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It is the desire of ARCS to provide resources that help inform and educate members of our community in crisis intervention response; as well as, in the prevention of violence and unhealthy behaviors. We hope the current information is helpful to you. Please check back periodically for updates.

Sexual Assault

Intimate Partner Sexual Assault

Having sex with a person one time does not imply consent to any future sexual acts.

What is intimate partner sexual assault?

Sexual acts may be accomplished against a person’s will by:

  • Physical force.
  • Threats of force to the victim or a third person.
  • Implied harm based on prior assaults causing the person to fear that physical force will be used if she or he resists.

The person does not need to resist for it to be rape.  People in violent relationships often know what will result from not cooperating with their batterers’ wishes.  Some may have suffered physical abuse or psychological abuse, had money or other necessities taken or withheld from them.  The resulting assault may be more harmful to her or him if she or he tries to resist.

Why would someone rape their partner?

It is a form of control and a way of breaking down a victim’s sense of self worth and will.  It is also a difficult crime for an individual to report.  Still, it is against the law.

Why would someone stay with a person who has raped them?

People stay in abusive relationships for many reasons.  Often they believe they are to blame for the pain they are suffering and want to make things work.  Many people cannot leave a relationship because they do not have the financial resources to do so.  If there are children involved, the problem is compounded by custody battles, childcare expenses, and the exhaustion of handling the demands of children on a daily basis.  People stay with their abusers because they love them and have planned a future with them.

Focusing on “Why does someone stay?” and not asking its’ important counterpart “Why do people sexually assault?” is called “victim blaming”.  This is reinforcing the idea that people are responsible for the violence that is perpetrated against them.  NO ONE deserves to be mistreated or made to do things against one’s will.  Leaving someone who is abusive can be a complex and dangerous process.

Coping with Sexual Assault

Sexual Assault is an act of power and control.  When you were assaulted, you were without power during the assault.  It is natural to feel frightened and powerless after what you have experienced.  You may:

  • Feel a loss of control over your life
  • Feel a sense of shock and disbelief
  • Have difficulty concentrating
  • Go through a period of acting as if nothing happened (after the initial shock is over)
  • Be fearful and feel unsafe

There is no “right” way to heal from sexual assault.  Each person will have her/his own unique process and will heal in her/his own time and way.  Some people have no reactions until a couple of weeks after the assault, while other experience reactions immediately.  There are some common symptoms you may experience:

  • Denial and forgetting
  • Confusion and anger
  • Guilt and self-blame
  • Fear
  • Thoughts of suicide
  • Lack of trust
  • Shame
  • Embarrassment
  • Isolation
  • Depression
  • Flashbacks
  • Nightmares
  • Low self-esteem
  • Anxiety

Your Sexuality

Sexual assault can also affect your sexuality.  One of the consequences of rape or sexual assault is anxiety about sex.  Sexual anxieties and difficulties are common after sexual assault, but they are often only temporary.  Be patient!  You can overcome the fear with understanding and sensitivity from your partner or significant other.  Your response is to a great extent dependent on your past sexual experiences and feelings and those of your current or future sexual partner.

You may experience some of these sexual difficulties:

  • Low level or lack of sexual desire
  • Fear of being rejected
  • Not being able to reach orgasm
  • Difficulties caused by physical injuries
  • Disliking certain positions or sexual acts
  • Repeated flashbacks of the assault
  • Inability to relax or enjoy sex
  • Worries about your partner’s thoughts
  • Fear of involvement in new relationships

Remember, you did not cause this crime in any way.  You did not deserve to be treated this way and what happened is not your fault.  Offenders sexually assault others to gain power and control.  Your actions did not “make” them act the way they did.

How to Support a Survivor of Sexual Assault

After a recent assault or disclosure of a past assault, survivors need your support.  You can do a number of things to help the person you care about get through this difficult time.

Believe her/him

It is not your role to question whether a sexual assault occurred.  In reality, false sexual assault reports are no more or less common than false reports for other violent crimes.

Help her/him explore options

Don’t take charge of the situation and pressure the survivor to do what you think should be done.  That’s what the offender did.  Give the survivor the freedom to choose a path of recovery that is most comfortable, even if you would do it differently.  Remember, there is no single right way for a survivor to respond after being assaulted.

Listen to her/him

It is crucial to let the survivor know that she/he can talk to you about her/his experience when ready.  Some may not wish to speak with you immediately, but at some point during the healing process, it is likely that the survivor will come to you for support.  When that happens, don’t interrupt, yell, or interject your feelings.  Just listen to the survivor’s feelings and experiences.  Your caring attention will be invaluable.

Never blame him/her for being assaulted

No one ever deserves to be sexually assaulted.  No matter what the person wore, how many times the person had sex before, whether the person was walking alone at night, whether the person got drunk, or whether the person went to the perpetrator’s room.  Poor judgment is not justification for being raped.  Even if the survivor feels responsible, say clearly and caringly, “It wasn’t your fault”.

Ask before you touch

Don’t assume that physical contact, even in the form of a gentle touch or hug, will be comforting to a survivor.  Many survivors, especially within the first weeks after an assault, prefer to avoid sex or simple touching even by those they love and trust.  Be patient.  Give the person the space they need, and try your best not to take it personally.

Recognize that you've been assaulted too

We can’t help but be hurt when someone we love is made to suffer.  Don’t blame yourself for the many feelings you will have after learning that someone close to you has been sexually assaulted.  Sadness, confusion, anger, helplessness, fear, grief, disappointment, shock, anxiety, desperation, and compassion are all common reactions for survivors and their significant others.  Being aware of these emotions will ultimately help you better understand the survivor’s experience and be more supportive.

Get help for yourself

Whether you reach out to a friend, family member, counselor or religious professional, make sure you don’t go through this experience alone.  Most sexual assault crisis centers offer counseling for significant others and family members because they realize the impact of sexual assault extends far beyond the survivor.  Remember, asking for help when you need it is a sign of strength, not weakness.