Protecting Your Friends and How to Respond to a Survivor

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You have a crucial role to play in keeping your friends safe. No matter what the setting, if you see something that doesn’t feel quite right or see someone who might be in trouble, there are some simple things you can do to help out a friend.

Distract. If you see a friend in a situation that doesn’t feel quite right, create a distraction
to get your friend to safety. This can be as simple as joining or redirecting the conversation: suggest to your friend that you leave the party, or ask them to walk you home. Try asking questions like: “Do you want to head to the bathroom with me?” or “Do you want to head to another party – or grab pizza?”

Step in. If you see someone who looks uncomfortable or is at risk, step in. If you feel
safe, find a way to de-escalate the situation and separate all parties involved. Don’t be shy
about directly asking the person if they need help or if they feel uncomfortable.

Enlist others. You don’t have to go it alone. Call in friends or other people in the area
as reinforcements to help defuse a dangerous situation and get the at-risk person home safely. There is safety in numbers.

Keep an eye out. Use your eyes and ears to observe your surroundings. If you
see someone who has had too much to drink or could be vulnerable, try to get them to a safe place. Enlist friends to help you. Even if you weren’t around when the assault occurred, you can still support a friend in the aftermath.

How to Respond to a Survivor

When someone you care about tells you they’ve been sexually assaulted or abused, it can be a lot to handle. A supportive reaction can make all the difference, but that doesn’t mean it comes easy. Encouraging words and phrases avoid judgment and show support for the survivor. Consider these phrases:

  1. “I’m sorry this happened.” Acknowledge that the experience has affected their life. Phrases like “This must be really tough for you,” and, “I’m so glad you are sharing this with me,” help to communicate empathy.
  2. “It’s not your fault.” Survivors may blame themselves, especially if they know the perpetrator personally. Remind the survivor, maybe even more than once, that they are not to blame.
  3. “I believe you.” It can be extremely difficult for survivors to come forward and share their story. They may feel ashamed, concerned that they won’t be believed, or worried they’ll be blamed. Leave any “why” questions or investigations to the experts—your job is to support this person. Be careful not to interpret calmness as a sign that the event did not occur—everyone responds differently. The best thing you can do is to believe them.
  4. “You are not alone.” Remind the survivor that you are there for them and willing to listen to their story. Remind them there are other people in their life who care and that there are service providers who will be able to support them as they recover from the experience.
  5. “Are you open to seeking medical attention?” The survivor might need medical attention, even if the event happened a while ago. You can support the survivor by offering to accompany them or find more information. It’s ok to ask directly, “Are you open to seeking medical care?”
  6. “You can trust me.” If a survivor opens up to you, it means they trust you. Reassure them that you can be trusted and will respect their privacy. Always ask the survivor before you share their story with others. If a minor discloses a situation of sexual abuse, you are required in most situations to report the crime. Let the minor know that you have to tell another adult, and ask them if they’d like to be involved.
  7. “This doesn’t change how I think of you.” Some survivors are concerned that sharing what happened will change the way other people see them, especially a partner. Reassure the survivor that surviving sexual violence doesn’t change the way you think or feel about them.

Continued Support
There’s no timetable when it comes to recovering from sexual violence. If someone trusted you enough to disclose the event, consider the following ways to show your continued support.

  • Check in periodically. The event may have happened a long time ago, but that doesn’t mean the pain is gone. Check in with the survivor to remind them you still care about their well-being and believe their story.
  • Avoid judgment. It can be difficult to watch a survivor struggle with the effects of sexual assault for an extended period of time. Avoid phrases that suggest they’re taking too long to recover such as, “You’ve been acting like this for a while now,” or “How much longer will you feel this way?”
  • Remember that the healing process is fluid. Everyone has bad days. Don’t interpret flashbacks, bad days, or silent spells as “setbacks.” It’s all part of the process.
  • Know your resources You’re a strong supporter, but that doesn’t mean you’re equipped to manage someone else’s health. Become familiar with resources you can recommend to a survivor, like the National Sexual Assault Hotline 800.656.HOPE (4673) and online.rainn.org.

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How Can I Protect My Child From Sexual Assault?

Protection-of-Children-from-Sexual-Offences2Parents are surrounded by messages about child sexual abuse. Talk shows and TV news warn parents about dangers at school, in the home and on the Internet. Despite all the media coverage, parents don’t get much advice about how to talk to their children about sexual abuse and how to prevent it.

Talk to your children about sexuality and sexual abuse in age-appropriate terms.

  • Talking openly and directly abProtection-of-Children-from-Sexual-Offences1out sexuality teaches children that it is okay to talk to you when they have questions.
  • Teach children the names of their body parts so that they have the language to ask questions and express concerns about those body parts.
  • Teach children that some parts of their body are private.
    • Let children know that other people should not be touching or looking at their private parts unless they need to touch them to provide care. If someone does need to touch them in those private areas, a parent of trusted caregiver should be there, too.
    • Tell children that if someone tries to touch those private areas or wants to look at them, OR if someone tries to show the child their own private parts, they should tell a trusted adult as soon as possible.
  • All children should be told that it’s okay to say “no” to touches that make them uncomfortable or if someone is touching them in ways that make them uncomfortable and that they should tell a trusted adult as soon as possible.
    • This can lead to some slightly embarrassing situations, such as a child who then says they don’t want give a relative a hug or kiss! Work with your child to find ways to greet people that don’t involve uncomfortable kinds of touch.
    • Talking openly about sexuality and sexual abuse also teaches children that these things don’t need to be “secret.” Abusers will sometimes tell a child that the abuse is a secret. Let your children know that if someone is touching them or talking to them in ways that make them uncomfortable that it shouldn’t stay a secret.
    • Make sure to tell your child that that they will not get into trouble if they tell you this kind of secret.
  • Don’t try to put all this information into one big “talk” about sex.
    • Talking about sexuality and sexual abuse should be routine conversations.

Be involved in your child’s life.

  • Be interested in your child’s activities.
    • Ask your child about the people they go to school with or play with.
    • If your child is involved in sports, go to games and practices. Get to know the other parents and coaches.
    • If your child is involved in afterschool activities or daycare, ask them what they did during the day.
  • Talk about the media.
    • If your child watches a lot of television or plays video games, watch or play with them.
      • Many TV shows (for example, CSI or Law and Order) show sexual violence of different kinds.
      • Some video games (for example, Grand Theft Auto) allow the user to engage in sexual violence.

    • Use examples from TV or games that you have watched or played together to start up conversations about sexuality and sexual abuse.
  • Know the other adults that your child might talk to.
    • Children sometimes feel that they cannot talk to their parents.
    • Know the other trusted adults in your child’s life.

Be available.

  • Make time to spend with your child.
  • Let your child know that they can come to you if they have questions or if someone is talking to them in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable.
    • Be sure to follow up on this! If your child comes to you with concerns or questions, make time to talk to them.

 

When you empower your child to say “no” to unwanted touch and teach them that they can come to you with questions and concerns, you take critical steps to preventing child sexual abuse.

 

To learn more about child sexual abuse and talk to someone who can help, contact
1-800-656-HOPE or visit: online.rainn.org

 

Male Sexual Assault

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Can men be sexually assaulted?

Men and boys are often the victims of the crimes of sexual assault, sexual abuse, and rape. In fact, in the U.S., about 10% of all victims are male.1

The term sexual assault refers to a number of different crimes, ranging from unwanted sexual touching to forced penetration.

Male survivors and others affected by sexual violence can receive free, confidential, live help through RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Hotline, 24/7. Call 1.800.656.HOPE to be connected to a local rape crisis center in your area, or visit the National Sexual Assault Online Hotline to get live help in an instant-messaging format.

Support

Although it can be difficult for male survivors to seek help for fear of how others will react, there are support resources available. Survivors can receive live help through RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Hotline, 24/7.

Sometimes male survivors find it easier to first tell an anonymous hotline staffer rather than a loved one. This allows the survivor to speak to someone who is impartial and trained to listen and help. Many male survivors find that talking to the hotline first makes it easier to tell friends and family later.

What concerns do male survivors have when seeking support for a sexual assault?

Safety

Often, perpetrators use force or threats to prevent a survivor from seeking help. RAINN has tips and resources to help survivors stay safe. In addition, survivors can find local sexual assault service providers here on RAINN’s website. These organizations may be able to offer additional safety options and support in their local communities. The hotlines are also available to educate survivors about the resources available (1-800-656-HOPE and online.rainn.org).

Privacy

Sexual assault is a very personal crime. Many survivors do not wish to share what happened to them publicly and fear that disclosing or reporting the attack may require them to talk publicly about their assault. There are several ways to learn more about recovery and resources anonymously by using the National Sexual Assault Hotlines (1-800-656-HOPE and online.rainn.org), which are free and confidential.

Self-blame

Male survivors may blame themselves for the assault, believing they were not ‘strong enough’ to fight off the perpetrator. Many are confused by the fact that they became physically aroused during the attack, despite the assault or abuse they endured. However, these normal physiological responses do not in any way imply that the victim ‘wanted’ or ‘liked’ the assault.

Is it normal to feel this way?

While not every male survivor of sexual assault reacts in the same way, many reactions are quite common. If left untreated, these effects can have a long-term impact on a survivor’s well-being.

What are some possible effects of sexual assault on a male survivor?

Psychological

  • Sense of self and concept of “reality” are disrupted.
  • Profound anxiety, depression, fearfulness.
  • Concern about sexual orientation.
  • Development of phobias related to the assault setting.
  • Fear of the worst happening and having a sense of a shortened future.
  • Withdrawal from interpersonal contact and a heightened sense of alienation.
  • Stress-induced reactions (problems sleeping, increased startle response, being unable to relax).
  • Psychological outcomes can be severe for men because men are socialized to believe that they are immune to sexual assault and because societal reactions to these assaults can be more isolating.

Heterosexual Male Survivors

  • May experience a fear that the assault will make them gay.
  • May feel that they are “less of a man.”

Homosexual Male Survivors

  • May feel the crime is “punishment” for their sexual orientation.
  • May worry that the assault affected their sexual orientation.
  • May fear they were targeted because they are gay. This fear may lead to withdrawal from the community.
  • May develop self-loathing related to their sexual orientation.

Relationships / Intimacy

  • Relationships may be disrupted by the assault.
  • Relationships may be disrupted by others’ reactions to the assault, such as a lack of belief/support.
  • Relationships may be disrupted by the survivor’s reaction to or coping with the assault.

Emotional

  • Anger about the assault, leading to outward- and inward-focused hostility.
  • Avoidance of emotions or emotional situations, stemming from the overwhelming feelings that come with surviving a sexual assault.

If you, or someone you know, is experiencing any of the thoughts or feelings listed above, please contact The National Sexual Assault Hotline, either online or by phone at 1-800-656-HOPE to speak with a trained staffer.

Other Organizations

Survivors of military sexual assault can receive help via the Department of Defense(DoD) Safe Helpline, a groundbreaking crisis support service for members of the DoD community affected by sexual assault. The service is anonymous, secure, and available 24/7 to the worldwide DoD community — providing victims with the help they need, anytime, anywhere.

Learn more about the laws in your state through RAINN’s state database.

References
  1. This section was adapted from materials provided by the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault.

Partner Rape

Partner Rape is defined as sexual acts committed without a person’s consent and/or against a person’s will when the perpetrator is the individual’s current partner (married or not), previous partner, or co-habitator.

3 types of Partner Rape:
  1. Battering rape– the experience of both physical and sexual violence within a relationship. Some may experience physical abuse during the sexual assault. Others may experience sexual assault after a physical assault as an attempt to “make up.”
  2. Force-only rape– motivated by a perpetrator’s need to demonstrate power and maintain control. Therefore, he/she asserts his/her feelings of entitlement over his/her partner in the form of forced sexual contact.
  3. Obsessive/Sadistic rape– involves torture and perverse sexual acts. Such rape is characteristically violent and often leads to physical injury.

Emotional & Physical Reactions:

Physical:
  • Injuries to the vaginal and anal areas
  • Lacerations
  • Soreness
  • Bruising
  • Torn muscles
  • Fatigue
  • Vomiting
  • Broken bones
  • Black eyes
  • Injuries caused by weapons
  • Miscarriages
  • Stillbirths
  • Contraction of STIs , including HIV
Emotional:

Research indicates that survivors of partner rape are more likely to be raped multiple times when compared to stranger and acquaintance rape survivors. As such, partner rape survivors are more likely to suffer severe and long-lasting physical and psychological injuries.

Learn more about the laws in your state through RAINN’s state database.

Reference:
This section was adapted from materials provided by the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault.

Stranger Rape

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3 Major Categories

  1. Blitz sexual assault– The perpetrator rapidly and brutally assaults the victim with no prior contact. Blitz assaults usually occur at night in a public place.
  2. Contact sexual assault– The suspect contacts the victim and tries to gain her or his trust and confidence before assaulting her or him. Contact perpetrators pick their victims in bars, lure them into their cars, or otherwise try to coerce the victim into a situation of sexual assault.
  3. Home invasion sexual assault– When a stranger breaks into the victim’s home to commit the assault.

Common Reactions

  • Shock
  • Numbness
  • Loss of control
  • Disorientation
  • Helplessness
  • Sense of vulnerability
  • Fear
  • Self-blame for “allowing” the crime to happen
  • Feeling that these reactions are a sign of weakness

Learn more about the laws in your state through RAINN’s state database.

Reference:
This section was adapted from materials provided by the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault.

Who are the Victims of Sexual Assault?

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Breakdown by Gender and Age

Women

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1 out of every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime (14.8% completed rape; 2.8% attempted rape). 1

17.7 million American women have been victims of attempted or completed rape.1

9 of every 10 rape victims were female in 2003. 2

Lifetime rate of rape /attempted rape for women by race: 1
  • All women: 17.6%
  • White women: 17.7%
  • Black women: 18.8%
  • Asian Pacific Islander women: 6.8%
  • American Indian/Alaskan women: 34.1%
  • Mixed race women: 24.4%

Men

About 3% of American men — or 1 in 33 — have experienced an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime. 1

  • In 2003, 1 in every ten rape victims were male. 2
  • 2.78 million men in the U.S. have been victims of sexual assault or rape. 1

Children

15% of sexual assault and rape victims are under age 12. 3

  • 29% are age 12-17.
  • 44% are under age 18. 3
  • 80% are under age 30. 3
  • 12-34 are the highest risk years.
  • Girls ages 16-19 are 4 times more likely than the general population to be victims of rape, attempted rape, or sexual assault.

7% of girls in grades 5-8 and 12% of girls in grades 9-12 said they had been sexually abused. 4

  • 3% of boys grades 5-8 and 5% of boys in grades 9-12 said they had been sexually abused.

In 1995, local child protection service agencies identified 126,000 children who were victims of either substantiated or indicated sexual abuse. 5

  • Of these, 75% were girls.
  • Nearly 30% of child victims were between the age of 4 and 7.

93% of juvenile sexual assault victims know their attacker. 6

  • 34.2% of attackers were family members.
  • 58.7% were acquaintances.
  • Only 7% of the perpetrators were strangers to the victim.

On average during 1992-2001, American Indians age 12 or older experienced annually an estimated 5,900 rapes or sexual assaults. 7

  • American Indians were twice as likely to experience a rape/sexual assault compared to all races.
  • Sexual violence makes up 5% of all violent crime committed against Indians (about the same as for other races).
  • Offender/victim relationship: 41% stranger; 34% acquaintance; 25% intimate or family member.

Effects of Rape

Victims of sexual assault are: 8

3 times more likely to suffer from depression.

6 times more likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.

13 times more likely to abuse alcohol.

26 times more likely to abuse drugs.

4 times more likely to contemplate suicide.

Pregnancies Resulting from Rape

In 2012, 346,830 women were raped. 9 According to medical reports, the incidence of pregnancy for one-time unprotected sexual intercourse is 5%. By applying the pregnancy rate to 346,830 female survivors, RAINN estimates that there were17,342 pregnancies as a result of rape in 2012.

This calculation does not account for the following factors which could lower the actual number of pregnancies:
  • Rape, as defined by the NCVS, is forced sexual intercourse. Forced sexual intercourse means vaginal, oral, or anal penetration by offender(s). This category includes incidents where the penetration is from a foreign object such as a bottle. Certain types of rape under this definition cannot cause pregnancy.
  • Some victims of rape may be utilizing birth control methods, such as the pill, which will prevent pregnancy.
  • Some rapists may wear condoms in an effort to avoid DNA detection.
  • Vicims of rape may not be able to become pregnant for medical or age-related reasons.
This calculation does not account for the following factors which could raise the actual number of pregnancies:
  • Medical estimates of a 5% pregnancy rate are for one-time, unprotected sexual intercourse. Some victimizations may include multiple incidents of intercourse.
  • Because of methodology, NCVS does not measure the victimization of Americans age 12 or younger. Rapes of these young people could results in pregnancies not accounted for in RAINN’s estimates.
References
  1. National Institute of Justice & Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.Prevalence, Incidence and Consequences of Violence Against Women Survey. 1998.
  2. U.S. Department of Justice. 2003 National Crime Victimization Survey. 2003.
  3. U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, Sex Offenses and Offenders. 1997.
  4. 1998 Commonwealth Fund Survey of the Health of Adolescent Girls. 1998.
  5. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Administration for Children and Families. 1995 Child Maltreatment Survey. 1995.
  6. U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics. 2000 Sexual Assault of Young Children as Reported to Law Enforcement. 2000.
  7. U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics. American Indians and Crime. 1992-2002.
  8. World Health Organization. 2002.
  9. U.S. Department of Justice. 2012 National Crime Victimization Survey. 2012.