Sexual abuse and assault refer to the intentional forcing of sexual contact or activity without the consent of the other party involved. Statistics show that one in every six American women is a victim of either attempted or completed rape during her lifetime.
Forms of Sexual abuse and Assault
- Inappropriate touching
- Attempted rape
- Vaginal, oral or anal penetration
- Sexual intercourse without your consent
- Sexual harassment, for example, sexual demands for school grades, favors, or jobs.
Sexual assault is not just physical, but may also be visual or verbal sexual abuse or acts that force one to join in undesired sexual acts or contacts. It is paramount to understand that sexual abuse is a serious offense against a person’s dignity regardless of the abuser. Sexual abusers range from total strangers, friends, partners, or even family members.
Effects of sexual assault and abuse to women
Sexual assault has numerous consequences on victims, such as:
- Shock and fear
- Detachment and withdrawal
- Guilt and denial
- Poor body image and low self-esteem
- Suicidal thoughts (at times even attempted suicide)
- Unwanted pregnancies
- Contraction of STDs
Rape is a prevalent form of sexual abuse. Rape by total strangers usually is less common compared to rape by perpetrators the victim knows. Walking in new, unfamiliar territories as well as going on blind dates are some of the factors that may expose a lady to rape by strangers.
The widespread use of date rape drugs increases stranger rape cases. This is because it renders the victim unable to resist assault as well as a loss of memory; thus, they cannot recall what happened. On the other hand, marital and incestual rape cases are on the rise. According to RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), 8 out of 10 rape cases were committed by familiar people to the victim.
How to Control and Minimize Cases of Sexual Assault
- Public enlightenment
- Emphasis on primary prevention measures such as making the environment safer for women by lighting paths goes a long way in reducing abuse such as rape.
- Intense education should be offered to the society at schools, social gatherings, places of worship, and through the media to demystify myths surrounding sexual assault. Teaching the community not to deflect the blame to the victim is paramount.
- Encouraging rape victims to speak out through laid out forums without fear of stigmatization goes a long way in prevention.
- Recognizing vulnerable groups of women such as the disabled.
Getting Help after Sexual Assault
- The first step to seeking help is understanding that it was not your fault, regardless of how much you feel overwhelmed by emotions.
- Flee from the attacker to safety. Dial 911 or call the police.
- Contact a trusted family member or friend. Understand that feeling of guilt, shock and guilt are normal; hence, pour it out.
- Go to the nearest health center for a medical checkup immediately. Do not bathe before the medical checkup. Should you change your clothes, carefully put them in a khaki wrapper. This ensures that you do not tamper with evidence.
- Report the crime by recording a statement at a police station.
- File a complaint in a court of law. It is essential to report the assault to acquire justice and for the offender to face the law. Seeing your offender facing the law may be the final step you require to heal. It is also helpful as it saves more women from being abused by the same offender. Professional law groups such as Abajian Law Group enable you or your loved one to acquire justice while respecting your discretion.
Why Should You Undergo a Sexual Assault Forensic Exam/ a Rape kit?
- The provision of this medical examination is at no cost to sexual abuse victims.
- It makes it easier to prosecute the offender as DNA evidence is weighty in court.
- Personal health benefits. Sexual assault puts your physical health at risk, for example, through injuries. You may be able to receive treatment for such injuries, preventative treatment for STIs, and emergency contraceptives to prevent pregnancy. Therefore, there is a need to get this test regardless of whether or not you know the offender/s.
There is a great need to stop stigmatization towards rape victims as well as blaming the women in the name of they tempted the offenders. The fear of stigmatization by society and lack of support means most victims suffer in silence. Statistics indicate that out of 1000 rape cases; only 230 reach the police desks. Incest is the most underreported form of sexual abuse.
This further implies that as rape victims continue suffering, the offenders walk free, probably planning to rape even more women. Reluctance is also evident from the police as few of those reported get arrested and consequently, even fewer serve jail terms. Counseling is a crucial part of the healing process of a rape victim.