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I Wasn’t Raped, But…

Sometimes it can be hard for a person to recognize that they have been sexually assaulted.  If a person does not believe that they have been assaulted they may not get help or talk to someone about what happened.  A person might not think that what has happened to them is sexual assault because:

  • There may not have been any physical violence involved.  Fear and shock can make people completely freeze up and be unable to move or speak- in that case an assailant wouldn’t need to use physical force to commit the assault.   

  • They knew and liked the person who assaulted them.  Over 80% of the time the victim knows their assailant. 

  • They never said “no”.  Sometimes survivors feel a lot of guilt because they didn’t yell, say “no” or fight back.  It is important to help them understand that what they did or did not do helped them get through the attack. 

  • At first they wanted to engage in some sexual activity with the person.  For the victim, having wanted or initiated some sexual activity but having the assailant ignore their limits and continue can be very confusing and make the victim feel like they are to blame for the assault. 

  • They were penetrated by the assailant’s fingers, hand or other object.  Sometimes people think that only an assault that involves penetration by a penis is serious.  Penetration with fingers or any object is an assault and is serious.    
  • No penetration occurred at all.  Penetration does not have to occur in order for it to be an assault; a person can be kissed, touched, groped or fondled against their will. 

  • They were forced to perform a “sexual” act on or to touch the assailant.  Someone forcing someone else to touch them, perform or accept oral sex against their will is an assault. 

  • Their body may have sexually responded during the assault.  It is not uncommon for both women and men to have a “sexual” response during a sexual assault/abuse.  Our bodies can respond like this in frightening situations.  Part of the pain of sexual assault and sexual abuse can be the shame the survivors may have about how their bodies felt during the abuse. 
  • It didn’t hurt.  It does not have to physically hurt in order to be a sexual assault. 
All of these things can make it confusing for someone to recognize what happened to them as a sexual assault, even though they may feel uncomfortable, scared or hurt.

When we think about rape or sexual assault we usually think about a person’s body being violated, but there are other events that my happen that are not physical but can also be very painful and traumatic.  Emotional: When a person does not support their partner’s wishes and continues to ask for sex when they have already said “no” or refuses to practice safe sex or use birth control.  Making someone feel like something is wrong with him or her for not wanting to engage in sexual activity or if they change their mind about continuing.  Verbal:  Using sexually degrading terms or words or using sexually violent or threatening language against someone.  It Only Takes A Moment To Destroy Someone’s Sense Of Safety & Control. 



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