3 Myths Your Sexual Abuser Wants You to Believe
Every 68 seconds, someone is sexually assaulted in America. Every 9 minutes, that victim is a child. Sadly, only a fraction of perpetrators (approximately 2.5%) will end up facing consequences for their actions by going to prison.
If you have the misfortune of being one of many Americans affected by an act of sexual assault, it’s crucial to understand that you deserve justice at all costs. While it can be difficult to come forward after such a traumatizing event, you can take heart in knowing that while the first step is arguably most difficult, having the courage to take that step can result in positive outcomes, such as:
- Moving forward towards peace and healing
- Receiving the compensation you’re rightfully entitled to
- Preventing your attacker from harming another victim
- Receiving needed support from friends and loved ones
- Raising awareness about sexual assault as a global crisis
When it comes to pursuing the justice you deserve, our nation’s legal system has an obligation to assist you. While many sexual assault cases go unreported or fall through the cracks, it’s important to keep pushing for the justice, freedom, and validation that all survivors deserve.
Regardless of age, gender, or background, all survivors of sexual assault deserve to be heard, believed, and supported. You deserve to be compensated for your suffering—not just monetarily, but also in regard to emotional damages. Speaking to a trusted friend or family member can not only empower you to move towards a brighter and healthier future, but offer you the strength and confidence to inspire and encourage others to come forward, too.
What Constitutes Sexual Assault?
At a foundational level, sexual assault is defined as unwanted sexual contact. It’s important to note that this encompasses far more than many Americans realize, and includes both words and actions of a sexual nature against someone’s will.
Sexual assault takes many different forms, such as:
- Attempted rape. Even incomplete rape is a very serious act of sexual assault and should be taken with the utmost seriousness.
- Rape. This is defined as penetration of the victim’s body. Its official definition is referred to as “penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person without consent.”
- Forcing a victim to perform sexual acts. This includes oral sex or forcing a victim to penetrate the perpetrator’s body.
- Unwanted touching or fondling, such as the breasts or genitals.
Keep in mind that not all sexual assault takes the form of rape. In fact, many types of sexual assault are often overlooked entirely due to lack of awareness of knowledge. Consider this rarely reported forms of sexual assault:
- Exposing one’s genitals in front of another person without their consent.
- Watching someone engage in sexual acts without their knowledge or consent.
- Recording someone engaging in sexual acts without their knowledge or consent.
- Nonconsensual sharing of sexual images.
- Sexual assault by one’s intimate partner or spouse (also referred to as marital rape)
3 Myths Your Sexual Abuser Wants You to Believe
When it comes to sexual assault, abusers will go to great lengths to convince the victim of falsehoods. Offenders often do everything in their power to dissuade the survivor from coming forward. Unfortunately, this can be an effective strategy as many survivors are already conflicted due to the fear of not being believed, victim blaming, and societal stigmas.
When survivors internalize these falsehoods, abusers stand to benefit as a result. By recognizing and dismissing these lies, you can empower yourself and others to speak out against sexual assault and attain the justice you rightfully deserve. Keep reading to learn 5 core myths regarding sexual assault.
#1. To withhold consent, you must vocalize the word “no.”
Many abusers feign a lack of knowledge when it comes to reviewing the crime they committed. In fact, a large number of sexual assault offenders protest the charges on the basis that the person did not vocalize the word “no.”
Some even go as far as to claim they didn’t hear the victim say no.
This is untrue. If someone is initiating sexual contact, they should take care to respect the other person’s wishes by first seeking consent. Proceeding with a sexual act without checking in with the other person before and during sexual activity is unlawful, and oftentimes, abusers will not consider the other person’s wishes whether they vocalize them or not.
Regardless of the reason, survivors of sexual assault who couldn’t bring themselves to speak the word “no” during the act shouldn’t beat themselves up. At the end of the day, there are many things an abuser can and should interpret as a sign of nonconsent, such as:
- “Freezing up” or being otherwise disengaged
- Being visibly upset or scared
- Exhibiting unwelcoming body language (such as pushing someone away or leaning away from contact)
- Appearing to be in pain
Furthermore, consent is not:
- Pressuring someone to consent through intimidation, or coercion.
- Assuming consent is a given due to a bodily response (such as physical reactions beyond someone’s control).
- Someone who is incapacitated due to drugs or alcohol.
- Someone who is under the legal age of consent.
- Assuming consent because a person has consented in the past.
#2. If you didn’t put up a fight, it isn’t sexual assault.
Trauma impacts the body in many ways. Sadly, many survivors experience immobility during the sexual act, rendering them incapable of “putting up a fight” or protesting the behavior.
You’ve likely heard of the fight/flight/freeze response. More often than not, “freezing up” is the body’s way of trying to protect us from perceived danger. Such reactions develop in the brain as a means to survive a traumatic event, and are triggered by intense fear and stress.
Humans undergo bodily responses beyond our control. For many sexual assault survivors, freezing up is a coping strategy that their body believes is the only way to survive an unwanted attack.
It’s very common for sexual assault survivors to experience the “freeze” part of the body’s fight/flight/freeze response. It’s crucial to understand that regardless of how your body processes trauma, any act of sexual violence is not okay.
#3. After giving consent, you can’t change your mind.
Consent is not a “one and done” thing. Even after consent is given, a person retains the right to withdraw their consent at any time during sexual activity. If this is the case, the reason the person changed their mind does not matter. People withdraw consent for a variety of reasons, such as:
- Feeling uncomfortable
- Experiencing pain
- Feeling endangered by aggression or other unexpected acts
- Anything else that makes the person feel unsafe or unwilling
Regardless of the reason, or lack thereof, the other person is obligated to cease sexual activity immediately. Withdrawal of consent automatically invalidates earlier consent. The decision of the other partner to proceed with sexual activity following the withdrawal of consent is considered rape in a court of law.
If you’re a survivor of sexual assault or abuse, you’re not alone. Seek help by calling the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.
Here to Provide the Compassionate Advocacy You Deserve
At Douglas, Leonard & Garvey, P.C., we have extensive experience representing sexual assault and abuse survivors. We know that undergoing an act of sexual violence is unthinkable, and the road to healing can be long. That’s why we’re devoted to providing relentless advocacy and compassionate support to survivors throughout every step of the process.
If you experienced an act of sexual assault, you don’t have to navigate the fallout by yourself. You deserve compensation and justice for your pain and suffering. Our firm is proud to have a former state Supreme Court and Superior Court Judge on our side whose extensive knowledge of sexual assault law has helped us earn justice for our clients.
If you’ve been sexually assaulted, it’s crucial to act now. You can rely on us for fierce advocacy and compassionate guidance. Call (603) 288-1403 to request a free consultation.