Assailants can be strangers, but approximately 95% of sexual assaults and rapes committed on college campuses are committed by an acquaintance-a person you know here on campus or have seen around. Assailants commit sexual assault by way of violence, threats, coercion, manipulation, pressure or tricks. A victim who is unconscious or impaired due to alcohol or drug use/abuse is not able to give consent under North Carolina law. Whatever the circumstances, no one asks or deserves to be sexually assaulted.
In most jurisdictions, the term sexual assault has replaced the term rape in the state statutes. This was done to be more gender-neutral and to cover more specific types of sexual victimization and various levels of coercion. For example, some state codes define Sexual Assault in the First Degree or Aggravated Sexual Assault as physically or psychologically forced vaginal, anal or oral penetration - which has typically been thought of as rape.
Sexual Abuse, Sexual Misconduct, Sodomy, Lascivious Acts, Indecent Contact, and Indecent Exposure are all examples of possible sexual assault charges. Basically, almost any sexual behavior a person has not consented to that causes that person to feel uncomfortable, frightened or intimidated is included in the sexual assault category.
The law generally assumes that a person does not consent to sexual conduct if he or she is forced, threatened or is unconscious, drugged, a minor, developmentally disabled, chronically mentally ill, or believe they are undergoing a medical procedure. Some examples of sexual assault include:
Someone putting their finger, tongue, mouth, penis or an object in or on your vagina, penis or anus when you don't want them to;
Someone touching, fondling, kissing or making any unwanted contact with your body;
Someone forcing you to perform oral sex or forcing you to receive oral sex;
Someone forcing you to masturbate, forcing you to masturbate them, or fondling and touching you;
Someone forcing you to look at sexually explicit material or forcing you to pose for sexually explicit pictures; and
A doctor, nurse, or other health care professional giving you an unnecessary internal examination or touching your sexual organs in an unprofessional, unwarranted and inappropriate manner.
Reactions of Sexual Assault Victims
Since every person and situation is different, victims of sexual assault will respond to an assault in different ways. Many factors can influence an individual's response to, and recovery from, sexual assault. These may include the age and developmental maturity of the victim; the social support network available to the victim; the victim's relationship to the offender; the response to the attack by police, medical personnel, and victim advocates; the response to the attack by the victim's loved ones; the frequency, severity and duration of the assault(s); the setting of the attack; the level of violence and injury inflicted; the response by the criminal justice system; community attitudes and values; and the meaning attributed to the traumatic event by the sexual assault survivor (Koss & Harvey, 1991). Some survivors of sexual assault will find they can recover relatively quickly, while others will feel the lasting effects of their victimization throughout their lifetime.
Possible Physical Effects of Sexual Assault:
~Possible Emotional/Psychological Effects of Sexual Assault
~Numbing/apathy (detachment, loss of caring)
~Restricted affect (reduced ability to express emotions)
~Diminished interest in activities or sex
~Loss of self-esteem
~Loss of security/loss of trust in others
~Loss of appetite
~Suicidal ideation (thoughts of suicide and death)
~Possible Physiological Effects of Sexual Assault
~Hypervigilance (always being "on your guard")
~Exaggerated startle response (jumpiness)
~Self-mutilation (cutting, burning or otherwise hurting oneself)
~Sexual dysfunction (not being able to perform sexual acts)
~Hyperarousal (exaggerated feelings/responses to stimuli)
In addition to these effects, a survivor of sexual assault may develop Rape-related Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (RR-PTSD). According to the National Women's Study, nearly one-third of all rape victims develop RR-PTSD sometime during their lifetimes (National Center for Victims of Crime & Crime Victims Research and Treatment Center, 1992). PTSD is a mental health disorder primarily characterized by chronic anxiety, depression and flashbacks which develop after experiencing significant trauma such as combat, natural disaster or violent crime victimization. RR-PTSD is diagnosed by a mental health professional when the biological, psychological and social effects of trauma are severe enough to have impaired a survivor's social and occupational functioning (Allen, 1995 p.169). For more information on RR-PTSD and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, please visit the Student Health and Counseling Center here at Davidson College or contact United Family Services here in Mecklenburg County.