The Road to Meaningful Living

A Survivor's Guide to Sexual Assault

According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health, sexual assault includes any sexual activity for which a person does not give consent.

Sexual assault can involve physical acts such as rape or unwanted touching, but non-physical actions, such as flashing the genitals, are also considered sexual assault.

The Office on Women’s Health reports that one-third of women in the United States have experienced sexual violence, and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a quarter of men have been victims.

Types of Sexual Assault

There are numerous types of sexual assault, including:

  • Rape, whether vaginal, oral, or anal
  • Sexual activity when a person is under the influence of drugs or alcohol and unable to consent
  • Forcing a person to do things he or she doesn’t want to do during sex
  • Taking videos or pictures of a person during sex without permission
  • Coercing a person to engage in sexual activities for money
  • Unwelcomed touching

Sexual Assault Versus Sexual Harassment

Sometimes sexual assault can be mistaken for sexual harassment, but the two are different.

Sexual assault is any type of sexual interaction that occurs without a person’s permission, whereas The Center for Family Justice reports that sexual harassment is any type of unwanted sexual conduct that embarrasses a person.

Sexual harassment can involve verbal remarks, provocative gestures, sexual stares, or unwanted touching.

Rape Statistics in a Lifetime

  • Women 19% 19%
  • Men 2% 2%

Sexual Assault Statistics in a Lifetime

  • Women 44% 44%
  • Men 23% 23%

Video: Lady Gaga on Surviving Sexual Assault

Transcript
00:00
♪ From the shallow now ♪
00:02
(audience laughs)
00:04
– I don’t know if I’m working it right now.
00:11
It’s hard to know what to say.
00:16
I wrote this speech
00:17
and there’s teleprompters and I got papers.
00:20
I don’t know what to–
00:21
(audience laughs)
00:23
Use.
00:25
And in truth, I was just trying to memorize Anita’s speech
00:28
because it was so beautiful, but…
00:33
You give me hope!
00:37
Thank you, Jennifer, for that beautiful introduction.
00:42
You’re an inspiration to so many.
00:46
Thank you not only for everything
00:48
you continually do for women,
00:51
but for the force of nature you’ve been
00:54
for so many all over the world.
00:59
I think about me and my best friend
01:02
who’s here tonight, right there.
01:07
(audience applauds)
01:11
I’ve known her since I was four years old.
01:15
Beautiful adopted woman from Korea.
01:20
And how throughout high school,
01:23
we danced and we sang, imitating Jennifer.
01:30
(audience laughs)
01:33
Imitating you while we strengthened our bond.
01:38
Her name is Bo.
01:41
And wearing white bandanas
01:44
and hoop earrings draped over caramel colored hair.
01:50
You brought us so much joy.
01:52
Where are you?
01:55
You brought us so much joy.
02:01
On the train, I thought about you.
02:04
(audience laughs)
02:07
And how the fuck I was gonna get off that train.
02:10
(audience laughs)
02:15
She loved you so much we even gave her the nickname, J-Bo.
02:23
(audience laughs)
02:25
No for real.
02:27
Like, we called her that all the time.
02:32
There is not a doubt in my mind
02:35
that you will be loved forever
02:39
as the powerhouse of a performer and woman that you are.
02:45
Thank you for making so many memories for me and my friends
02:51
that I will cherish forever in my heart.
02:54
Thank you so much.
02:55
(audience applauds)
03:04
I never in my wildest dreams
03:08
thought that my life would become what it has.
03:12
But more so, to be honored this evening
03:18
purely for being a woman.
03:23
It’s beyond what I could have imagined.
03:28
I guess I didn’t see it happening in my lifetime.
03:35
I am immensely privileged
03:37
to be in the company of so many powerful women
03:41
who have changed so many people’s lives.
03:45
I am so humbled to be standing hand-in-hand
03:50
with every one of you today.
03:55
I spent a lot of time
03:57
thinking about what I wanted to say tonight
04:03
because of all of you, because you inspire me.
04:12
How does one rise to such an occasion,
04:18
when maybe you don’t feel that inside?
04:23
How does one accept where life has brought them,
04:30
and what it all means?
04:36
As I tried on dress after dress today,
04:43
getting ready for this event,
04:46
one tight corset after another,
04:51
one heel after another, a diamond, a feather,
04:57
thousands of beaded fabrics,
04:59
and the most beautiful silks in the world,
05:05
to be honest, I felt sick to my stomach
05:12
and I asked myself,
05:16
what does it really mean to be a woman in Hollywood?
05:26
We are not just objects to entertain the world.
05:33
We are not simply images
05:36
to bring smiles or grimaces to people’s faces.
05:42
We are not members of a giant beauty pageant
05:46
meant to be pit against one another
05:50
for the pleasures of the public.
05:56
We women in Hollywood,
06:01
we are voices.
06:04
We have deep thoughts
06:07
and ideas and beliefs and values about the world
06:12
and we have the power to speak and be heard
06:17
and fight back when we are silenced.
06:25
So, after trying on 10 or so dresses,
06:33
with a sad feeling in my heart
06:38
that all that would matter
06:41
was what I wore to this red carpet,
06:47
I saw an oversized Marc Jacobs suit
06:49
buried quietly in the corner.
06:51
(audience laughs)
06:57
I put it on to a resounding view
07:03
of eyes glaring at me in confusion.
07:07
(audience laughs)
07:12
“But the Rodarte was so beautiful,” one said.
07:20
“But the Raf Simons for Calvin Klein
07:23
“was so stunning on you,” said another.
07:29
“But what about the Brandon Maxwell?”
07:31
“What about the Dior?”
07:34
Lots of questions.
07:35
(audience laughs)
07:38
They were all dresses.
07:42
This was an oversized men’s suit made for a woman.
07:49
Not a gown.
07:55
And then I began to cry.
08:00
In this suit,
08:06
I felt like me today.
08:10
In this suit,
08:12
I felt the truth of who I am well up in my gut.
08:20
And then wondering what I wanted to say tonight
08:25
became very clear to me.
08:35
As a sexual assault survivor
08:40
by someone in the entertainment industry,
08:48
as a woman who is still not brave enough to say his name,
08:58
as a woman who lives with chronic pain,
09:04
as a woman who was conditioned at a very young age
09:08
to listen to what men told me to do,
09:14
I decided today, I wanted to take the power back.
09:22
Today, I wear the pants.
09:25
(audience applauds)
09:33
Today, I wear the suit.
09:37
In an age when I can barely watch the news,
09:42
I gasped at the unjust men and some women, quite frankly,
09:50
that I see running this country.
09:53
I had a revelation that I had to be empowered
09:57
to be myself today more than ever,
10:02
to resist the standards of Hollywood, whatever that means,
10:10
to resist the standards of dressing to impress,
10:19
but to use what really matters,
10:26
my voice.
10:30
After I was assaulted when I was 19,
10:36
I changed forever.
10:42
Part of me shut down for many years.
10:46
I didn’t tell anyone.
10:50
I avoided it myself.
10:53
And felt shame even still today.
10:58
Standing in front of you,
11:04
I feel shame for what happened to me.
11:08
I still have days where I feel like it was my fault.
11:16
After I shared what happened to me
11:20
with very powerful men in this industry,
11:28
nobody helped me.
11:32
No one offered me guidance,
11:37
or a helping hand,
11:39
to lead me to a place where I felt justice.
11:44
They didn’t even point me in the direction
11:48
of the mental health assistance I was in dire need of.
11:54
Those men hid because they were afraid
11:57
of losing their power.
12:02
And because they hid, I began to hide.
12:10
I hid for a long time
12:18
until I started to feel physical pain.
12:26
Then I had to go to the doctor
12:28
’cause I didn’t know what was wrong with me.
12:34
And then I was diagnosed with PTSD
12:42
and fibromyalgia,
12:45
which many people don’t think is even real,
12:48
and I don’t even know what the fuck to say about that.
12:54
But I’ll tell you what it is.
12:58
It’s a syndrome that is essentially a cyclone
13:04
of many different conditions depending on the person,
13:09
inducing a stress-induced pain.
13:22
And I really wish my friend Lena Dunham was here tonight
13:25
because I think she could probably articulate
13:27
this much better than me.
13:31
And I hope we can all agree that she’s a remarkable woman.
13:36
(audience applauds)
13:53
Depression, anxiety,
13:57
eating disorders, trauma,
14:03
these are just a few examples of the forces
14:06
that can lead to this tornado of pain.
14:12
So what I would like to say,
14:15
in this room of powerful women and men today,
14:24
is let’s work together
14:27
to beckon the world towards kindness.
14:33
I’m fortunate enough now to have the resources to help me,
14:39
but for many, the resources either don’t exist,
14:45
or people don’t have the ability to pay for or access them.
14:55
I want to see mental health
14:59
become a global priority.
15:03
(audience applauds)
15:11
We might not be able, or we’re not able, actually,
15:17
to control all of the challenges and the tragedies
15:21
that life throws our way,
15:25
but we can work together.
15:31
This room and even wider
15:36
can work together to heal each other.
15:43
And we can also try to find the strength,
15:50
in the best way that we can, to ask for help if we need it.
15:58
One in four people in the world suffer from mental illness.
16:07
300 million people suffer from depression,
16:15
60 million people live with bipolar affective disorder,
16:22
23 million people are stricken with schizophrenia,
16:27
and 800,000 people die every year from suicide.
16:37
In low and middle income countries,
16:40
between 76 and 85% of people with mental disorders
16:45
receive no treatment at all.
16:50
In high-income countries,
16:53
between 35 and 50% of people are in the same situation.
17:01
The people in this room,
17:04
and the people that you have in your network,
17:08
have the power to turn kindness
17:12
into plutonium and change the world
17:20
for both children and adults,
17:25
to provide for a better future
17:28
and make up in whatever small way that we can,
17:36
microscopic maybe,
17:39
for the pain those have suffered in the past.
17:47
And if anyone is compelled to do so,
17:50
please join me and my mother Cynthia.
17:55
We’re the founders of the Born This Way Foundation
17:59
to empower youth, to inspire a kinder and braver world.
18:07
We want kids to learn about mental health
18:11
and the importance of kindness at a very young age.
18:18
And it is my personal dream
18:21
that there would be a mental health expert, teacher,
18:24
or therapist in every school in this nation,
18:29
and hopefully, one day,
18:34
around the world.
18:38
Let’s lift our voices.
18:42
I know we are, but let’s get louder.
18:48
And not just as women,
18:52
but as humans,
18:54
and see that there are there are great men in the world.
19:02
And ask them to hold our hands for justice,
19:11
that our voices be heard whatever our story may be,
19:18
for an equal standing that we will fight for justice
19:23
for women and men and those with other sexual identities,
19:31
for me.
19:38
This is what it means to be a woman in Hollywood.
19:44
It means I have a platform.
19:51
I have a chance to make a change.
19:57
I pray we listen and believe
20:03
and pay closer attention to those around us,
20:10
to those in need.
20:17
I’m sorry, I preach a lot,
20:19
so you’re gonna have to bear with me.
20:23
Be a helping hand.
20:26
Be a force for change.
20:30
Thank you, Nina Garcia.
20:36
Thank you, Steven Gan.
20:46
I was an outcast and you believed in me,
20:52
and I wouldn’t be here without you.
20:56
Thank you, Elle.
21:00
Thank you all the loved ones in my life.
21:02
Bobby, I love you.
21:08
Everybody at table five.
21:10
(audience laughs)
21:12
My fiance Christian.
21:18
All the loved ones in my life
21:20
who’d take care of me every day.
21:24
And Ryan Murphy,
21:31
thanks for giving me my first leading role.
21:34
(audience applauds)
21:45
You know that Golden Globe belongs to you, man.
21:52
Thank you to all of you,
21:54
everybody in this room who has supported me
21:57
in having a voice,
22:00
and knowing I have something inside me to give
22:03
that’s more important than any stereotype about Hollywood.
22:12
I have my heart to give to you,
22:18
and I want you to have all of it.
22:23
Thank you for inspiring me.
22:28
I can’t say enough about you.
22:32
Listening to you speak tonight gave me hope
22:38
when I have trouble sleeping ’cause I’m afraid,
22:44
or when I walk out in the world and I’m trembling inside.
22:47
It’s women like you, Anita, that make me feel strong.
22:53
Come on.
22:54
(audience applauds)
23:07
Be kind to yourselves and be kind to each other.
23:13
And to the designers that sent me
23:18
all those beautiful dresses,
23:24
thank you too.
23:25
(audience laughs)
23:27
(audience applauds)
23:36
It taught me something that I needed to learn again today.
23:45
And to quote myself–
23:47
(audience laughs)
23:52
If there’s one thing you take away
23:57
from me being here tonight, Elle,
24:01
it’s breed compassion,
24:09
amen fashion.
24:12
(audience applauds)
24:16
Thank you.

Statistics on Sexual Assault

The Office for Victims of Crime has reported the following statistics concerning sexual assault:

Police receive notification of only one-third of sexual assaults.

During their lives, 19 percent of women and 2 percent of men experience rape, whereas 44 percent of women and 23 percent of men suffer from another form of sexual assault.

In 2015, there were 0.3 cases of sexual assault per 1,000 men and 2.2 cases per 1,000 women.

Only 19 percent of sexual assault victims receive supportive services.

Among heterosexual females who are raped, 38 percent of them experience the first assault between the ages of 18 and 24, and 28 percent experience it between the ages of 11 and 17.

A survey of college students has revealed that 65 percent of students who suffer rape share the experience with a friend or relative, whereas under 10 percent of them notify police or school administrators.

  • Sexual Assualt Victims that Receive Supportive Services 19% 19%

Treating Sexual Assault

Despite the psychological consequences of sexual assault, effective treatment is available. As the authors of a report in a 2009 edition of Clinical Psychology Review have reported, treatment for sexual assault tends to focus on recovering from anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress.

According to the research, various forms of therapy, including cognitive processing therapy, prolonged exposure therapy, stress inoculation training, and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing may be effective for treating victims of sexual assault.

Counseling Services

Local community mental health centers can provide information about treatment programs for sexual assault and complete the intake process for anyone seeking treatment. It is important that treatment programs are comprehensive and provide services to address the trauma of the sexual assault, as well as any co-occurring conditions, such as substance use disorders.

In treatment, victims of sexual assault can talk about their experiences, process their emotions, and overcome the trauma associated with the sexual violence.

While ongoing counseling services are likely necessary to heal from trauma, immediate treatment of sexual assault typically involves contacting law enforcement and receiving treatment from a local hospital, where staff can assess and treat any injuries sustained during the assault. Sexual assault is a violation of the law, and law enforcement officers can investigate to determine if a crime has been committed.

National Sexual Assault Hotline

The Office on Women’s Health has also reported that there is a National Sexual Assault Hotline that can offer support 24 hours a day, 7 days per week, and provide linkage to resources. This hotline can be reached by calling 800-656-4673.

Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE)

In hospital settings and in some domestic violence shelters, a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) can provide a forensic medical evaluation and coordinate with law enforcement officials who are investigating sex crimes. These professional are trained to collect evidence after an assault in a manner that it can be used in a court trial in the future.

The International Association of Forensic Nurses provides a search tool that can locate SANE service providers.

Misconceptions About Sexual Assault

Assaults Don't Happen Within Relationships

There are some common misconceptions surrounding sexual assault. One such misconception is the belief that a person cannot be assaulted by someone with whom they are in a relationship. While this belief is relatively widespread, the reality is that among female rape victims, 51 percent report that an intimate partner was the perpetrator, as determined by the results of the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey.

Abusers are Complete Strangers

Another misconception some people may hold regarding sexual assault is that the perpetrator is likely to be a random stranger. In reality, 40.8 percent of female rape victims report that the abuser was at least an acquaintance.

Among men, 52.4 percent of rape victims report that an acquaintance was the abuser, and only 15.1 percent of them report being abused by a stranger.

It is more likely that a person will suffer sexual assault at the hands of a partner or someone they know than from a complete stranger.

Men Don't Get Sexually Assaulted

People may also hold a stereotypical view that women are always the victims of sexual assault, with men being the perpetrators, but as The Office for Victims of Crime has reported, nearly one-fourth of men experience a sexual assault other than rape during their lives, and 2 percent experience rape. While women may more often be the victims of sexual violence, men can also experience a sexual assault.

It's the Victim's Fault

Some people may also mistakenly believe that a sexual assault is the fault of the victim in cases where the victim is under the influence of drugs or alcohol or is dressed in a provocative fashion. This is simply not the case, as the victim is never to blame.

A person must grant consent for sexual activity and cannot do so if intoxicated by drugs or alcohol. Taking advantage of someone who is unable to give consent due to intoxication is the fault of the abuser.

Video: Coping Strategies for Sexual Assault

Transcript
00:00
I think for survivors of sexual assault
00:03
this is really dredging up a lot of a
00:05
lot of negative feelings folks might be
00:09
feeling anxious because they’re reminded
00:11
about things that they haven’t thought
00:13
about in a while for folks that have
00:15
been suffering with post-traumatic
00:17
stress disorder or other mental health
00:19
consequences of sexual assault
00:21
this could really you know exacerbate
00:23
that it’s okay to be upset about this
00:26
this is a really understandable thing to
00:28
feel upset about it’s really tough to
00:31
see a person and I think we you know
00:33
many of us can imagine ourselves in her
00:36
shoes telling a story and not being
00:39
believed about something so sensitive
00:41
and so personal and so upsetting in
00:45
terms of dealing with this news a really
00:48
critical piece is feeling those feelings
00:50
and sitting with them and experiencing
00:53
them and doing your very best even
00:56
though it’s difficult to not avoid them
00:57
or push them away and let them process
01:00
naturally it’s really tough to see
01:03
people that we love struggling and at
01:06
the same time one of the most important
01:08
things that we can do as their loved
01:10
ones is to bear witness to that pain
01:12
that they’re experiencing and not try to
01:16
distract them or not try to just take
01:19
their mind off it but really sit with
01:20
them and be a shoulder to cry on I want
01:23
survivors to know that there are a lot
01:26
of people out there including me who
01:28
believe them we found that sexual
01:31
assault survivors in almost every study
01:34
were at greater risk of these mental
01:36
health conditions and they were at
01:38
particularly high risk of post traumatic
01:40
stress disorder
01:41
it is real and it is harmful and that
01:45
many people have suffered in silence
01:48
with an experience of sexual assault and
01:50
have been unwilling to come forward for
01:53
these very reasons that we’re seeing
01:55
right now so when we see all those
01:57
skepticism and doubt and blame those are
02:00
the reasons why survivors wait decades
02:02
to come forward to change that if we
02:04
think that that’s a problem we need to
02:06
start being vocal about believing
02:09
survivors
02:10
and taking their their experiences
02:13
seriously because a lot of people are
02:16
suffering from these conditions as a
02:18
result of an experience of sexual
02:20
assaults

Sexual Assault Prevention

Treatment is available to assist those who experience an act of sexual assault, but prevention is also possible.

Personal Safety

The Office on Women’s Health recommends taking steps to remain safe in social situations. These steps can include:

  • Limiting alcohol consumption
  • Keeping an eye on your drink to avoid someone adding date rape drugs
  • Meeting dates in public locations
  • Going out with groups of friends
  • Having an agreement with friends to look out for each other
  • Finding a phone app that can alert friends or police if you are unsafe
  • Developing a code word to use with friends or family if you are unsafe and need help
  • Leaving a situation if you don’t feel safe

Actions You Can Take as a Bystander

Bystanders can also prevent sexual assault from occurring. The Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network (RAINN) recommends that bystanders use the CARE intervention if they feel someone might be unsafe. This involves the following strategies:

For example, if a bystander feels a person might be at risk of sexual violence, he or she could ask the victim if he or she would like to leave to get food. Asking might involve directly approaching the potential victim and inquiring if everything is okay. Referring includes speaking to an authority figure, such as a law enforcement officer, and informing him or her of the concern of potential sexual assault. Enlisting means finding another person to assist with intervening with the potential victim.

The Power of Men

Men can play an important role in preventing sexual assault by vocalizing if they witness behavior that appears risky or is degrading to women.

It is critical that men support potential victims and step in if they see another man harassing a woman.

Sexual Assault Risk Factors

While some factors can serve to prevent sexual assault, there are others that increase a person’s chances of being a victim of sexual violence.

A study in a 2017 publication of the medical journal PLOS ONE evaluated factors that contribute to increased occurrence of sexual assault and identified the following risk factors:

  • Female gender
  • Not conforming to gender expectations
  • Financial difficulty
  • Being incapacitated by drugs or alcohol
  • Not identifying as heterosexual
  • Participation in a sorority or fraternity
  • Binge drinking
  • History of sexual assault
  • Having numerous casual sexual partners instead of being in a monogamous relationship

Using caution and being aware of risk factors can prevent a sexual assault and the mental health consequences that follow sexual violence. If you have been a victim of sexual assault, it is important to reach out for help and remember that the incident was not your fault.

See State Resources for Sexual Assault

Resources:

  1. https://www.womenshealth.gov/relationships-and-safety/sexual-assault-and-rape/sexual-assault
  2. https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/sexualviolence/fastfact.html?CDC_AA_refVal=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cdc.gov%2Fviolenceprevention%2Fsexualviolence%2Fdefinitions.html
  3. https://centerforfamilyjustice.org/faq/sexual-violence/
  4. https://ovc.ncjrs.gov/ncvrw2018/info_flyers/fact_sheets/2018NCVRW_SexualViolence_508_QC.pdf
  5. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapsychiatry/fullarticle/481660
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2773678/
  7. https://www.forensicnurses.org/search/custom.asp?id=2100
  8. https://rainn.org/articles/steps-you-can-take-prevent-sexual-assault?_ga=2.39024547.1457375753.1557430356-378313251.1557083514
  9. https://journals.plos.org/plosone/articleid=10.1371/journal.pone.0186471
  10. womenshealth.gov – Resources by state on violence against women

Guide Brought To You By: Tapestry

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