Last Updated on Monday, 22 April 2013 22:20
What is Sexual Assault?
Sexual assault is any sexual act or contact that you do not want. You could be forced into these acts through force, threat, or intimidation. It is a violent crime and a frightening experience. It may include unwanted touching, kissing, oral sex, anal sex, vaginal sex, or other sexual acts. In Virginia, 1 in 4 women and 1 in 8 men have been sexually abused at sometime in their lives.
Myths and Facts:
Myth: Rapes are usually reported.
Fact: Rape is probably one of the most underreported crimes in the United States today, with educated estimates that between 50 and 90% of rape cases go unreported.
Myth: Rape results from an uncontrollable sexual urge. Men rape impulsively and out of sexual need.
Fact: Rape is criminal act of violence using sex as a weapon. Men rape to express hostility and to dominate. Since the most convicted rapists are married or have available sex partners, rape is not primarily a sexual experience. Men rape because it allows them to express anger and to feel powerful by controlling another person.
Myth: Most rapes occur in dark alleys, and are committed by a stranger.
Fact: 86% of all rapes are committed by someone the victim knows and over 57% of rapes occur in a residence.
Myth: When a woman says no, she really means yes.
Fact: No means NO! Without her consent it is sexual assault. Everyone has the right to control what happens to one’s body.
Myth: Sexual assault happens to careless people who are “asking for it” by the way they dress or where they are.
Fact: No one asks to be assaulted. All kinds of people, young and old, are sexually assaulted in all kinds of places and at all times. The idea that victims provoke assault by “being in the wrong place at he wrong time” assumes that they have no right to be as free as you. This myth shifts the blame from the perpetrator to the victim of this crime. No one “deserves” to be sexually assaulted.
Sexual Assault can happen in many different ways:
People use many different ways to pressure or force someone into doing sexual things that they do not want. They might make you scared about what might happen if you don’t do what they want. They might force you by holding you down or hurting you. They might try to talk you into doing things you don’t want to do. They may be bigger and older than you and tell you it is okay to do these things. No matter what happens, remember sexual assault is NEVER the victim’s fault.
It just happened to me:
It is important that you find a safe place to go. This may be home, the home of a friend or family member, church, a sexual assault crisis center, or other safe place.
Find someone you trust to talk to.
Consider seeing a doctor. You can go to your regular doctor or the emergency room at your local hospital. Request they call someone from Family Crisis Services.
If you want to talk to the police, call 911. It is important to not wash yourself or your clothing. If you change clothes, put the clothing you were wearing in a paper bag and bring it to the hospital with you. Do not brush your teeth, eat, drink, smoke, comb you hair, or use the restroom if you can help it.
Call a Family Crisis Services if you want someone to go with you to the hospital or to talk to the police. You have the right to ask questions about what is happening to you and get answers. You also have the right to say “NO” to anything you do not want to have happen. It is better for evidence gathering not to wait – go to the hospital as soon as you can safely do so. Even if you do not press charges, you need to be examined for internal injuries.
I was assaulted in the past:
You may have memories of the assault for a long time. Or, you may remember only pieces of the assault. This is a normal thing for victims of sexual abuse. It is normal to feel many different things, even things that don’t seem to make sense or that you never felt before.
Some people who have been sexually assaulted feel like they are better, and doing fine, then something stressful happens in the lives and brings back some of those memories. This is a normal thing to happen. Everyone heals in their own time and way and not every day will be smooth and without bad memories.
All of these reactions are normal, but can be hard to live with. Many people who have been sexually assaulted find it helpful to talk with someone about what happened to them. You can contact a Family Crisis Services advocate at 276-988-5583 or use the statewide hotline number – 1-800-838-8238.
It is normal to react in many different ways:
Everyone reacts in her or his own way to being sexually assaulted. These reactions may change from day to day or minute to minute. Being sexually assaulted can affect your body, your emotions, and your spirit. You may feel or act differently. It is okay to pay attention to what you are feeling and what you might need to feel better. If you feel you need help, it is okay to ask a doctor, a sexual assault crisis center, a counselor, or others. It may take some time before you begin to feel better.
Talk to someone you trust:
Many people who have been sexually assaulted never tell anyone. It might be because they are ashamed or because they fear how others might react. It can help to talk to someone you trust. That person could be:
- Friend or family.
- Sexual Assault Crisis Center advocate.
- Anyone you fee comfortable talking with.
Give yourself time to recover:
This is an important time to take care of you. If you can, lower stress in other parts of your life. If you need time to yourself, it is okay to say that to your friends and family. Here are some others suggestions for taking of yourself:
- Try to eat well.
- Spend time with people who support you.
- Spend less time with people who make you feel badly.
- Plan time for activities that make you feel safe.
Could it happen to my child?
Child sexual assault is difficult to talk about. It is a subject surrounded by social taboos and secrecy. However, child sexual abuse is widespread and adults must protect children with information and strategies to prevent their abuse.
- 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 8 boys will be sexually abused by the age of 18.
- Average age for the onset of a sexually abusive relationship is 6-8 years old.
- In four out of five cases, the child is sexually abused by someone she/he knows - 38% of all cases are perpetrated by a close relative of the child.
- Child abuse is rarely a one-time occurrence: Abusive relationships last an average of 1-4 years.
Children rarely tell anyone immediately, adults must be aware of clues that could indicate that a child is in crisis. That child may have been sexually assaulted. Take note of particularly extreme sudden behavior changes or a combination of indicators.
Physical Indicators could be:
- Physical symptoms such as sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy, urinary tract infections, vaginal or anal soreness, bleeding or itching.
- Physical ailments and eating disorders.
Behavioral Indicators could be:
- Aggressive behavior.
- Lack of or overly affectionate behavior and/or sexually acting out.
- Poor peer relationships and lying.
- Delinquency: running away, prostitution, drug/alcohol use.
Emotional Indicators could be:
- Sleep disturbances – nightmares.
- Reluctance to go to a particular place, fear of being with a particular person.
- Age-inappropriate understanding of sexual behavior.
- Inability to concentrate, depression, suicidal feelings.
It is never too early or too late to talk to your child about assault prevention.
A Note To Parents:
- Give children information.
- Teach children that they have the right to decide who touches them, how, and when.
- Teach them they have a right to talk about their feelings and that they NEVER have to keep a secret that makes them feel bad.
- Listen carefully and support your child for telling by praise, belief, and most important – lack of blame.
- Build your child’s self-confidence by allowing them to practice making choices every day.
What Can You Do?
- Remain calm.
- Determine the child’s immediate safety needs and act accordingly.
- Let the child tell their story and LISTEN: Do not assume anything or prompt the child.
- Reassure the child that you believe her/him and are glad she/he told.
Report of offense: The offense is reported to law enforcement, either by calling them or through the emergency room if the victim was first taken there. Evidence is collected using a Physical Evidence Recovery Kit (PERK) provided to hospitals and paid for by the Commonwealth.. Hospital personnel use special PERK kits to collect evidence, allowing all evidence in all Virginia sexual assault cases to be collected using the same procedures.
If the report is made after the 72 hour “window” for effective evidence collection, a report can still be made and prosecution can still go forward. Once the report is made, the case is assigned to an investigator. If the assailant is known, he will be interviewed by the detective. The investigator will determine if there is enough evidence for probable cause, and will present this information directly to the Commonwealth’s Attorney. Family Crisis Services and/or Victim Witness Assistance advocates may be contacted to help a survivor through the legal system.
If the investigator finds probable cause, she/he will go to a magistrate for a warrant. . Once a warrant is issued, it can be served on the suspect by the law enforcement officer. At that point, the suspect is under arrest, and he/she can be taken into custody and processed.
The first appearance : the first time an accused is brought before the court is his first appearance and usually involves the court’s giving the accused information about his rights to an attorney and setting a date for the next court proceeding.
Preliminary Hearing: -a person arrested on a felony warrant has a right to a preliminary hearing. This usually takes place 1 to 2 months after the bond hearing. The only purpose of a preliminary hearing is to determine whether or not probable cause exists that the defendant committed the crime. If is does, the judge will certify the case to the grand jury. If it does not, the judge will either reduce it to a misdemeanor or proceed to trial on the lesser charge, or dismiss the charge entirely.
Grand Juries – a grand jury is a panel of 5 to 7 persons from the local community. Grand Jury proceedings are secret. Usually only the investigating officer testifies, while the Commonwealth’s Attorney advises the panel about their duties under the law. Four members of the grand jury must agree in making an indictment. The victim’s presence is not required.
Indictment –is a written accusation of crime, and is required in order to proceed to trial against a defendant for a felony.
The Trial – depending on the charges a trial may take place in a district court or a circuit court. Misdemeanors are tired in district court and felonies and appeals of misdemeanors take place in circuit courts. Oftentimes court dates are postponed or continued several times.
A sexual assault case can be postponed in the court system for months. This is hard for a victim to understand – the perpetrator may be out walking the streets and leaving the victim in fear of seeing him/her. An advocate from Victim Witness or Family Crisis Services and help a victim understand what is going on and understand the reasons for the postponement. This is only one of the ways an advocate can help navigate the system for a victim.
If you need further information please call Family Crisis Services, Clinch Valley Community Action, Inc. 276-988-5583
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