Overcoming Sexual Violence: Your Path Forward

Trigger Warning: Sexual Assault

If you are reading this, you or someone you know and love has likely been the victim of sexual violence. You are not alone; every year, hundreds of thousands of people across the globe are victims of this heinous act in its many different forms.

You likely know the person who assaulted you, and there may be conflicting feelings about why someone would do such a thing.

Studies have shown an underlying reason behind these actions, and it is not always what is depicted in the media. The key reason is to have power over another person; it is rarely actually about the sexual act.

Whatever anyone says or implies, it is never the victim’s fault.

It does not matter what you said or did to “lead them on” or if you “had one too many drinks”; you did not ask for this, and you are not at fault.

Who Is the Perpetrator?

Young girl sexually violatedA myth regarding sexual violence is that the perpetrator is some weapon-wielding stranger in a dark alley, this certainly can happen, but the more likely perpetrator is someone you know at least a little bit.

Almost 75% of adolescents who are victims knew their assaulter well, and over 20% were done by a family member.

It is possible that the person who assaulted you was an intimate partner; you are still not at fault for what they did to you. Intimate partner sexual violence is often seen alongside other abusive behaviors from your partner.

These can be: attempted isolation from peers and family, extreme jealousy, insults, preventing you from making decisions for yourself and your future, destruction of your possessions, harming your pets, threats to children, financial dependence, threatening to harm or kill themself if you try to leave or tell anyone, and other such behaviors.

The behaviors of an intimate partner do not always have to be purely abusive. Lenore Walker coined the term “cycle of violence,” where an abusive relationship can have three phases:

  1. Tension building
  2. Physical abuse
  3. And the honeymoon phase.

An abuser will often bring gifts, and their demeanor will change to be temporarily kind and caring after an assault, but the cycle will begin again.

This is not the only method of abuse by an intimate partner, but it helps demonstrate that abusers are clever in their ongoing abusive behaviors.

Understanding What Sexual Violence Is.

Sexual violence lies on a continuum where many things can be sexual assault. Sexual assault is broadly defined as sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the victim.

Consent obtained through force, the threat of force, manipulation, emotional coercion, or similar means is not true consent, and the sexual act was violence.

If you revoke consent partway through a sexual act, anything else is violence. If you are too scared to voice non-consent or the retraction of consent, then the sexual act is violence. You are not to blame for anything that happened to you, and you did not agree to have further sexual acts with someone if your consent was retracted or you felt too afraid to retract consent.

Every state has its definitions for sexual violence and the continuum therein.

An action in one state might elicit a different legal response in another. Some states still use outdated terminology, such as “sodomy,” to define a specific type of assault.

  • In Kansas, some sexual crimes are listed as rape, sexual battery, and sexual extortion.
  • Missouri has similar language for its definitions of the forms of sexual assault. Some of these are rape, sexual misconduct, and sexual abuse.

Each listed form of sexual violence has its definition and criminal punishments, but the broad language is similar to what we have already seen; non-consent, consent gained through force or fear, and a sexual act.

What Are the Next Steps

The first step is recognizing that you have been the victim of sexual violence.

It can be daunting to accept that this horrible act has happened to you; the truth can take a long time. If you are still in a situation where the perpetrator has frequent contact with you, or you live with them, please look here for a detailed list of the steps for ensuring the safety of yourself and any dependents you might have.

Consider talking with a trusted friend about what has happened to you. A support network is beneficial in maintaining good mental and physical health during hardship.

Next, think about what you want to do from here.

There are multiple paths to choose from, and there is no right or wrong answer, as everyone’s experience differs.

  • Some people wish to never deal with the situation again and do not report it.
  • Some people fear what others will say or any financial or social stigma from being a survivor and choose to stay silent.
  • Some will notify the police of the act(s) and hope the criminal justice system will do what it is supposed to do. If you decide to take this route, you may be required to be examined by a doctor regarding sexual violence.
  • Some victims will file restraining orders to hopefully never see or interact with their assaulter.
  • Some will try to sue the perpetrator for the damage they did.

We cannot decide for you, but if you seek any action through the law, consider talking with a dedicated family law attorney here at Hale Robinson & Robinson.

Please request a free consultation, and let’s discuss your unique situation.

For general services for survivors of sexual violence, you can reach out to any of these sources:

by Suzanne Hale Robinson

Owner and Managing Partner, at Hale Robinson & Robinson.