Sexual Violence

What is sexual violence?
Sexual Violence is defined as any unwanted sexual contact. This contact can range from verbal behavior to forced intercourse. Some examples of sexual violence include:

  • Sexual harrasment
  • Indecent exposure
  • Sexual assault (violent contact)
  • Sexual battery (non-violent contact)
  • Molestation
  • Incest
  • Sodomy
  • Rape

A behavior is sexually violent if consent has not been given. Consent is permission that is intelligently and freely given. This means that if someone is being threatened or intimidated, under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or is underage, that person cannot consent to sexual activity. Sexual violence can occur between strangers or between people that know each other. In fact, sometimes the perpetrator is a close friend, significant other, or even a family member. Sexual violence does not discriminate. Anyone can be a victim, regardless of race, gender, age, socioeconomic status or education level.

“Consent is not the absence of a “no,” but the presence of a “yes”.

What to do if you have experienced sexual assault:

  • Call the YWCA 24-Hour hotline for help at 804-643-0888
  • Get to a safe place and contact someone you trust – a friend or family member
  • Seek medical attention as soon as possible. Sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy and injuries are all concerns for the sexual violence survivor. Evidence collection (to be used if you press charges) will also take place at this time. It is important that you do not bathe, douche, or change clothes after the assault in order to keep physical evidence intact. (Evidence may be collected up to 72 hours after the assault.)
  • Contact the YWCA hotline at 643-0888 for support and crisis intervention. A hospital advocate can meet you at the hospital. She will provide emotional support and information about your rights as a victim.
  • Call the police and report the crime as soon as possible. If you are uncomfortable reporting, you may want to consider an anonymous report.
  • Keep in mind, it is never too late to seek help for sexual violence issues. Even if the violence occurred years ago, you can still benefit from YWCA counseling.

Why did this happen to me?

  • It’s not your fault. It’s natural to wonder why you were singled out as a victim. You may even be blaming yourself for what happened. But remember, it’s not your fault.
  • Sexual assault is an aggressive act: it is about power, control and anger, not about sexuality, passion or lust. No matter what you did or said, what you were wearing, or where you went, you did not deserve to be sexually assaulted. Nothing you did justifies the violence perpetrated against you.

Remember, the YWCA offers free counseling to victims of sexual violence. You can call us 24 hours a day at 804-643-0888.

What to do if a friend has been assaulted:
LISTEN Be supportive and non-judgmental. Concentrate on letting the person express her/himself rather than asking lots of questions or offering advice immediately.

BELIEVE Accept what you hear. This is not the time for cross-examination. Your job is to offer emotional support, not to justify the actions of the assailant or to question the victim’s story.

REASSURE It is important that you do not add to the guilt that the victim is already by blaming him/her for the assault. Let her know that he/she is not to blame. He/She also needs to know that they are still a valuable, worthwhile person and that the assault does not change that.

ENCOURAGE Suggest seeking medical attention and calling the police. Urge him/her to call the YWCA hotline at 804-643-0888 for support and information. Watch out for the tendency to make decisions for her – he/she must make their own decisions. Be supportive without “taking over.” He/she will regain her sense of control and security over time.

Myths about sexual violence

MYTH: Women are usually raped by strangers on a dark city street. FACT: In Virginia, 53% of rapes are committed in the victim’s home.

FACT: 85% of all rapes are committed by acquaintances, friends or relatives.

MYTH: Rapes most often involve a black man raping a white woman. FACT: This situation represents 3% of all rapes.
FACT: In over 90% of rapes, the rapist chooses a victim from the same race and socio-economic background.
MYTH: Women often “cry rape” when they really haven’t been. FACT: 2% of all rapes are false reports, which is no more than in the reporting of other felonies.
MYTH: Women provoke rape or “ask for it” by the way they act or dress. FACT: No one asks to be raped. Rape is a violent crime that is neither pleasant nor desirable.
FACT: No woman’s behavior or dress gives a man the right to rape her. Under no circumstances does a woman relinquish her right to say “NO” to any level of sexual intimacy.
MYTH: Rapists are driven by sexual desire. FACT: Rapists are driven by their desire to commit violence. Rape gratifies their desire to control another person.
FACT: Rapists are often married or have a steady sexual partner.