The terms sexual assault and sexual violence are often used interchangeably, however, both terms are used to describe a wide variety of abuses. Rape is a term that is used to describe forced penetration, but forced touch is also a serious crime. Penetration may be of the victim or forcing the victim to penetrate the perpetrator; penetration can be accomplished with either a body part or an object. Similarly, contact can be sexual contact with the victim or forcing a victim to touch the perpetrator.
This is an unwanted, coerced and/or forced sexual penetration that occurs between people who are known to each other. This relationship may be a dating relationship, a blind date or “hook up.” They may know one another well or only briefly. The issue is not identifying who the perpetrator is; but rather, identifying how force or coercion is manifested.
Intimate Partner Sexual Violence (IPSV)
When rape or sexual assault occurs between two people who have had a consensual sexual relationship it is understood as Intimate Partner Sexual Violence. Sometimes this is referred to as “marital rape.” Intimate partner sexual violence is often a part of relationships in which other types of violence or battering are occurring. IPSV can occur in dating relationships or marriages, and is certainly rape/sexual assault regardless of previous sexual contact.
Alcohol or Drug Facilitated Sexual Assault
This occurs when alcohol or drugs are used to subdue the victim in order to perpetrate a sexual attack. Many types of drugs have been used for this purpose. Some of the more common are Rohypnol, GHB and Ketamine. However, it must be pointed out that, although these drugs are used for sexual violence, alcohol remains the most common substance used to subdue victims.
Child Sexual Abuse
Overt physical or emotional aggression is not always a part of child sexual abuse. By definition, any sexual contact with a child is illegal. Offenders who target children use a variety of strategies to engage a child, including: force, trickery, bribery, and blackmail. Child sexual abuse can be perpetrated by another child, a young person, or an adult. Child sexual abuse can include;
Incest: Sexual abuse that is committed by one family member against another. Also called familial sexual abuse, incest can be committed by a parent, sibling, other family member, or an unrelated person living with, or treated as part of the family.
Commercial Sexual Exploitation
Paying someone else for sexual activities, or for sexually graphic materials or behaviors. Some forms of commercial sexual exploitation include: stripping, prostitution, nude bars, live sex shows, peep shows, especially of minors and adults who have been trafficked.
Professional Sexual Exploitation
Inappropriate use of sexual actions and words by professionals and volunteers within a helping context. Any sexual interaction between helping professionals and clients is a sexual violation (even if the victim sees it as consensual). Helping professionals are bound ethically and/or legally to abstain from sexual interaction with clients, patients, and others they serve. Helping professions can include counselling, psychology, social work, therapy, health care, clergy, law, victim advocacy, education, and public health.
Female Genital Mutilation
Female genital mutilation (FGM) is the term used to refer to the removal of part, or all, of the female genitalia. The most severe form is infibulation. The procedure consists of clitoridectomy (where all, or part of, the clitoris is removed), excision (removal of all, or part of, the labia minora), and cutting of the labia majora to create raw surfaces, which are then stitched or held together in order to form a cover over the vagina when they heal. A small hole is left to allow urine and menstrual blood to escape. The vast majority (85%) of genital mutilations performed in Africa consist of clitoridectomy or excision. The least radical procedure consists of the removal of the clitoral hood.
Systematic Sexual Abuse
This is an organized form of sexual abuse, frequently involving numerous perpetrators and victims, and used to control, condition, or “initiate” victims. This type of ritualized abuse may be repeated frequently and be perpetrated under the guise of a spiritual expression or initiation into a gang or other secret or selective group.
Unwanted verbal sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other visual, verbal, or physical conduct of a sexual nature. Sexual harassment can occur in the workplace, school and other settings (such as public transportation, shopping malls, community events, social gatherings, places of worship, health care facilities), and can create an intimidating or hostile environment for the victim. The perception of the victim, not the intent of the harasser, determines whether particular words or actions are harassing.
Stranger sexual assault is a sexual act of violence outside of the victims normal relationships. Stranger sexual assault almost always involves a certain degree of physical violence. Offenders who attack people that they do not know are often more violent and tend to be repeat offenders.
Same Gender Assault
Same gender assault is when a sexual assault occurs and the victim and the perpetrator are of the same gender. This does not necessarily mean that they identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender (GLBT), however, same sex sexual assault does occur in the LGBT community. Same gender sexual assault is often referred to as “homosexual rape.” This is not very accurate as many sexual assaults involve non-consensual acts other than “rape,” and because the perpetrators of this form of sexual violence are not always homosexual.
Indecent Exposure, Peeping, Hidden Cameras
These are all forms of sexual violence. Victims/survivors can experience the same short and long-term effects as victims/survivors of other sexual violence. The offenders of these crimes come from different backgrounds and environments. The offender may have a long history of incidences of inappropriate behavior or it may be an isolated incident. Any of these actions are crimes and it is important to report them to local law enforcement.
Although gang rape is commonly used to describe this type of sexual violence, it rarely has anything to do with organized street gangs. Sexual violence by multiple perpetrators can involve more physical harm and verbal insults to the victim than other types of sexual violence. Group dynamics dictate this type of sexual assault; there is always a leader and at least one reluctant participant. Victim/survivors of sexual violence by multiple perpetrators are usually isolated and seeking friendship, or vulnerable in other ways. Responses and reactions to this type of sexual violence are similar to those in other cases but may be compounded due to there being more than one offender.
Sexual Violence Within Prisons
Prisoner rape for male and female inmates can vary between each institution. Sexual violence runs an even higher risk of becoming deadly in prison due to rates of HIV being five to ten times higher inside of prison versus outside. It is known that sexual violence is an act of power and this becomes clear within prisons. Victims fear retaliation from those who hurt them. Many times if it is a prison staff who attacked him/her, that victim may feel that no one would believe them. Society may sometimes perpetuate the belief that inmates “get what they deserve.” It is important that victims of sexual violence within prisons know that no one deserves to be sexually assaulted.
Adapted from Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault (mncasa.org)