Sexual Assault / Rape
RAPE Unwanted, completed vaginal, oral, anal, or object penetration by force or threat of force and without consent. This includes situations in which you are too intoxicated to give consent. Rape is a violent act committed against a person's will. A rapist may be a stranger, an acquaintance, or even a friend or spouse. Every person is a potential victim regardless of age, appearance, race, gender, or socio-economic class.
SEXUAL ASSAULT Any sexual touching (i.e., kissing, fondling, groping) however slight, with any object, by a man or a woman upon a man or a woman, without effective consent.
SEXUAL HARASSMENT Unwanted and unwelcome sexual behavior (words or conduct) that offend, stigmatize or demean a student on the basis of gender.
STALKING Being repeatedly followed, watched, phoned, written, e-mailed, or contacted in other ways that seem obsessive and make a student afraid or concerned for their safety. **also Dating Violence and Stalking
How to Protect Yourself Against Rape
· At Home - When at home keep your doors and windows locked. Use the peephole when answering the door. Leave lights on when you go out and always have your keys ready when you approach the front door.
· Away From Home - Don't walk alone at night, if possible. Plan your route and avoid unlit or isolated places. Carry a whistle. Don't hitchhike. Lock your car and park it in a well lit place. Have your car keys ready and check the back seat before unlocking the car.
· With a Date - Communicate clearly your limits regarding sexual behavior; be honest about expectations and intentions. Be aware of how much you and your date drink; it's difficult to be in control of a situation when these substances are involved. Suggest meeting in public places or taking your own transportation when you're getting to know someone. Be assertive - no one has the right to touch your body unless you want them to regardless of whether they paid for dinner, have had sex with you before, or think you are "coming on" to them.
REMEMBER-- You are NOT to blame, even if:
- Your attacker was an acquaintance, date, friend or spouse.
- You have been sexually intimate with that person or with others before.
- You were drinking or using drugs.
- You froze and did not or could not say "no," or were unable to fight back physically.
- You were wearing clothes that others may see as seductive
Reactions to Rape
Sexual assault is a crisis, and we all handle crises in different ways. Though each person and situation is unique, the following list summarizes the range of reactions to sexual assault that may help you know what's normal to expect.
- Emotional Shock: I feel so numb. Why am I so calm? Why can't I cry?
- Disbelief: Did it really happen? Why me? Maybe I just made it up.
- Embarrassment: What will people think? I can't tell my family or friends.
- Shame: I feel so dirty, like there is something wrong with me. I want to wash my hands or shower all the time.
- Guilt: I feel as if it's my fault, or I did something to make this happen.
- Depression: How am I going to get through this semester? I'm so tired. I feel so helpless. Maybe I'd be better off dead.
- Powerlessness: Will I ever feel in control again?
- Disorientation: I don't even know what day it is, or what class I'm supposed to be in. I can't remember my appointments. I keep forgetting things.
- Triggers: I keep having flashbacks. I'm still re-living it. I see his face all the time.
- Denial: It wasn't really a "rape."
- Fear: I'm scared of everything. What if I'm pregnant? Could I get an STD, or even AIDS? How can I ever feel safe again? Do people realize there's anything wrong? I can't sleep because I know I'll have nightmares. I'm afraid I'm going crazy. I'm afraid to go outside. I'm afraid to be alone.
- Anxiety: I'm having panic attacks. I can't breathe! I just can't stop shaking. I can't sit still in class anymore. I feel overwhelmed.
- Anger: I want to kill the person who attacked me!
- Physical Stress: My stomach (or head or back) aches all the time. I feel jittery and don't feel like eating.
It is important for you to know that any of the above reactions are normal and temporary reactions to an abnormal event. The fear and confusion will lessen with time, but the trauma may disrupt your life for awhile. Some reactions may be triggered by people, places or things connected to the assault, while other reactions may seem to come from "out of the blue." Remember that no matter how much difficulty you're having dealing with the assault, it does not mean you're "going crazy" or becoming "mentally ill." The recovery process may actually help you develop strengths, insights,and abilities that you never had (or never knew you had) before.
Talking about the assault will help you feel better, but may also be really hard to do. In fact, it's common to want to avoid conversations and situations that may remind you of the assault. You may have a sense of wanting to "get on with life" and "let the past be the past." This is a normal part of the recovery process and may last for weeks or months. Eventually you will need to deal with fears and feelings in order to heal and regain a sense of control over your life. Talking with someone who can listen in understanding and affirming ways-whether it's a friend, family member, hotline staff member or counselor-is a key part of this process.
San Jose YWCA Rape Crisis Center