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What constitutes a rape or sexual assault?

Sexual assault is physical contact of a sexual nature in the absence of clear, knowing and voluntary consent. An individual cannot consent who is:

  • obviously incapacitated by any drug or intoxicant
  • who has been purposely compelled by force, threat of force, or deception
  • who is unaware that the act is being committed
  • whose ability to consent or resist is obviously impaired because of mental or physical condition
  • who is coerced by supervisory or disciplinary authority.

Rape is not always accompanied by other physical violence.

When a person is sexually assaulted she/he may react in various ways. Some people scream or fight back; many become quiet - too shocked to speak or cry out. Paralyzed by fear, they may be unable to resist. If violence is threatened some may make the decision not to struggle with the hope of getting away with the least amount of physical harm. Consequently, they may or may not have torn clothes or show signs of a struggle afterwards. Verbal intimidation, threats or emotional blackmail may be used by the assailant. Therefore, a survivor does not need to show physical injuries to prove an assault occurred.

Rape and sexual assault, whether by a stranger or a friend, is never the survivor's fault.

Rape and sexual assault is always more about the use of force or power to humiliate, control, hurt or violate a person than about sexual desire or passion. There is evidence to suggest that a very large number of attacks are premeditated. The characteristics of the person in terms of gender, status, age, cultural background, occupation, or previous relationships are irrelevant; any person can suffer sexual assault or rape. A victim of sexual assault is never responsible for the assault. Since it is impossible to guess which situations are safe and which are dangerous, the responsibility for ending sexual assault falls solely on the perpetrators.

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