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Contact Info

Interpersonal Violence Prevention Initiative
Multicultural Center
Suite 209
Western Illinois University
1 University Circle
Macomb, IL 61455-1390
Phone: 309-298-2383
Fax: 309-298-2433
Email: ivpi@wiu.edu

Sexual Assault

Every two and a half minutes, somewhere in America, someone is sexually assaulted.

Like domestic or dating violence, victims of sexual assault come from all different backgrounds. Age, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender, and size do not matter. As many as 3.7 million women a year experience unwanted sexual activity, and each year an estimated 300,000 women are sexually assaulted-a sexual assault occurs every 1.3 minutes in the U.S.

According to the National Institute of Justice, a survey of college students that relied on student self-reports (not crime reports) found that nearly 3% of all college women were victims of either completed or attempted sexual assault in a given nine-month academic year. The numbers may seem low, but 3 percent translates into 30 such crimes for every 1,000 women students.

A person can be sexually assaulted by a spouse, partner, date, acquaintance, or even a stranger. Sexual assault, whether committed by someone known to the victim or not, is a crime that is punishable by law!

Important Terms

Sexual assault and sexual abuse are unwanted physical contact of a sexual nature.

Sexual penetration is defined as any contact, however slight, between the sex organ or anus of one person by an object, the sex organ, mouth, or anus of another person, or any intrusion, however slight, or any part of the body of one person or of any animal or object into the sex organ or anus of another person. Evidence of emission of semen is not required to prove sexual penetration. The survivor is not required to prove that force was used, only that the threat of force was present.

Rape/Sexual Assault: Usually sexual assault is the legal term while rape is more colloquial. Illinois defines sexual assault as unwanted sexual penetration-either because the person is forced, cannot give knowing consent, or is between the ages of 13-17.

Criminal sexual assault is defined as an act of sexual penetration with the use or threat of force or an act of sexual penetration when the accused knew that the victim was "unable to understand the nature of the act or was unable to give knowing consent."

Aggravated Criminal Sexual Assault is sexual assault with a dangerous weapon; or when there is bodily harm; or when the accused threatens the life of the victim or another; or in the commission of another felony; or the accused delivered any controlled substance to the victim, including use of rape drugs to the victim.

Sexual abuse is unwanted sexual contact up to penetration. That is, sexual abuse is "any intentional or knowing touching or fondling of the victim by the accused, either directly or through clothing, of the sex organs, anus or breast of the victim or the accused? for the purpose of sexual gratification or arousal of the victim or the accused."

Legal language can sometimes be hard to understand. Below is a partial list of actions that are defined as sexual assault, rape, or sexual abuse and punishable by law:

  1. violent rape
  2. unwanted penetration
  3. attempted rape
  4. sodomy (oral or anal acts)
  5. unwanted sexual contact, such as fondling
  6. giving someone date-rape drugs
  7. sexual threats
  8. voyeurism
  9. exposure to exhibitionism
  10. undesired exposure to pornography
  11. public display of images that were taken in a private context or when the victim was unaware

Understand Consent!

Consent means that anyone involved in the sexual encounter is in a position to say (or indicate through actions) yes. To be on the safe side, if you are engaging in sexual activity, talk to the person, make sure they are able to consent and that they have consented!

There are times, however, when someone cannot legally consent to sexual activity - and in that case, the person engaging in activity with them could be prosecuted for sexual assault.

Someone cannot give consent if they are:

  1. Under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  2. Unconscious or physically incapacitated
  3. Mentally impaired
  4. Less than 17 years old
  5. Forced, coerced, threatened or intimidated verbally or physically