Sexual violence, also generally referred to as sexual assault, is any form of unwanted, unwelcome or coercive sexual contact. Rape includes vaginal, oral or anal sex without that person's consent or with a person who is unable to consent. Non-stranger sexual assault (formerly referred to as acquaintance rape), including rape, occurs when someone you know, or are familiar with, forces, coerces and/or manipulates you to participate in unwanted sexual activity.
A perpetrator of non-stranger sexual assault can be a friend, a neighbor, someone you met at a party, someone your friend knows, a dating partner, your employer or someone you've known for a long time. The U.S. Department of Justice's National Criminal Victimization Survey (Catalano, 2005) found that approximately 2/3 of sexual assaults were committed by someone known to the victim (RAINN). Females were more likely to be sexually victimized by someone they knew—namely intimate partners, friends or other acquaintances—than male victims. The West Virginia State Police's 2010 Incident-Based Reporting System indicated that slightly over 86% of victims of sex offenses reported to law enforcement knew their offenders. The vast majority of non-stranger sexual assaults are perpetrated by males against females.
Non-stranger sexual assault is a crime that perpetrators typically plan and premeditate. Victims are often selected based on the perpetrator's perception that he/she will be able to successfully sexually assault a particular individual, that the victim will not report or, if they do report, they will not be believed.
Perpetrators of non-stranger sexual assault often believe myths such as:
- Women owe men sex if they spend money on them;
- Some women play hard to get and say "no" when they mean "yes;"
- Kissing and fondling means you have to have intercourse;
- Going to their house means you want to have sex;
- If they are aroused then they must have sex;
- If a woman has had sex with someone previously, that person can have sex with her anytime; and
- Women enjoy being pursued by aggressive males.
However, the facts are:
- You have the right to change your mind about having sex;
- Kissing only means you agree to kiss;
- Just because you are in his house, he is not entitled to sex;
- A gift is a gift, not a "down payment" for sex; and
- You are not obligated to fulfill someone else's sexual needs just because they are aroused.
Non-stranger sexual assault is NEVER the victims' fault no matter what they wore, where they were, whether or not they fought back or whether or not they were drinking. Perpetrators are 100% responsible for their actions. Sexual assault, including acquaintance assault, is violence where sex is used as a weapon.
Yet, individuals who have been sexually assaulted by someone they know may feel guilty or responsible for the assault, feel betrayed, question their judgment or have difficulty trusting people in the aftermath of the assault. It is important they understand that what they experienced was sexual assault and they are in no way to blame for what happened.