Sexual wounds are often the deepest of all. They violate something inside us that is meant to be respected and delighted in. If you’re a survivor of rape, incest, or another form of sexual abuse, The Relationship Center is here to help you find healing.
Was I Raped?
The exact definition of “rape”, “sexual assault”, “sexual abuse”, and similar terms differs by state. The wording can get confusing, since states often use different words to mean the same thing or use the same words to describe different things. So, for a precise legal definition, you need to check the law in your state. But here are some general guidelines based on the definitions used by the U.S. Justice Department. Please note that these definitions are a bit graphic, which is inevitable when describing crimes this violent.
- Rape is forced sexual intercourse, including vaginal, anal, or oral penetration. Penetration may be by a body part or an object.
- Sexual assault is unwanted sexual contact that stops short of rape or attempted rape. This includes sexual touching and fondling.
There are three main considerations in judging whether or not a sexual act is consensual or legally considered a rape or sexual assault.
- Were the participants old enough to consent?
- Do the people have the capacity to consent?
- Did both participants agree to take part?
It’s important to remember that even if a sexual encounter is not legally considered a rape or sexual assault, it can still be very traumatic and have negative emotional consequences.
Common Rape Questions
I didn’t resist physically, does that mean it isn’t rape?
People respond to an assault in different ways. Just because you didn’t resist physically doesn’t mean it wasn’t rape, in fact, many victims make the good judgment that physical resistance would cause the attacker to become more violent. Lack of consent can be express (saying no) or it can be implied from the circumstances (for example, if you were under the statutory age of consent, or if you had a mental defect, or if you were afraid to object because the perpetrator threatened you with serious physical injury).
My body responded physically, does that mean it isn’t rape or that I wanted it?
It’s not uncommon at all for a rape victim’s body to respond sexually to unwanted sexual contact. Our bodies are designed to respond to sexual stimuli. This can even be protective in that by your body responding normally to the sexual contact it may have prevented more serious physical damage. Just because your body responded sexually to the contact does not mean that it wasn’t rape or that you wanted it to happen.
I used to date or am married to the person who assaulted me, does that mean it isn’t rape?
Rape can occur when the offender and the victim have a pre-existing relationship (sometimes called date rape, or “acquaintance rape”), or even when the offender is the victim’s spouse. It does not matter whether the other person is an ex-boyfriend or a complete stranger, and it doesn’t matter if you’ve had sex in the past. If it is nonconsensual this time, it is rape.
I don’t remember the assault, does that mean it isn’t rape?
Just because you don’t remember being assaulted doesn’t necessarily mean it didn’t happen and that it wasn’t rape. Memory loss can result from the ingestion of GHB and other “rape drugs”, and from excessive alcohol consumption. That said, without clear memories or physical evidence, it may not be possible to pursue prosecution (talk to your local crisis center or local police for guidance).
I was asleep or unconscious when it happened, does that mean it isn’t rape?
Rape can happen when the victim was unconscious or asleep. If you were asleep or unconscious, then you didn’t give consent. And if you didn’t give consent, then it is rape.
I was drunk or he was drunk, does that mean it isn’t rape?
Alcohol and drugs are not an excuse, or an alibi. Regardless of whether you were drunk or sober, if the sex is nonconsensual, it is rape.
I thought “no” but didn’t say it. Is it still rape?
Yes and it depends on the circumstances. Yes from the perspective of your experience of the event, maybe from a legal perspective. If you didn’t say no because you were legitimately scared for your life or safety, then it may be rape. Sometimes it isn’t safe to resist, physically or verbally, for example, when someone has a knife or gun to your head, or threatens you or your family if you say anything. Even if the event is not legally considered a rape, it can still be extremely damaging and hurtful.
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