Sexual assault is a broad term that encompasses any forcible sexual activity that occurs without the victim's consent. It is a crime of violence, power and control, and it is one of the most underreported crimes in the United States (only about 16% of sexual assaults are ever reported to police).
What are the Different Types of Sexual Assault?
According to the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS), the different types of sexual assault include forcible rape, forcible sodomy, sexual penetration with an object, forcible fondling or touching of an unwilling person's private parts. This definition is used to prosecute crimes of sexual assault in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Old Dominion University defines sexual misconduct as any non-consensual sexual activity and sexual exploitation occurring on or off campus. Non-consensual sexual activity includes any sexual intercourse (anal, oral, or vaginal) and any intentional sexual touching by an individual or group, without the consent of the other person. Sexual exploitation occurs when an individual takes non-consensual or abusive sexual advantage of another for his/her own advantage or benefit. This definition is used to determine if a violation of the ODU Sexual Misconduct Policy has occurred.
Survivor Reactions & Recovery
Sexual assault is a violent, coercive or manipulative invasion of privacy and space, and can be a humiliating and terrifying experience. Sometimes people fear for their lives. In other cases, a sexual assault may not seem life threatening or dangerously violent, but still radically affects the survivor in all aspects of life. Sometimes, an assault by an acquaintance feels worse than an assault by a stranger. A person's judgement is called into question and her or his ability to trust is damaged. Survivors may experience a range of effects after an assault, including:
- inability to sleep or concentrate
- fear of going out or of staying home alone
- memories that disrupt work and daily life
- feeling distracted
- lack of appetite; or, wanting to eat all the time
- inability to cry; or, crying all the time
- feeling nervous and energetic; or, having no energy
- inability to trust anyone
- avoiding friends and family
- physical symptoms of stress
- feeling "dirty"
- having panic attacks
- feeling suicidal
- feeling "crazy"
- feeling helpless
- abusing drugs or alcohol
- feeling worthless
- feeling numb
It is important to know that your feelings are normal, and you may feel some or all of them at different times. These feelings may not seem logical, but they are common to people who have experienced a traumatic event of any kind. Experts call these feelings and symptoms Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). For survivors of sexual assault, there is a more specific name: Rape Trauma Syndrome.
While you may feel that you will never be yourself again, the good news is that you can recover. KNowing that what you are feeling is normal and that your experiences are shared by others can help. Talking with people who are supportive about your experiences and feelings can also help the recovery process. Although it may feel difficult to reach out for help at this time, contacting a sexual assault crisis counselor can make a big difference in how you feel.
Everyone recovers at her or his own speed. Sometimes it may feel that you have begun to heal, only to feel worse again. This too is normal.
During your healing, it is important to remember the following:
- The assault was not your fault. No one asks to be raped or assaulted.
- Sexual assault is an act of hostility, power and control- not an overwhelming lust or need for sex.
- Other people may treat you as if you are the guilty one. Often this is an effort to reduce their own fears of being assaulted.
- Being intoxicated is not an excuse for someone to assault you.
You can become strong again and feel that you are a survivor, not a victim!
Have you ever witnessed something going on and wondered how you could help? Do you want to know how to successfully intervene when someone might be in danger? This workshop teaches safe bystander intervention strategies for individuals who want to play an active role in ending sexual and relationship violence.
Do you think and endless stream of text messages is cute or creepy? When your partner acts jealous are you flattered or freaked? This workshop teaches students how to identify relationship red flags and the signs of a healthy relationship. It also teaches the basics of conflict resolution and how to help a friend who may be in trouble
A sexy, entertaining and powerful educational tool that's all about inspiring straight talk and clever discussions about sex, intimacy, relationships, safety, sexuality and questions to open your mind and challenge your conscience. This 1 hour program is perfect for a group of up to 30 people.
This 30 minute documentary provides a comprehensive look at the issue of rape from a national and global perspective. It demonstrates that it is not a sporadic and rare occurrence, but a human rights violation and criminal outrage that affects millions of women, children and men. The SAFE Coordinator facilitates a 30-40 minute discussion following the film.
This is a 45-60 minute interactive presentation that takes a close look at relationship violence and what constitutes healthy and unhealthy relationship patterns. This presentation covers relationship violence definitions, statistics, and the Power & Control Wheel. In addition, it gives audience members a chance to test their own knowledge about relationship violence in a safe and supportive environment. The presentation concludes with ways we can all help and make a difference as active members of our community.
Primary prevention is defined as, "approaches that take place before sexual violence has occurred to prevent initial perpetration or victimization." (CDC, 2004) Looking at sexual violence on campus as an issue of primary prevention, this 1 hour workshop teaches students how to recognize a range of behaviors related to sexual violence and gives them specific ways to speak up or safely intervene in potentially harmful or inappropriate situations.
Reporting a Sexual Assault Incident
Contact the Women's Center or the S.A.F.E. Coordinator
Faculty & Staff
- Response Sexual Assault Survivor Group: The first session is February 9th from 6:00 - 7:30 PM. For more information please call the Response Office (757)-451-0174.
- RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network): 1-800-656-4673
For distance learning students, this number will put you in contact with your local rape crisis center.
- ODU Counseling Services: Supportive counseling for sexual assault victims including assessment and referral. (Free to ODU Students) 1526 Webb Center. 757-683-4401
- Sexual Assualt Survivor Group: Meets the 1st & 3rd Wednesdays of the month (a total of 6 sessions): England House 3:00 - 4:30 PM
- Response Sexual Assault Support Services of the YWCA
- Sexual Assault Survivor Support Group
- The Survivor Caucus of the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance
- "Voices of Courage:" Stories of Survival of Sexual Assault
Know Your Rights
How You can Help
Facts and Information
Because sexual assault is an act of aggression, power and anger, soneone who is sexually violent tends to behave in ways that are intended to control others. Often they do things to "test" someone, to see how much they can get away with. Not everyone exhibits these behaviors is a rapist, but, if you know someone who acts in these ways, you may want to use caution or aviod that person.
Signs to Remember
- Not listening to what the person says; not stopping when asked to stop.
- Talking about or looking at the person's body in a way that makes her or him uncomfortable.
- Calling someone names.
- Blocking someone's path or following her or him.
- Touching someone in intimate places without permission.
- Trying to get someone drunk or giving drugs.
- Not respecting a date's feelings and limits.
- Not stopping sexual foreplay when told or asked to stop.
- Seeming to enjoy someone's discomfort.
- Acting as though a relationship is more intimate than it really is.
- Being disrespectful of women; treating women as sexual objects.
- Making comments or jokes about women that are degrading.
- Focusing only on women's bodies; not treating women as people.
Sexual assault is never the victim's fault, and not every assault can be prevented. There are, however a few things you can do to reduce your risk of being sexually assaulted.
When Going Out:
- trust your instincts.
- meet at a public place; double-date with friends you know well and trust.
- bring enough money for a phone call or to take a cab.
- leave if you feel uncomfortable.
- learn to recognize intrusive behaviors; be assertive or leave when faced with them.
- be aware of the effects of alcohol or other drugs.
- don't accept beverages from anyone you don't know well and trust; keep your eye on your drink; don't accept open containers or drinks served from a punch bowl.
- check underneath and inside your car before entering.
- keep your gas tank filled.
- keep car doors locked at all times.
- if followed, go to a police station or public place.
- stand while waiting for the bus, especially at night; stay alert.
- don't feel you have to talk to strangers while waiting for public transportation.
- be alert; notice who gets off at your stop.
- keep emergency money for phone calls or carry a cell phone.
Safety at Home:
- keep your doors and windows locked.
- don't open the door to strangers.
- don't list your address in the phone book.
- don't list your first name on your apartment door or mailbox-- or list several names.
- ask for the ID of any service person or "official" who requests entry to your home, or look up the telephone number yourself to call the agency they claim to come from for verification.
- list at least one male name on your answering machine.
In addition to these suggestions, it can also be helpful to learn self-defense techniques, such as karate or judo. Some feel that having a weapon will make them safer. However, this may not be the best option for everyone, since a weapon can be taken away and used against you. If you do choose to carry a weapon, make sure you are properly trained in its use.