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Sexual assault and sexual abuse can happen in any community. It may involve a single event or repeated incidents that point to other family violence issues.
Consent is central to defining sexual assault. However, when someone doesn’t say ‘NO’, it does not mean ‘YES’. If a person does not physically resist, it does not mean ‘YES’. Where a victim is intoxicated or cannot otherwise give consent, it does not mean ‘YES’. Sexual assault is, by nature, uninvited and victims are not to blame.
Sexual assault is a crime. Statistics tell us the majority of those sexually assaulted (including children and young people) are female, but there are also male victims. An overwhelming proportion of sexual offenders are men.
“He is not to be intimate while drunk, nor in the midst of a quarrel; he is not to do so out of hate, nor may he take her by force with her in fear of him.”
– Rambam, Laws of Marital Status 15:1
Types of sexual violence
Sexual violence spans various unwanted behaviours, broadly categorised as abuse or assault. Abuse and assault may be committed by a partner, relative, friend, acquaintance or complete stranger.
Sexual Abuse occurs where someone in authority breaches the trust and respect of another person to involve them in unwanted sexual acts. The term is used when an offender has some authority over the other person, such as:
- Doctor and patient
- Teacher and student
- Rabbi and congregant
- Adult and child
- Parent and child
Sexual Assault occurs where a person feels threatened or coerced into sexual behaviour they don’t agree to, or if the victim is unable to consent. This is the legal term used to describe all other sexual violence.
Sex without consent, against a person’s will or where consent cannot be given, including:
- Forced intercourse
- Marital & Date Rape
- Sexual penetration
- Forced sodomy
- Coerced sexual activity
- Violent sexual acts
- Drug induced assault
- Digital or other penetration
Child sexual assault
Sexual contact with a juvenile, whether consensual or not, including:
- Sexual intercourse
- Digital or other penetration
- Unwanted intimate touching
- Solicitation of minors
- Internet grooming
- Possessing child pornography
Other sexual crimes
- Indecent Assault
- Sexual exploitation
Effects of sexual assault
Many women end up blaming themselves for sexual violence, but assault is not the fault of the victim. That is regardless of how you were dressed, the amount you drank, whose house you slept at and how pressured you felt to take part in unwanted sexual acts. Victims are not to blame.
Some of the feelings one may experience include:
- Ashamed or embarrassed about what others think
- Sad, worthless or guilt that you are somehow to blame
- Shock, disbelief and even anger it happened to you
- Anxiety and fear of being alone or reliving the assault
- Physically unwell or unable to clean yourself properly
It’s not unusual for victims to have reactions like:
- Drawing back from others and not wanting to be touched
- Avoiding having sex, even with a gentle and loving partner
- Being unable to think clearly or make plans for the future
- Becoming withdrawn from friends, family and the outside world
- Focusing on the assault and becoming mistrustful of others
- Needing constant reassurance and unable to remain alone
Every person who lives through sexual assault has different responses. Many are confusing, distressing and make it hard to think clearly. To enjoy a full and happy life again, where you feel able to trust (especially a partner or intimate relationship) is something that takes time and professional assistance to work through what you are experiencing.