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Why Does Sexual Assault Happen?

Published: September 5, 2008
Dear TeenHealthFX,
why does sexual assault happen? is it because the person is sexually attracted to you? i'm probably really naive at assuming that but i'm a little confused at the moment. is it still assault if we're both over 17?
Signed: Why Does Sexual Assault Happen?

Dear Why Does Sexual Assault Happen?,

 

To answer your two questions, sexual assault happens because the offender wants to have power and control over his/her victim – it has nothing to do with sexual attraction. And if you are both adults (18 and over), sexual contact would only be considered assault if one of you did not want to have sexual contact, but was somehow forced into it.

 

If you have any concern that a recent sexual experience may have been a form of sexual assault, TeenHealthFX recommends that you speak to a trusted adult right away – a therapist trained in working with victims of sexual abuse, a parent, a police officer, primary care physician, or an organization that works with sexual assault victims such as RAINN.

 

You can contact the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673), 24 hours, 7days a week or visit www.rainn.org for help and more information.

 

If you live in northern New Jersey and need help finding a therapist you can call the Access Center from Atlantic Behavioral Health at 973-247-1400. Outside of this area you can log onto the US Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website for referrals in your area. You can also contact your insurance company to get a list of in-network mental health providers or check with your school social worker or psychologist to get a list of referrals in your area.

 

 

For more information on sexual assault, including why people commit sexual assault and what constitutes sexual assault, please read below:

 

Why Do People Commit Sexual Assault?

Sexual assault has very little to do with attraction, desire, lust, passion, or sexual arousal. A need for power and control are the main driving forces when sexual assault occurs. People who commit sexual assault do so out of a need to dominate, abuse and humiliate their victims. Offenders are often motivated by anger, disdain for their victim, and a desire to harm someone. Sex offenders focus on their own wants and needs, disregarding and disrespecting the wants and needs of their victims. 

 

What Is Sexual Assault?

Sexual assault is defined by law as sexualized contact with another person without consent and by force – which basically means sexual activity occurs because one of the people involved is made to do something they don’t want to do. Victims (both males and females) of sexual assault can be compelled or forced to participate through fear, physical force, deception, other forms of coercion, or the use of intoxicants such as drugs and/or alcohol.

 

Forms of sexual assault:

  • Contact or penetration of the vagina with the penis.
  • Anal contact or penetration (sodomy).
  • Oral contact of the male on the female genitalia (cunnilingus) or oral contact of the female on the male genitalia (fellatio).
  • Hand to genital contact, including masturbation, fondling, or penetration.
  • Forced nudity, photography, and video of people in sexual poses against their wishes.

 

There are some forms of sexual assault without the use of force. Forms of sexual assault without force include:

  • Groping in crowds
  • Secret photographing
  • Peeping/voyeurism
  • Exhibitionism (exposing oneself in public)
  • Sexual harassment

 

Three Specific Types of Rape (All Forms of Sexual Assault)

 

Date Rape: A sexual assault that occurs when you already have a relationship with the person who assaulted you and you have agreed to spend time with that person (such as to be on a date). A date, however, does not imply any consent for sexual contact, and a sexual assault that takes place during a date will be treated as such by law enforcement.

 

Spousal Rape: In a very dysfunctional marital relationship, there can be both physical assault and sexual assault against a spouse, both of which are forms of domestic violence. These assaults are handled the same as any other type of sexual assault by law enforcement.

 

Statutory Rape: Statutory rape is sex with a minor. A minor is a person younger than 18 years. There can be some confusion about this law. Some states allow intercourse with minors who are emancipated (freed of control from their parents), and other states allow minors to marry. Many minors engage in sexual intercourse with other minors and are not prosecuted. However, adult engagement in sex with minors is generally not tolerated, and adults should not engage in intercourse with younger people unless the adult is sure the youth is emancipated or older than 18 years. This crime is legally known as a strict liability crime – meaning that if a person has sex with a minor, no excuse is acceptable to a court, including being fooled by the person, mistaken, or ignorant of the law. If a person has sex with a minor, he or she can be charged with statutory rape, to which no defense exists. To avoid this crime, extra caution is needed when engaging in sex with someone at or near the age of 18 years.

Signed: TeenHealthFX

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