What is Sexual Violence?
Sexual violence includes rape, sexual harassment, and incest. Making offensive jokes and comments, posting offensive images, grabbing or fondling someone, and stalking are some other examples of sexual violence.
Any time someone forces another person to have sex, it is sexual violence. Sexual violence is also called rape.
- Most people who are raped are women, but men are raped too.
- A person can be raped by someone she/he knows (acquaintance rape) or by a stranger (stranger rape).
- Acquaintance rape is more common than stranger rape. The rapist is often a friend, relative or partner.
- Many women don’t realize it is rape when someone they know forces them to have sex.
- Knowing how sexual violence happens can help you protect yourself. If you know what to look for, you can learn ways to reduce the risk. You can learn what to do if you are raped.
When someone talks about sex, gestures or touches another person in a sexual way that makes the other person uncomfortable, it is sexual harassment.
- The harasser is often someone with power, such as a teacher or a boss.
- Sexual harassment isn’t always sexual violence. But it can lead to sexual violence.
Sexual harassment can include:
- Comments about your body, clothes or gender
- Jokes, remarks or teasing
- Hints or threats that you will lose your job, get a bad grade, etc., if you don’t have sex with the harasser
- Insulting sounds
- Staring at your body
- Obscene gestures
- Touching or pinching
- Brushing up against your body
Facts About Rape
- Myths about rape can prevent men or women from learning the facts and taking steps to protect themselves.
- Myths can make it hard for men or women to report a rape when it happens.
Knowing the facts about rape can help women plan ways to protect themselves:
Rape is Always Against the Law
Most people know it is against the law for a stranger to rape someone. But many people don’t realize that no one can force someone else to have sex. This includes dates, friends, partners or spouses. Rape is always against the law.
Rape Is a Violent Act
One myth is that rape is a “crime of passion.” Rape is not about sex.
- Rape is a violent act. People who rape want power over the other person.
No One Asks to Be Raped
Another myth is that a person can cause rape to happen by the way they dress or act. This is not true.
- Rape is never the person’s fault. Rape is a violent crime. It is meant to scare and hurt the victim. It is against the law. It should always be reported.
- If a person believes the myth, she/he may not report the rape or get help.
- She/he may feel ashamed.
- She/he may blame herself.
- She/he may think she/he should have been able to stop the violence.
Reporting a Rape
Myths can make it hard to report a rape. A person who is afraid of what people will think may never tell anyone about the rape. People who have been raped need support from people who are trained to help. These include police, emergency room staff, and counselors at women’s centers and rape hotlines.
What to Watch For
You can’t tell someone is a rapist by looking. Many rapists look and act normal. But there may be warning signs. Not everyone with these traits is a rapist, and not all rapists will have these traits. But many rapists:
- Do not respect women or men.
- See women or men as sex objects.
- Continue to touch a person even when asked to stop.
- Think violent behavior is normal.
- Drink and use drugs.
- Encourage women they are with to drink and use drugs.
Talking About Sex
In a sexual situation, sometimes communication breaks down. The man or woman may think the man or woman means yes when she/he says no. Clear communication is one way two people can reduce the risk of sexual violence:
- Both need to know their own sexual needs and limits.
- Both need to ask questions and listen to the other’s limits.
Alcohol and Drugs
Using alcohol and other drugs can put a person at greater risk of being raped.
Some things to know:
- Drinking or using other drugs can make it harder to get out of a situation that is dangerous or uncomfortable.
- A rapist may try to use alcohol or other drugs as an excuse for his actions.
- The person may be blamed more for the rape if she/he was using alcohol or other drugs when it happened.
Avoiding Stranger Rape
Strangers tend to attack people who are alone. They also target people who look unsure of themselves.
- Learn to appear more forceful.
- Take precautions to protect themselves when they are alone.
(from Sexual Violence by Nora J. Krantzler, PhD, MPH, 1998)