Sexual assault is any unwanted sexual contact.
What is sexual assault?
Under University policy (link), sexual assault includes any of the following:
- The act of rape – oral, anal, or vaginal intercourse without consent, no matter how slight the penetration
- Attempted rape – an attempt to penetrate the vagina, mouth, or anus of another without their consent
- Even the slightest penetration of a person’s vagina or anus by an object – including a finger – without consent
- Touching a person’s sexual parts – their breast(s), buttocks, or genitalia – while they are naked or through their clothing, without consent
- Causing a person, without their consent, to touch another person’s sexual parts
- Incest – sexual intercourse or any form of sexual gratification between family members as prohibited by law
- Statutory rape – sexual intercourse with a person who is under the legal age of consent (17 years old in Missouri; 16 years old in Kansas)
An offender may use various methods to perpetrate sexual assault, including:
- Physical aggression or threats of physical aggression
- Coercion – threatening to reveal secrets, to tell others that the victim and offender had sexual intercourse, to fire an employee or fail a student (these cases also fit the definition of sexual harassment) or threatening to harm the victim’s friends or family members; for more info, visit Sexual Coercion (link) and Does This Count? Sexual Coercion Scenarios (link)
- Incapacitation of the victim – the inability of the victim to consent resulting from drugs or alcohol, disability, sleep, unconsciousness, or illness; for more info, visit Does This Count? Incapacitation (link) and Does This Count? Consent (link) and Predatory Drugs (link)
Sexual assaults are committed by both strangers AND people known to the victim. In fact, the vast majority of sexual assaults are committed by someone the victims knows, ranging from friends and acquaintances to dates, romantic partners, and spouses or domestic partners. Although people often think of sexual assault as something that only happens to cisgender women, this is not the case. People of all gender identities are sexually assaulted, as are people of every race, ethnicity, age, culture, religion, economic background, or sexual orientation.
Para más información en español, visite https://victimconnect.org/tipos-de-delitos/agresion-sexual/?lang=es.
Have I been sexually assaulted?
Although these definitions may seem clear, people are often confused as to whether they have been sexually assaulted. This is particularly true when the survivor knows their assailant, as they may often feel that they somehow led the person on, or that they are in some way responsible for the assault. In many cases, survivors may feel that because they were not physically injured, it wasn’t really sexual assault. This is not true. ANY sexual contact with you without your consent is illegal, against University policy, and wrong, even if you have been sexual with that person in the past or are currently being sexual but don’t wish to go past certain limits.
- A stranger grabs your breast or buttocks at a party or in a bar
- A date insists that you have sex even after you tell them you don’t want to
- A friend “talks you into it” using promises, teasing, intimidation, guilt, or threats of self-harm
- Your long-time romantic partner forces you to have sex
- Someone gets you drunk or slips a drug into your drink in order to get you to have sex with them
- Your casual partner wakes you up by placing your hand on their genitals
For more detailed examples, visit Does This Count? Sexual Assault Scenarios (link).
Sexual assault can happen to anyone.
Although people typically think of a cis man assaulting a cis woman, sexual assault occurs between people of all gender identities and sexual orientations. As with cis/hetero sexual assault, the majority of sexual assaults perpetrated against those identifying as non-cis/non-hetero are by someone who knows their victim and is often intimately involved with that person. Furthermore, sexual assault can also be part of a bias or hate crime against someone who identities as or is perceived to be non-cisgender or non-heterosexual. All survivors of assault face similar difficulties, but those who are non-binary and non-hetero may also have to deal with additional issues.
- Beliefs that a woman cannot rape another woman or a man cannot rape another man – these may make it harder for survivors to find someone to talk to, obtain services, or even believe themselves that they were raped.
- If the survivor was assaulted by someone identifying as the same sex/gender, they may face, or fear, homophobia, and heterosexist attitudes when trying to report the assault or receive medical or psychological services.
- LGBTQIA+ survivors may avoid coming forward because they fear losing their family, friends, job, or housing. Conversely, heterosexual survivors may fear others thinking that they are non-cis/non-hetero should they report being sexually assaulted by someone identifying as the same sex/gender.
- LGBTQIA+ survivors who are not yet out may also fear being outed to family, friends, and coworkers, among others. Many survivors fear that their loved ones will blame the assault on the survivor’s sexual orientation or trans identity, especially if their family and friends are not supportive or knowledgeable about LGBTQIA+ identities or issues.
- Survivors of a sexual assault that was part of a hate crime may be traumatized not only by the assault itself, but also by the accompanying prejudice and hatred that motivated the crime.
Although many services are designed for cis women survivors of a sexual assault by a cis man, there are services available for all survivors of sexual assault, regardless of their gender or sexual orientation, or the gender or sexual orientation of their assailant. Many services are confidential and a number are anonymous as well, so that survivors do not have to fear being involuntarily outed or having others know more about the situation than the survivor would like. For more information on resources available, contact RISE or visit Confidential Support (link) or Make Connections (link).