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"One year ago, I locked my door and went to sleep; like we all do on any given night. Unfortunately, this night was like no other before and was one I will never be able to forget. I woke up that night to a co-worker who had undressed himself, crawled into my bed and raped me. "
Kathleen, rape survivor

Rape is a crime, talking about it isn't. SPEAK.

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Legal Definitions and Possible Questions

        Each state within the US and each country internationally have its own legal definitions of terms such as sexual assault, rape, and sexual abuse. The verbiage and legalese can be confusing for most people. The fact that each state defines each of these words to mean either the same or different thing, depending on their laws, may make it even more difficult for survivors to understand and recognize what has happened to them. You should check the laws in your own state or country in order to know exactly how rape, sexual abuse, and sexual assault are defined.

        However, remember that no law can define your experience better than you. If you feel violated, betrayed and scared, you have the right to find support and to heal. No matter what type of sexual violence you experienced, and no matter how confused you are, please know that you are welcome in our message board, support group, and chat room for rape, sexual abuse, and sexual assault survivors and we are here for you.

***Warning: graphic language is necessary to properly describe each term***

  • Sexual Assault: A sexual assault is usually described as an unwanted, violent or not, sexual contact that does not lead all the way to an actual vaginal, anal, or oral penetration. However, there are some states and jurisdictions that use sexual assault as an interchangeable term with rape.
  • Rape: A rape is defined as sexual intercourse that is forced on an unwilling victim. Any penetration can be defined as rape, no matter if it is vaginal, anal, or oral. Anyone can be the victim of rape, female or male, and at any age. Additionally, a victim of rape may be forced by threats of violence alone and it is still rape. In fact, most rapes consist of the rapist using no weapon other than the threat of violence and/or physical force.

What to do if you have been sexually assaulted.

        Since it is impossible to create a definition that encompasses each and every possible scenario, here are a few of the questions survivors and victims may have:

  • What if I know the assailant, date, or used to date the assailant?
        No matter how well you know a person, they do not have the right to touch you or have sex with you if you do not consent. Any unwanted sexual activity that you experience from another person is a sexual assault, sexual abuse, or a rape. This even holds true if you have had sex with a person in the past. If you refuse at the time of the incident, a rape occurred.

  • I never physically resisted the assailant.
        Lack of consent can be communicated with a simple "no" and/or other verbal and non-verbal declarations (such as tears, fears, shaking, etc) that you do not wish to have sex. It may also be implied by the circumstances, such as your young age, mental capacity, intoxication, or fear of being physically harmed. Not resisting the assault does not automatically mean that you consented. In many cases the victim fears that fighting back might result in the attacker becoming more violent.

  • I was unconscious or asleep when the rape occurred.
        If you are asleep or unconscious, then you cannot give your consent to sexual intercourse. Without your consent to intercourse, a crime occurred and it's called rape.

  • I don't remember the rape.
        Not remembering the rape doesn't mean that the rape did not happen. Memory loss can be a result of date rape drugs like GHB and roofies, as well as drinking too much alcohol. When in doubt, talk to someone, contact your local authorities, or your local crisis center.

  • I was drunk/the rapist was drunk.
        Alcohol or any other drug is no excuse for a sexual assault. In most states, both parties must be conscious and willing in order for the sex to not be considered rape. However, these laws can also vary by state so contact your local authorities or crisis center for the relevant local laws.

  • I never said "no," but I thought it.
        If you were scared for your health, your life, or the life of your loved ones, then you did not freely consent to any sexual activity. Additionally, it is rape if there is a knife or gun used to threaten you if you say anything. It is also rape if the perpetrator threatens to retaliate against you, threatens to harm you if you say anything or try to fight back.

If you are not sure if you have been raped, sexually abused, or sexually assaulted, contact your local crisis center or the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-HOPE for help and support.

This document is distributed for informational use only; it does not constitute legal advice and should not be used as such.

Permission is granted to reproduce this article, provided that reproduction is for nonprofit educational use and that copyright is retained in its entirety as follow:

© 2007 After Silence - support forums and chat room for victims and survivors of rape, sexual assault, and sexual abuse.

This site is offered for support of other rape and sexual abuse survivors. It is not meant to be a substitute for any kind of professional help.
If you are in a crisis situation we urge to contact your local rape crisis center or health care professional.

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