourself (I hope you don’t). You may need medical, or psychological care, but feel too upset, humiliated, or even disgusted to reach for one. And you may want to seek legal help, but be unsure where to turn for support after such a traumatic experience. Or even doubt if it’s valid enough to seek legal help.
What is sexual assault?
Merriam Webster defines sexual assault as an “illegal sexual contact that usually involves force upon a person (victim) without consent or is inflicted upon a person who is incapable of giving consent (as because of age or physical or mental incapacity) or who places the assailant (such as a doctor) in a position of trust or authority.
Basically, sexual assault occurs when someone:
- Does something sexual that makes you feel uncomfortable.
- Touches your body when you do not give them the permission to.
It is also considered a sexual assault when:
When considering a sexual assault, it’s important to remember and be in the know that the incident is never the victim’s fault and that if force or coercion was used and the actions occurred were nonconsensual – not wanted or agreed to (having a person’s consent), that means an assault happened.
Other forms of sexual assault also include any unwanted or unconsented sexual activity like:
- Attempted rape
- Unwanted sexual contact or touching
- Forcing victim to perform sexual acts (i.e. oral penetration or other forms of sex)
- Rape: unlawful sexual intercourse or penetration of the victim’s body by a body part or object
Consent in sexual assault
Sexual consent is an agreement of all parties to participate in a sexual activity. Before being sexual with someone, it is a MUST to know if they want to be sexual with you too.
According to Planned Parenthood, consent is easy as FRIES:
- Freely given. Consenting is a choice you make without pressure, manipulation, or under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
- Reversible. Anyone can change their mind about what they feel like doing, anytime. Even if you’ve done it before, and even if you’re both naked in bed.
- Informed. You can only consent to something if you have the full story. For example, if someone says they’ll use a condom and then they don’t, there isn’t full consent.
- Enthusiastic. When it comes to sex, you should only do stuff you WANT to do, not things that you feel you’re expected to do.
- Specific. Saying yes to one thing (like going to the bedroom to make out) doesn’t mean you’ve said yes to others (like having sex).
Some important things to remember about consent include:
- A person can change their mind about consenting to sexual acts at any time
- Consenting to one sexual act does not mean they consent to all or further acts
- Consent to past sexual acts or current sexual acts does not guarantee future consent
- Consent is about communication, whether with words or verbal cues or physical signs
- Those with developmental or intellectual disabilities may also not have the ability to give content to sexual activity
What should I do right after a sexual assault?
Immediately following a sexual assault, your safety should be the number one priority. Beyond seeking immediate stability, it’s important that you know your legal rights in case you want to file a sexual assault claim now or in the future.
Also, the most important thing to understand is that healing and recovery from that traumatizing event should be your greatest goal, but legal options may be available, too. Whether you seek damages for physical, emotional, or psychological harm, a sexual assault claim may help with your recovery process.