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 harassment
  • 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, a majority of the time, 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.”

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 violence 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 sexually violent action. Nothing you did justifies the violence perpetrated against you.

If you have experienced sexual violence,  you may consider…

  • getting to a safe place and contacting someone you trust.
  • seeking medical attention as soon as possible. Sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy and injuries are all concerns for a survivor of sexual violence.
  • requesting to have a Physical Evidence Recovery Kit (PERK) exam completed if the assault occurred within 72 hours of your visit. It is important that you do not bathe, douche, or change clothes after the abuse has occurred in order to keep physical evidence intact.
  • requesting a hospital advocate. Bon Secours and MCV Emergency Rooms partner with the R-HART collaborative, 24 hours per day, 7 days per week to survivors of sexual and intimate partner violence. A hospital advocate can meet you at the hospital and will provide emotional support and information about your rights as a victim.
  • calling the police and report the crime as soon as possible. If you are uncomfortable reporting, you may want to consider an anonymous report.
  • keeping 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 Richmond counseling.

Remember, YWCA Richmond offers free counseling to victims of sexual violence. You can call the 24-hour Greater Richmond Regional Hotline at 804-612-6126.

If a friend has experienced sexual violence, you may consider doing the following:

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 survivor is already feeling by blaming him/her for the abuser’s sexual violence. Let your friend know that (s)he is not to blame and that your friend is still a valuable, worthwhile person – the abuser’s actions do not change that.

ENCOURAGE Suggest seeking medical attention and calling the police. Urge your friend to call the Greater Richmond Regional Hotline at (804) 612-6126 for support and information. Watch out for the tendency to make decisions for your friend. Be supportive without “taking over.” Your friend will regain a 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 socioeconomic background.
MYTH: Women often “cry rape” when they have not been sexually assaulted. 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.