get help.

If you are a sexual assault survivor, or you think you may have been a victim of sexual assault, peer support can be very helpful. Remember it's not your fault.  

What is sexual assault?

Sexual assault can take on many different forms, but one thing that remains true across the board: it's never the victim's fault.

 

Sexual assault is a crime of power and control. The term sexual assault refers to sexual contact or behavior that occurs without explicit consent of the victim. Some forms of sexual assault include:

  • Penetration of the victim’s body, also known as rape

  • Attempted rape

  • Forcing a victim to perform sexual acts, such as oral sex or penetrating the perpetrator’s body

  • Fondling or unwanted sexual touching


 

Sexual assault is an act of power. This can be obvious, like in a situation where the perpetrator has a weapon.  Sexual assault can also occur when physical force or a threat is used against the victim or someone the victim cares about.  However, physical coercion or force is not always present or necessary.  In some sexual assault, the violence is more subtle, like when the perpetrator's age, size, or status is used to scare, trick, or manipulate the victim.


Anyone can be a victim of sexual assault. People of all ages, races, economic backgrounds, sexualities, and lifestyles have been victims. Males as well as females can be victims.

Sexual assault can take on many different forms, but one thing that remains true across the board: it's never the victim's fault.

What is rape?

 

Rape is a form of sexual assault, but not all sexual assault is rape. The term rape is often used as a legal definition to specifically include sexual penetration without consent. For its Uniform Crime Reports, the FBI defines rape as “penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.”

 

To see how your state legally defines rape and other forms of sexual assault, visit RAINN's State Law Database.


 

Was it rape or not?  

 

RAINN's three-part checklist will help determine if what happened to you was rape or not.

 

  1. How old are the participants?

 

Depending on where the incident took place, a person under the age of 16 or 18 may not be legally capable of giving consent. Sexual contact with such a person is often considered "statutory rape", even if the perpetrator did not know the victim was a minor.  "Statutory rape" laws vary widely, so please consult a legal expert in your jurisdiction for more information.

 

2) Did both participants have the ability to consent?

 

If one party is somehow disabled, by age, disability, drugs, or alcohol, that person might not have had the capacity to agree to sex.  If the person lacks the capacity to consent, sexual activity with that person is rape.

 

3) Did both participants agree to engage in sexual conduct?

 

This area is often the hardest to determine. If physical force or threats were used to coerce someone into having sex, that sexual activity is rape. However, rape often isn't violent. No means no, and silence does not mean yes. It doesn't matter if you've had sex with the perpetrator before, or were married to him or her. If you've had sex before but do not consent the next time, yet your partner continues and has sexual activity with you, that is rape.  If you had already started, and then you say no, and your partner keeps going, that is rape. No means stop.

 

What if it was attempted rape, or there was no penetration?  

 

This is likely covered under your state's or country's sexual assault law.  Even if you're not sure the law recognizes what happened was rape, if you were violated you have the right to hurt and the necessity to heal. No one should delegitimize what happened because there was no penetration. The violence involved in an attempted rape is legitimate and can have the same impact on the survivor as a completed rape. Also, remember that rape can include oral or anal penetration. This penetration is not limited to penile, but can include other body parts or objects. The legal definition of rape can be tricky, but remember that even if the law is not on your side, many others are.

 

If you are a rape survivor, or you think you may have been a victim of rape, peer support can be very helpful.  Remember, it's not your fault and you are not alone. Click Here to Connect with one of our Counselors.

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Host a Briefing

A Briefing is a gathering to inspire, educate and inform women of all ages, creeds, and colors to provide awareness to the uninformed and stability for those who have fallen victim to sexual assault or rape.  When you host a Briefing, you help create a platform that sets an atmosphere for questions, dialogue, and most of all healing for the survivor or loved ones you may know, who have been affected. Click here to bring a Briefing to your Organization.

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I Am a Kid and Something Happened

 

If someone touches you in a way that’s not okay, or shows you something that makes you feel uncomfortable, you don’t have to keep it a secret. Even if a grown-up or older kid does these things—it’s not right. And it is not your fault.

 

Tell someone you trust if anyone has done the following things to you.

 

Touches you in a way that isn’t right, or in a place that is private, like the parts of your body covered by underwear or a bathing suit.

Asks you to do something that makes you feel uncomfortable or weird, like showing someone your private body parts, or touching the private parts of another person.

 

Shows you something you’re not supposed to see, or something that makes you uncomfortable, like a picture of someone or a text message that wasn’t meant for you.

 

Takes a picture or video of you, or asks you take them yourself.

Only wants to spend time with you alone and doesn’t let other people join.

 

Tells you to keep a secret, or not to tell anyone what happened. When someone knows they did something wrong, they may say things to scare you into keeping the secret. They may say they will take away your pet or favorite toy, or hurt someone you care about. You don’t have to keep these kinds of secrets—it’s okay to tell.

 

Gives you gifts and may ask you to keep it a secret, or asks you not to tell anyone about the time you spend together.

 

It’s okay to be scared.

It's normal to have fears or worries about speaking up or getting in trouble. That’s okay. You are really brave to tell someone. Keep telling until someone helps you—there are people out there who are able to help.

 

Who should I tell?

 

Someone you trust, like a parent, family member, teacher, coach, a friend’s parent, or neighbor.

 

How can I do it?

 

You can talk to them face-to-face, or you could send a text or an email. You could talk on the phone. You could make a drawing of what happened, or even write a letter. The important thing is to tell someone. Keep telling until you get help—even if the first person you tell doesn’t do something right away.

 

I still have questions.

 

You can chat with someone from RAINN who is trained to help at online.rainn.org.