DEFINING RAPE AND
SEXUAL ABUSE

In January 2012 the Attorney General announced a newly revised definition of rape. “The penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.” This definition also includes instances in which the victim is unable to give consent because of temporary or permanent mental or physical incapacity. The new definition also recognizes that a victim can be incapacitated and thus unable to consent because of ingestion of drugs or alcohol. Similarly, a victim may be legally incapable of consent because of age. Physical resistance is not required on the part of the victim to demonstrate lack of consent.

This definition is defined by the word consent. There is no single legal definition of consent. Generally, however, consent is defined as an agreement between participants in sexual activity. Consent is about communication and it should happen every time. Giving consent for one activity, one time, does not mean giving consent for increased or recurring sexual contact. Also, consent can be withdrawn at any point if a participant feels uncomfortable.

All sexual touching between an adult and a child is considered sexual abuse. Sexual touching between children can also be sexual abuse when there is a significant age difference (often defined as 3 or more years) between the children or if the children are very different developmentally or size-wise. Sexual abuse does not have to involve penetration, force, pain, or even touching. If an adult engages in any sexual behavior (looking, showing, or touching) with a child to meet the adult’s interests or sexual needs, it is sexual abuse. This includes the manufacture, distribution and viewing of child pornography, now called child sexual abuse material. (CSAM).

Prevention
It is important to note that while there are steps that can be taken to prevent sexual assault there is no action or inaction by a survivor that makes that person responsible for his or her victimization. Perpetrators are responsible for crimes and their effects.

According to RAINN, the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization every 73 seconds an American is assaulted. And every 9 minutes that victim is a child. Sexual assault and rape can happen to people in all contexts, including marriage, dating relationships, friendships, child-parent interactions, work relationships, and stranger interactions.

A wide range of victimizations, separate from rape or attempted rape are considered sexual assaults. These crimes include attacks or attempted attacks generally involving unwanted sexual contact between victim and offender. Sexual assaults may or may not involve force and include such things as grabbing or fondling.

The following tips for prevention are from the University of Berkeley (https://ucpd.berkeley.edu sexual-assault-prevention-tips.

If you feel you are being followed, cross the street, yell, run and look for a well-lit area or occupied building.

Make sure your cell phone is charged and you have money for a taxi.

Tell someone where you are going, who you will be with and when you will be back.

If you start to feel concerns about a person or situation, trust your feelings and try to remove yourself from the potential threat, even if it is someone whom you know.

If someone approaches you or touches you in an inappropriate manner, try to get away and call out for help.

Do not accept rides or walking accompaniment from people you don’t know well and trust.

Stay alert and if you feel uneasy, go to a safe location and call a friend or the police.

Remember, don’t feel obligated to do anything you don’t want to do. “I don’t want to” is always a good enough reason.

National Sexual Assault Hotline: 800-656- HOPE
Free 24/7