Sexual Violence (SV)

Sexual Violence (SV) are actions of a sexual nature which is non-consensual and is accomplished through threat, coercion, exploitation, deceit, force, physical or mental incapacitation, and/or power of authority. Anyone can experience SV, but most victims are women. The perpetrators of this violence are typically men and usually someone known to the victim. However, individuals in same sex relationships can be victims and perpetrators of sexual violence.

Copyright of Center for Disease Control and Prevention

Some forms of sexual violence 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

 

Consent

Consent is an agreement between participants to engage in sexual activity.  It shows that both you and your partner understand and respect each other's boundaries. Consent is all about communicating with your partner with both verbal affirmations and expressions. 

 

Minors, individuals who are intoxicated or incapacitated by drugs or alcohol, or asleep or unconscious are unable to consent to any forms of sexual activity. If an individual agrees to an activity due to pressure of intimidation or threat, that isn’t considered consent either because it was not given freely. If your partner repeatedly pressures you into engaging in sexual activity until you finally give in, that is not consent. Unequal power dynamics, such as engaging in sexual activity with an employee or student, also mean that consent cannot be freely given.

Consent has to be freely given under no pressure or coercion. It is reversible, meaning that you can change your mind at any time. Consenting to one activity, one time, does not mean someone gives consent for other activities or for the same activity on other occasions. 

It is important to communicate boundaries and expectations with your partner prior to engaging in any sexual behavior. Consent is not given by not saying "no", but by verbal affirmations or through nonverbal cues, such as positive body language like smiling, maintaining eye contact, and nodding. You shouldn't depend entirely on nonverbal cues as verbal confirmation is the most important and is the most clear.. The important part of consent, enthusiastic or otherwise, is checking in with your partner regularly to make sure that they are still on the same page.

RAINN(Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) has provided an informative list of what is and isn't consent.

 

Consent looks like:

  • Asking permission before you change the type or degree of sexual activity with phrases like “Is this OK?”

  • Confirming that there is reciprocal interest before initiating any physical touch.

  • Letting your partner know that you can stop at any time.

  • Periodically checking in with your partner, such as asking “Is this still okay?”

  • Providing positive feedback when you’re comfortable with an activity.

  • Explicitly agreeing to certain activities, either by saying “yes” or another affirmative statement, like “I’m open to trying.”

  • Using physical cues to let the other person know you’re comfortable taking things to the next level (see note below).

Consent does NOT look like:

  • Refusing to acknowledge “no”

  • A partner who is disengaged, nonresponsive, or visibly upset

  • Assuming that wearing certain clothes, flirting, or kissing is an invitation for anything more

  • Someone being under the legal age of consent, as defined by the state

  • Someone being incapacitated because of drugs or alcohol Pressuring someone into sexual activity by using fear or intimidation

  • Assuming you have permission to engage in a sexual act because you’ve done it in the past

To learn more information about sexual violence and consent, click here.

 

After Sexual Assault

It’s difficult to know what your options are after a sexual assault. Below are some things to keep in mind:

  1. Your safety is important. Are you in a safe place? If you’re not feeling safe, consider reaching out to someone you trust for support. You don’t have to go through this alone.

  2. What happened was not your fault. Something happened to you that you didn’t want to happen—and that’s not OK.

  3. Call The Haven at 1-800-22HAVEN(42436). Trained advocates can help you process what happened to you and accompany you to a local hospital to seek medical attention. They can also connect you to a therapist who can help you deal with some of the challenges you may be facing.

It is important to seek medical attention as soon as possible after a sexual assault. You may have received internal injuries during the assault that only a trained medical professional may be able to diagnose. There may be a risk of contracting a sexually transmitted infection (STI) during a sexual assault. The only way to know for sure if you have an STI is to get tested. Based on what happened, a medical professional will recommend which tests are important to have now and which may need to be repeated in the future. You may also be offered prophylactic treatment, medication that is designed to ward off STIs before they take hold in your body. Some of these medicines have very strong side effects, especially medicines designed to prevent HIV. The medical professional should tell you what to expect and help you make an informed decision about these medications. If you have questions about what to expect or need clarification on how to take the medicine, you should feel comfortable asking. Often victims have questions about pregnancy. These questions are best answered by medical professionals who can provide the answers to your questions.

 

In addition to receiving medical attention, you may wish to have a sexual assault forensic exam, sometimes called a “rape kit.” If you can, it’s best to avoid showering or bathing before arrival. Bring a change of clothing with you if you are able. During this exam, someone specially trained to perform this exam, such as Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE), will collect DNA evidence that can help identify the perpetrator. You do not have to agree to a forensic exam to receive treatment, but doing so may give you a stronger case against the perpetrator if you decide to report the crime now or down the road. You should not be charged for the exam. The Violence Against Women Act requires states to provide sexual assault forensic exams free of charge if they wish to remain eligible for critical anti-crime grant funding. 

Like all healthcare, there may be some costs associated with additional medical attention and medication, but these costs shouldn’t keep you from getting the care you need. There are victim compensation programs that can help cover some of the expenses. Most victim compensations funds require you to report the crime to law enforcement within 72 hours in order to be eligible.

Reporting a crime to law enforcement is an individual decision. Many who have decided to report to law enforcement have described it as the first step in seeking justice for the crime by holding the perpetrator accountable for their actions. It may not be an easy decision to make, but it’s a choice that may have a positive impact on your recovery. To learn more, click here 

 

I Ask for Consent

 

What if you want to kiss someone, but you aren’t sure how they’d feel? When you want to get close to someone — whether you’re hooking up for the first time or in a long-term relationship — it’s important to know how to ask for consent.

 

What is Consent?

 

When someone gives consent, they’re giving permission for something to happen or agreeing to do something. This means they need to know specifically what they’re agreeing to — so make sure what you’re asking is clear. For example, “Do you want to mess around for a while? Like cuddling and making out, but not having sex?”

 

When and how to Ask for Consent

 

Always ask for consent before you begin any sexual activity, including kissing, cuddling, and any kind of sex — even if your partner consented in the past. Ask in a way that makes it clear it would be okay if they said “no” — otherwise you might be pressuring them to do something they don’t want to do. For example, “Do you want to go back to the bedroom or hang out here and watch movies?”

 

What is Not Consent?

 

Your partner may not tell you “no,” but that doesn’t mean they’re saying “yes.” If someone says nothing, “um… I guess,” or an unsure “yes,” they’re likely communicating that they don’t really want to do the thing you’re asking about. In these cases, you don’t have clear consent. Check in with your partner about how they’re feeling — or suggest another activity. For example, “You seem unsure, so why don’t we just watch TV tonight?”

 

Non-Verbal Cues

 

Pay attention to your partner’s body language. If they pull away, tense up, look uncomfortable, laugh nervously, or are quiet or not responding, you should check in. For example, “You don’t seem too into this. Do you want to stop or take a break?”

 

Dealing with the "No"

 

Sometimes your partner will say “no,” and that’s okay. Reassure them that you’re glad they can be honest with you. For example, “That’s okay; maybe we could do that some other time.”

 

Why Consent Matters

 

Talking about what your partner wants to do ensures sex is consensual and makes it more enjoyable. You’ll feel more confident about what you’re doing, and your partner will feel comfortable getting close to you.

 

© 2019 National Sexual Violence Resource Center. All rights reserved. | nsvrc.org/saam

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