What Exactly Is Sexual Assault? Myths vs. Facts...they will shock you! PART 1

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, SEXUAL ASSAULT is any type of forced or coerced sexual contact or behavior that happens without consent. In the United States, OVER HALF (50%) of women have experienced sexual assault outside of rape. That's REPORTED! Can you imagine the number of unreported sexual assaults that occur that leave perpetrators empowered and victims shamed. Sadly, I have come to believe it might actually be worse in faith-based communities due to the minimization, shame and depth of victim-blaming. Sadly, not only is this an issue that I have advocated against strongly through the years, specialized in counseling for years, but a topic that has hit home in my personal life recently. It is my prayer for us to really examine this issue together because the lines can become so easily blurred.

Let's first look at what sexual assault according to state and federal law includes:

Sexual Assault can include :

  • Any type of sexual contact with someone who can not consent, such as someone who is underage or has any type of disibility...

  • Attempted rape...

  • Sexual coercion...

  • Sexual contact with a child...

  • Fondling or unwanted touching above or under clothes...

Sexual assault can also be visual or verbal and includes anything that forces a person to join in an unwanted sexual contact or attention according to the CDC (2012) PDF on Understanding Sexual Violence.

This includes but is not limited too:

  • Voyeurism or peeping (that's watching someone for personal sexual pleasure or gain without the persons consent).

  • Sexual harassment or any types of sexual threats (the victim who is the object of the threat needs to perceive there is a threat not the person making lewd or disrespect sexual comments). This is against the law.

Most of us are quite familiar with the big ones such as child sexual abuse, incest, rape or attempted rape; however, let's examine was coercion and consent mean in regards to the law and sexual assault.

Most men and women think about a physical attack when sexual assault comes to mind. Many have the image of a women wearing a halter-type top, an extremely short mini-skirt, high heels, in a back alley in the "wrong side" of town. Nothing could be farther from the truth and actually very few of sexual assaults constitute attacks such as just described against strangers.

Sexual coercion is UNWANTED SEXUAL ACTIVITY THAT HAPPENS AFTER SOMEONE IS PRESSURED, TRICKED, OR FORCED IN A NON-PHYSICAL WAY. Anyone....anyone can use coercion including boyfriends, employers, friends, bosses, counselors, ministers, volunteers...ANYONE! Sexual coercion can be emotional or social or spiritual pressure to force you into sexual activity that you do not want to do or are do not able to agree to. There is no MAYBE here. Any type of unsolicited or unwanted sex even by your spouse is sexual assault. Let's look at some examples of sexual coercion:

Statements such as: