Understanding Sexual Assault

Sexual assault is one of the most horrendous and heartbreaking experiences a person can go through. It can bring up all kinds of emotions, including guilt, fear, and shame and confusion. Despite how you might feel, the truth is it’s not your fault.

Sexual assault is a source of trauma that evokes powerful emotions. At Charles Monnett III & Associates, we are here to listen about your experience and assure you there is hope.

Understanding sexual assault is the first step towards protecting yourself and your body.

What is Sexual Assault?

Sexual assault is an act by which a person is coerced or physically forced to engage sexually against their will. It is a form of sexual violence that encompasses rape, groping or sadistic sexual torture.

It is common for victims to feel confused after being assaulted. The following can help you clarify the facts and help you determine if you have been a victim.

It was sexual assault if:

  • You did not give consent
  • You were a minor at the time
  • You were under the influence of drugs or alcohol and unable to consent
  • You were verbally or physically forced or manipulated
  • Your perpetrator used drugs to lower your inhibitions
  • Any unwanted contact or touching occurred

It is still sexual assault if:

  • You knew your attacker
  • You previously consented to sexual acts with your attacker
  • You are in a relationship with your attacker
  • You are related to your attacker

If you identify with any of the above points, you may have been sexually assaulted and should seek medical attention immediately. After addressing physical and medical concerns, it is in your best interest to speak with a sexual assault attorney who can help you determine your next steps.

Defining Consent

Consent is an agreement between two adults to engage in sexual activity and is necessary for all sexual activity. It is what distinguishes welcomed sexual contact from assault. When you’re engaging in sexual activity, consent is about communication. It should be clear and expressed.

sexual assault

While consent is not necessarily verbal, verbal communication can help you and your partner learn to respect each other’s boundaries. Consenting to a single activity does not mean consenting to additional sexual contact. For example, having sex with someone in the past is not consent for future sexual acts.

The laws about consent vary by state and situation and hinge upon a person’s ability to consent. Those under the legal age according to state (in North Carolina, it is 16-years-old) or incapacitated persons cannot legally consent. This includes minors, persons with certain disabilities and intoxicated or unconscious individuals. Consent also has contextual laws. For example, those in authoritative roles such as counselors or correctional officers cannot have sexual relations with individuals under their care.

Types of Sexual Assault

Sexual assault is an umbrella term that covers many different forms, including but not limited to:

  • Rape is defined as sexual penetration without consent.
  • Child sexual abuse occurs when a perpetrator intentionally harms a minor physically, psychologically or sexually.
  • Incest refers to sexual contact between family members. The majority of juvenile victims know the perpetrator, and approximately 34 percent of perpetrators in cases of child sexual abuse are family members.
  • Intimate partner sexual violence is committed by a person in a relationship with the victim, including intimate partner sexual violence, domestic violence, intimate partner rape, marital rape, and spousal rape.
  • Drug-facilitated sexual assault occurs in two ways:
    • When the perpetrator takes advantage of a victim’s voluntary use of drugs or alcohol
    • When the perpetrator intentionally forces a victim to consume drugs without their knowledge
  • Sexual harassment includes unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and other verbal or physical sexual harassment in a workplace or learning environment. (EEOC)
  • Stalking is a pattern of repeated and unwanted attention, harassment, contact, or any other course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear.
  • Elder sexual abuse occurs when a perpetrator has sexual contact with elderly persons who are unable to give consent due to health conditions, such as dementia or Alzheimer’s.

Perpetrators of Sexual Assault

Sexual assault can be very confusing to a victim, especially when that person knows their attacker. The majority of perpetrators are someone known by the victim.

sexual assault

Perpetrators use a variety of tactics to pressure their victim into sexual acts, such as emotional manipulation, psychological or physical force. Physical harm to the victim or their family and intimidation are other tactics.

When perpetrators go unpunished for their crimes, they are likely to assault again. Perpetrators can and should be held legally and financially responsible for their crimes. An experienced sexual assault attorney can assure your attacker is held accountable for their criminal behavior.

Damaging Effects of Sexual Assault

A study by RAINN concluded that every 98 seconds, someone is sexually assaulted. Yet of those incidents, more than 50% are not reported to law enforcement.

Why are sexual assaults being underreported?

Many fear that no one will believe them. Worse, when a victim knows their attacker, they often avoid confronting that person out of fear or confusion.

sexual assault

When sexual assailants go unpunished, victims live with the lack of closure, knowing their assaulter is free to violate another victim.

Signs of Sexual Assault in a Loved One

If you notice strange behavior from your loved one lately, such as withdrawal, isolation, irritability or a lack of interest in usual activities – it could be an indicator of sexual assault. A victim may find it harder to complete simple day-to-day tasks, such as personal grooming or attending work. They may turn to drugs, alcohol and other reactive behaviors to numb their pain.

Sexual assaults can have devastating mental, physical and emotional effects on a victim, including but not limited to:

  • Depression
  • Flashbacks
  • Self-harm
  • Substance abuse
  • Dissociation
  • Eating disorders
  • Unwanted pregnancy
  • Sleep disorders
  • Suicide

A common effect brought on by sexual assault is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Symptoms of PSTD might include:

  • Repeated thoughts of the assault
  • Memories and nightmares
  • Avoidance of thoughts, feelings, and situations related to the assault
  • Negative changes in thoughts and feelings
  • Isolation
  • Insomnia
  • Trouble focusing
  • Fear of public places
  • Loss of interests

Contact a Sexual Assault Attorney

If you were a victim of sexual assault, it’s not too late to seek justice. In North Carolina, there is no time limit, or statute of limitations, for when you can take legal action against the person who assaulted you.

If you decide to hire an attorney, you will be seeking compensation in a civil lawsuit. The amount and type of compensation available will depend on the specific details surrounding your case. Due to the egregious nature of sexual assault crimes, judges may award generous damages to victims.

If you or a loved one experienced sexual assault, a sexual assault attorney can play a critical role in your healing process. Not only will we aggressively protect your rights and well-being, we will be a listening ear and compassionate resource. We understand how trying this time can be, and we want to assure you that you are not alone. Contact Charles Monnett III & Associates at (704) 376-1911 for a private and risk-free consultation to help you determine your next steps.

 

Help for Sexual Assault Survivors

Were you or a loved one a victim of sexual assault? Resources are available to help. To speak with a trained staff member in your area and receive safe, confidential support, contact the RAINN hotline at 800.656.HOPE (4673). To get help for a sexually abused minor, contact North Carolina’s Tree House Children’s Advocacy Center for help. For victims of domestic violence, survivors may receive help through Charlotte’s Safe Alliance.