Frequently asked questions
What counts as sexual assault?
Legally, the definition of sexual assault varies by state. The Department of Justice defines sexual assault as any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient. Falling under the definition of sexual assault are: sexual activities as forced sexual intercourse, forcible sodomy, child molestation, incest, fondling, and attempted rape. For more information about laws in your state regarding sexual assault, please visit here.
What’s the difference between the terms “victim” and “survivor”?
The term survivor emerged as an attempt to re-empower victims and acknowledge that this is something they had to live through but does not define them. While the term victim may not be ideal for everyday use, it does have a place in the legal system, because in order to establish that a crime has occurred, there needs to be a victim. Law enforcement, attorneys and judges might use the term victim as a result but it is not meant to dis-empower the person who has gone through the assault.
Is it selfish to feel upset even though I’m not the one who went through it?
Seeing a loved one go through a traumatic experience can lead to feelings of loss of control and grief. Support groups exists for friends and family of military personnel, people with terminal illness and addicts just to name a few. The As One Project is the first organization of its kind for friends and family of survivors of sexual violence and as such we affirm the experiences and reactions of friends and family whatever they may be. There is even a term for this type of residual effect, vicarious trauma. For more information on vicarious trauma, go here.
What are some resources that I can pass on to the survivor I know?
How do people usually react to experiencing sexual violence?
There is no right or wrong way to react to sexual violence. Each survivor will have their own process and timetable for healing. Some people don’t want to acknowledge what has happened and for others it becomes a big part of who they are. Regardless of how a survivor understands what happened to them, being sexually assaulted is a very traumatic experience both physically and emotionally. Common emotional reactions that a survivor may experience include fear, sadness, anxiety, apathy/numbness, anger, flashbacks, nightmares, lack of self-confidence, guilt, shame, feelings of hopelessness, shock and denial. Some physical reactions that survivors might have include sleeplessness (or sleeping too much), changes in appetite, loss of interest in normal activities, heightened startle reaction, sexual dysfunction, headaches, nausea, withdrawal from social support systems, and avoidance of situations that remind them of the assault. Understanding the range of reactions that people can experience may help you affirm the way in which the survivor in your life is responding.
What are other factors that might complicate someone want to disclose their experience?
One thing to consider is the identity of the survivor in your life. Their age, gender, sexual orientation, ability status or immigration status could all play a significant role in them wanting to disclose what has happened. For example, a male survivor might not want to disclose for fear of stigmatisation or not being seen as not being masculine enough. Who they are is just as important as what they need so be mindful of the way these various identities might influence their response.