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What is Sexual Violence?

Sexual Violence

Sexual violence is any type of unwanted sexual contact, harassment, or exposure. This can include words and actions of sexual nature against a person's will. 

People may use force, threats, manipulation or coercion to commit sexual violence. Sexual violence can be committed without the knowledge or consent of the victim, or against a person who is unable to give consent. 

Most offenders know the victims they select. People who commit sexual offenses against their friends, family, classmates, dates, neighbors and co-workers are rich, middle class and poor, are adolescents adults and elders, and may victimize people of the opposite gender or their own. 

Some forms of sexual violence may not be legally considered a crime, but this does not make the act(s) any less harmful. 

Forms of sexual violence include:

  • Rape 

  • Sexual Assault Incest 

  • Child sexual assault 

  • Date and acquaintance rape

  • Grabbing or groping 

  • Sexting without permission

  • Ritual abuse 

  • Commercial sexual exploitation (Example:prostitution) 

  • Sexual Harassment 

  • Sexual or homophobic-based bullying 

  • Exposure and voyeurism 

  • Forced participation in the production or viewing of pornography 

  • Any other unwanted sexual act

Help & Resources

The Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape:

Founded in 1975, PCAR works to end sexual violence and advocate for the rights and needs of sexual assault victims. 

 

PCAR partners with a network of rape crisis programs to bring help, hope and healing around issues of sexual violence to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

 

PCAR assures that communities have access to quality victim services and prevention education by providing funding, training, materials and assistance to rape crisis programs and resources and training on sexual assault-related issues to professionals across the Commonwealth. PCAR works with media and protections and services to victims of sexual violence, holds offenders accountable, and enhances community safety.   

 

To learn more about sexual violence or to locate rape crisis centers on PA, visit www.pcar.org or call 1-888-772-PCAR (7227).  

National Sexual Violence Resource Center: 

Founded by the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape in 2000, the National Sexual Violence Resource Center identifies, develops and disseminates resources regarding all aspects of sexual violence prevention and intervention. For information and resources on sexual violence and prevention, visit www.nsvrc.org

Advocates for Youth: For information on a range of issues such as how to become an activist and peer leader, resources on heathy sexuality and sexual violence prevention, go to www.advocatesforyouth.org.

1 in 6: 1 in 6 helps men who have had unwanted or abusive sexual experiences in childhood live healthier, happier lives. The organization provides information and support resources on the web and in the community. Visit http://1in6.org for more information. 

Past sexual assault 

If you were sexually assaulted or raped in the past, this experience could still be affecting you and your health. Consider contacting your local rape crisis center for counseling and support. Go to www.cdc.gov/ace to learn more.

Help is available 

To talk to someone at your local rape crisis center, call 1-888-772-7227 in Pennsylvania, or call the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) at 1-800-656-4673 from anywhere in the U.S.

To make a report of suspected child abuse in Pennsylvania, call CHILDLINE at 1-800-932-0313 or call the National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-422-4453 from anywhere in the U.S. to learn how to make a report in your states. You can also visit the Child Welfare Information Gateway at www.childwelfare.gov for more information. 

In Pennsylvania, the words 'sexual assault' may refer to criminal acts as defined by state law or be used to refer to certain kinds of sexual violence. 

If you know someone who has been sexually assaulted, here's how to help:

Dealing with Your Reactions and Emotions 

Sexual assault is a serious life crisis. It is okay to react in different ways and feel many different emotions, including:

  • Trouble understanding what happened

  • Helplessness

  • Increase or decrease in sexual activity 

  • Anger

  • Self-blame

  • Anxiety

  • Shame

  • Nightmares

  • Fear 

  • Difficulty trusting yourself or others

  • Difficulty concentrating 

  • Increased drug or alcohol use

  • Conflicted emotions about the perpetrator 

  • Believe what you are told: Perpetrators of sexual violence are the only people responsible for what happened. It is important to let the victim know what happened was not their fault and that you believe them. Sharing about a sexual assault is a very difficult thing to do.

  • Stay calm and listen. Find out what us needed by the person: Your support is more important than anything else right now. Listen to the needs and wishes of the person who was victimized, and do your best to meet them, even when the needs and wishes are different from your own. 

  • Help the person decide what to do next and offer options from the "Help & Resources" section above. Honor what the person decides:* Most perpetrators victimize people that they know and who already trust. This betrayal of trust can cause many confusing and conflicting emotions for their victims. It is normals for survivors to have difficulty making decisions about what to do next.

  • Help the person find counseling. Suggest calling your local rape crisis center: A person can heal from a traumatic event like sexual assault, and rape crisis centers can help them through this process. The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network hotline (1-800-656-4673) can connect you with your center.

  • Let the person decide who to tell, if anybody:* Sexual assault can leave a person feeling out of control. Allow them to make choices whenever possible.  

*Each state has laws requiring certain people to report concerns of child sexual abuse. While some states require all people to report their concerns, many states identify specific professionals as mandated reporters. These often include social workers, medical and mental health professionals, teachers and child care providers. (Child Welfare Information Gateway, 2014) Suspected child sexual abuse should be reported to law enforcement or Child Welfare (www.childwelfare.gov

Many survivors of sexual assault are overwhelmed by their emotions and reactions. Whatever you are feeling, it is a normal response. Rape crisis center can help you work through this.