The term sexual assault refers to sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the victim. Some forms of sexual assault include:
- Attempted rape
- Fondling or unwanted sexual touching
- Forcing a victim to perform sexual acts, such as oral sex or penetrating the perpetrator’s body
- Penetration of the victim’s body, also known as rape
Force doesn’t always refer to physical pressure. Perpetrators may use emotional coercion, psychological force, or manipulation to coerce a victim into non-consensual sex. Some perpetrators will use threats to force a victim to comply, such as threatening to hurt the victim or their family or other intimidation tactics.
The majority of perpetrators are someone known to the victim- approximately eight out of 10 sexual assaults are committed by someone the victim knows. It can and does happen within an existing intimate partner relationship or in a dating relationship. Or it can be a neighbor, friend of a friend, or other casual acquaintance.
Dating, instances of past intimacy, or other acts like kissing do not give someone consent for increased or continued sexual contact.
In other instances, the victim may not know the perpetrator at all. This type of sexual violence is sometimes referred to as stranger rape.
Survivors of both stranger rape and acquaintance rape often blame themselves for behaving in a way that encouraged the perpetrator.
It’s important to remember that the victim is never to blame for the actions of a perpetrator.