What do you think of when you hear the words "sexual assault?" What comes to your mind when you are talking about the issue? Is it something that comes up in conversation at all, or do you try to avoid it on a regular basis because it's such an uncomfortable topic to explore? Have you or a loved one experienced sexual assault? Sadly, many people in the United States and around the world have been affected by sexual assault, either because it has happened to them or because it has happened to someone that they love and care about.
This topic has been explored frequently in recent months, from whether or not sexual assault cases should be dealt with by a college or by the police, about what indicates sexual assault, and how sexual assault affects both men and women. It's a really complicated thing to deal with, and because of that, more and more people are joining in the fight against sexual assault and how it affects everyone's lives. Today in the blog, we're going to take a look at sexual assault in more detail and how someone can find the help that they need to work through it.
What is Considered Sexual Assault?
This is always the big question, isn't it? What is considered sexual assault? We all want to have a solid definition for what is going on with a certain incident, and in this case, it's especially important because there are legal implications behind everything that is going on with the assault. There are definitions that must be adhered to because there is a major difference between the types of punishment that may occur in a court of law. Also, it helps us to better define what has happened to people instead of just throwing out a bunch of ambiguous terms that no one really understands in any way.
Therefore, in this section, we're going to take a look at what is considered sexual assault. So, as a disclaimer, there may be some trigger words in here, so if you feel uncomfortable or frightened when discussing this topic, you may want to skip the rest of this section and check out what we have to say about helping sexual assault victims and getting help if you or someone you know needs it. Alternatively, if you are really wanting to learn what sexual assault is and everything that is behind it, you will want to read on so that you can learn more about the topic in general.
According to the Department of Justice's website (found at http://www.justice.gov/ovw/sexual-assault), the definition of sexual assault is defined as the following:
"Sexual assault is any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient. Falling under the definition of sexual assault are sexual activities as forced sexual intercourse, forcible sodomy, child molestation, incest, fondling, and attempted rape."
That's a whole bunch of things that can be considered sexual assault, and because of many cases that have come up in recent months and years, they have continued to add some of those words to what falls under the general definition of the term. To put that whole thing in laymen's terms, if you are forced to be touched inappropriately without consent, or if you are forced to have some sort of sexual intercourse without your consent, you have been a victim of sexual assault. You may have also been sexually assaulted if you were forced to be naked (or partially naked) in front of someone without your consent as well. Basically, if it makes you feel sexually exploited or mistreated, and it was beyond your control and without your consent, then you have been sexually assaulted and there are implications behind that. Now, obviously, there are different levels of sexual assault, and we aren't going to explore all of that in too much detail because it doesn't matter for what we're talking about. What does matter is that there are a lot of effects that result from sexual assault.
Many times, the people who have been sexually assaulted have a number of mental health diagnoses as a result of the assault. Anxiety, depression, regular nightmares and sleeping issues, PTSD, and a number of other different disorders that may occur after someone has been sexually assaulted. Because of this, it is important that the person is taken care of as quickly as possible after the incident happens and that they get the help of professionals in order to get through it. The more quickly the help comes, the easier it will be for the person to get back up on their own feet and move forward with the life that they deserve to live again. It may take some time to finish the process, but if they receive the help they need instead of hiding everything inside of themselves, then they will be able to enjoy life and not live in constant fear.
How Can I Help Sexual Assault Victims?
First off, I want to start off this part by saying that you can't save or fix everyone, and if someone you know and love is dealing with the aftermath of sexual assault, then it's important for you to realize that they may not respond to the help and care that you are trying to give them. You need to be there for them and love them as they are, and be someone safe that they can go to if they feel ready to talk. It's about them being ready, because the situation is stressful in and of itself and it can be really hard for people to come to terms with what is going on with the situation. Also, as with some issues that are related to mental health, you can't help someone that doesn't want to be helped. Until they realize that they need help, the help really isn't going to work as well until they actually embrace the fact that something is going on with them and that they need help in order to get through it.
They may become withdrawn, they may not eat or take care of themselves, and they may not do the things that they need to do in order to make sure that they are taken care of properly. Because of this, you will want to ensure that you are able to help them out in any way that you can. By offering them some of your spare time, even just to sit and be together, you can make a world of difference for the person who has been struggling with sexual assault and its aftermath. It's a terrifying thing, so you want to do everything that you can in order to make sure that they feel safe and that you do not add to the stress that they are feeling about everything that has happened.
The main part of helping sexual assault survivors has to deal with love. You want to love the person, just the same as before. If the person is your spouse, partner, or lover, you want to make sure that you are ready to be patient with them. They may be afraid of things that you want to do, and it's not your fault that they feel this way. So make sure that you feel okay with yourself and have the confidence and strength to get through this time. We're going to talk a bit more about therapy below, but if they are in therapy, you should consider going with them. It may take a long while for you guys to reconcile and for them to feel comfortable making love again because the experience was so traumatic. Don't give up on them, walk alongside them, and help them to live the life that they need to live. They don't need your rejection at this point in time, they need you to stay with them, love them, and walk beside them as they start to learn how to heal and how to live their life once again.
It will take time above everything else, so make sure that you're ready to stick around for the long haul. Some of the disorders that may come out of the whole thing, specifically post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can cause them to lash out at you or push you away, but if you remain by their side, you will find that it is much easier for both of you to get through the pain. I know that this is easier said than done, and if they're being violent or abusive you should remove yourself from the situation, but your persistence and love will pay off with their healing and seeing them live the life that they had before the assault happened. Your love can be a catalyst to their healing.
So, if you or someone you love is struggling with the aftermath of sexual assault, rape, or harassment, you need to find help in order to work through it. There are plenty of therapists, counselors, and other mental health professionals that can help you work through all of the thoughts and feelings that you are struggling with as a result of your experience. It's not something that you can (or really should) try to get through without the help of a professional. Contact your local mental health professional today, and if you don't know where to look, make sure to check out the resources that we have available for you to utilize in order to find the person that can help you work through it. Don't give up on yourself and the life that you deserve to live - get the help that you need today.
The Band Back Together project. (n.d.). How To Help Someone Heal From A Rape or Sexual Asault - Band Back Together. Retrieved August 4, 2014, from http://www.bandbacktogether.com/How-To-Help-Someone-Heal-From-Sexual-Assault/
Gaiman, N. (n.d.). Help a Loved One. Retrieved August 4, 2014, from https://www.rainn.org/get-help/help-a-loved-one
National Center for Victims of Crime. (2012). Bulletins for Teens: Sexual Assault. Retrieved August 4, 2014, from http://www.victimsofcrime.org/help-for-crime-victims/get-help-bulletins-for-crime-victims/bulletins-for-teens/sexual-assault
Pandora's Project. (2009). For Friends, Family & Partners of Rape & Sexual Abuse Survivors. Retrieved August 4, 2014, from http://www.pandys.org/secondarysurvivors.html
Victim Support. (n.d.). Rape or sexual assault (info for women). Retrieved August 4, 2014, from https://www.victimsupport.org.uk/help-victims/ive-been-affected/rape-or-sexual-assault-info-women