Every 2 minutes someone in America is sexually assaulted. A staggering 80% of those sexual assault victims are under the age of 30, and 44% are under 18. 60% of sexual assaults are never reported to the police. 97% of rapist never spend a day in jail.*
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM). In the spirit of awareness, it is important that we explore some of the least talked about truths regarding sexual assault and dispel the myths that help perpetuate this type of violence and hinder healing.
Did you know that the definition of sexual assault varies from state-to-state? Arm yourself with information and know the laws in your state. RAINN, the Rape, Abuse, Incest, National Network gives a general definition: “Sexual assault is unwanted sexual contact that stops short of rape or attempted rape. This includes sexual touching and fondling.” It is important to note that in some states the term sexual assault is used interchangeable with rape.
Sexual Assault can present itself as the following:
- Inappropriate contact
- Oral, vaginal, or anal penetration
- Attempted rape and rape (sexual intercourse that you say “NO” to)
- Child Molestation
Truth # 3
Sexual Assault happens to boys, girls, men, and women. No one is excluded, and often victims know their attacker. Knowing your attacker does not make your attack null and void. No means no, regardless of who you say it to.
Truth # 4
Victims of sexual assault endure physical AND emotional trauma; therefore it is crucial that victims of sexual assault receive medical attention that includes examinations by both a physician and a mental health professional. Sometimes we hastily place emphasis on one effect of attack over another, but when someone is sexually assaulted the whole person must heal. Physical side effects of assault include body soreness, bruises, vaginal or anal tearing, contraction of an STD, or even pregnancy. Emotional struggles may include feelings of guilt and shame that haunt survivors of sexual abuse. Men, women, and children endure their pain with overlapping feelings of defeat and a false sense of responsibility for the assault. When not properly addressed, the anxiety, stress, and fear a sexual assault victim experiences may lead them down a terrible path of mental collapse and can even lead to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or Self-Harm.
Truth # 5
Not all effects of sexual assault present themselves right away. Body Memories are when the stress related to the memory of sexual assault takes on the form of physical problems that cannot be explained by traditional means. Body memories are not triggered by the conscious mind, but rather occur when the body and mind interact below the surface. The physical maladies associated with body memories include headaches, dizziness, sleep disorders, and even grinding of teeth.
Truth # 6
One of the least socially understood side effects of sexual assault is Stockholm Syndrome. Stockholm Syndrome is when a victim emotionally “bonds” with his or her abuser. The bonding is considered a survival strategy for victims of abuse and develops subconsciously and involuntary. When a victim “identifies” with the attacker, it does not invalidate the attack. Rape is rape. Assault is assault. And Stockholm Syndrome is very real.
If your or someone you love has been a victim of sexual assault, I urge you to seek help. Contact your local authorities, speak with your physician, and/or seek the help of a counselor. If you’re not ready to take that step, confide in someone you trust.
Below are a list of resources to help you—use them. You are not alone in this.
Need help? Not sure where to turn? Contact the RAINN online hotline for help today.
Or call The National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.656-HOPE (4673).
If you’re in immediate danger call 911.
Family members of someone who has been assaulted, start here.
Additional resources for health professionals can be found by visiting the National Sexual Violence Resource Center online at www.nsvrc.org or by calling 877.739.3895.
*Factual information presented taken from http://www.RAINN.org
The Stone Foundation is a community of counseling professionals who are committed to helping you live your best life. If we can assist you in healing from sexual assault, please contact us at 410.296.2004 or visit www.thestonefoundation.com. We are here for you and want you to know that there is hope. You are not alone. Please know that this article deals with a very serious matter and is intended for general, educational purposes only. This article, and others like it, should not and are not meant to take the place of professional counseling services or medical care.
Victoria Johnson is a Communications major who maintains honors status at the Anne Arundel Community College. She currently writes for The Baltimore Times and has written for the AACC school newspaper, The Campus Current. Victoria’s talent stems beyond her writing and schooling. She is also the co-founder of God’s Jewels, a charitable organization designed to benefit individuals in Africa who seek spiritual enlightenment.