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Sexual Assault

Sexual assault is any sexual contact committed without consent or using force or threats. By law, an intoxicated person is unable to give consent. And silence is not consent.

Both men and women are victims of sexual assault, but the vast majority of victims is women. In the United States, 1 out of every 6 women has been raped during her lifetime and 1 out of every 33 men. Of all rape victims identified in a national survey of 8,000 women and 8,005 men, 85% of the victims were women and 14.2 percent were men.

No matter what the biological sex of the victim is, the perpetrator tends to be a man. In 2006, the National Institute of Justice reported that 99.6% of female victims and 85.2% of male victims were raped by men. Less than 1% of female victims and 18.2% of male victims were raped by women. (Because some victims had been raped by a man and a woman, the total exceeds 100%.) For more statistics about rape and sexual assault, download the Sexual Victimization of College Women report.

Rape is an act of violence, not sex. It is not the result of sexual desire or sexual deprivation. Perpetrators tend to be motivated by control and anger. Part of their gratification comes from gaining power over the victim or discharging anger. For example, heterosexual men have raped gay men as a form of gay bashing, acts based on hate.

All rape, no matter what the biological sex of the victim is, tends to be inspired by feelings of power, discharging anger or eroticizing aggression.
 
Reacting to rape and sexual assault
 
Victims often feel shocked or numb. Some of the psychological and behavioral reactions experienced may include:
 
  1. Feeling ashamed, as if it was somehow your fault that this happened. It wasn't your fault. Even if you made yourself vulnerable somehow, that doesn't give someone else permission to take advantage of your vulnerability.
  2. Being angry with your assailant -- or even with your friends, roommates and other people -- when the reality of what happened begins to sink in.
  3. Having an overwhelming feeling of fear that life will never be the same again.
  4. Experiencing a change in your eating and sleeping patterns.
  5. Feeling depressed.
  6. Crying at unexpected times.
  7. Having nightmares.
  8. Abusing alcohol or other substances as a means of escaping the pain.
  9. Feeling as if you don't know who you can trust any more.
If you're experiencing some of these reactions, remember that this is a normal part of the response to the trauma you've experienced. Reach out for help, both professional assistance and support from family and friends, if possible. You don't have to go through this alone.

Counselors at the Center for the Awareness of Sexual Assault and UWEC Counseling Services will help you explore the range of options available to you, and the counselors serve all students regardless of gender. You will not be pressured to make a police report if you don't want to do so.
 

Definitions and penalties for sexual assault

1. Sexual assault: It is a criminal offense for a person to engage in sexual contact or sexual intercourse with any other person without their consent.

Sexual contact is the intentional touching of a person's intimate parts for the purpose of sexually degrading or humiliating the victim, or sexually arousing or gratifying the perpetrator. Penalties for one convicted of this offense range from a fine of up to $10,000 and imprisonment for up to nine months, to up to 20 years imprisonment. Factors which may make the offense more serious or allow an increased penalty include:

  • The sexual intercourse resulted in pregnancy or great bodily harm to the victim.
  • The sexual intercourse or contact was accompanied by the use or threat of use of a dangerous weapon.
  • The sexual contact or intercourse was aided or abetted by another person or by use or threat of use of force.
  • The sexual contact or intercourse was with a person suffering from a mental illness or deficiency rendering that person incapable of appraising their conduct, and the perpetrator knows of such condition.
  • The sexual contact or intercourse was with a person known by the perpetrator to be unconscious.

2. Sexual assault of a child: It is a crime for any person to have sexual contact or sexual intercourse with anyone under the age of 16. The maximum penalty for one convicted of this offense may be a fine of up to $10,000 or 10-20 years imprisonment depending upon the age of the victim. Consent of the victim is not an issue for this offense.

Tips for risk reduction

The most important thing to remember is that the criminal frequently plans the crime, looking for the right chance — and the easiest victim. The best defense is to eliminate the opportunity for attack or to create the belief in the person's mind that the opportunity doesn't exist. Play it safe. Read the following suggestions and exercise common sense and caution. People can be and are being sexually assaulted by friends, family, neighbors, dates, acquaintances, co-workers, service people, etc. In most cases the criminal is known to the victim and often trusted. Such situations are called Acquaintance Rape.

  • Accepting a ride home from someone you have just met, perhaps at a party — no matter how pleasant he/she may seem — may put you at risk.
  • Use alcohol responsibly. The use of alcohol and drugs is often related to incidents of acquaintance rape - alcohol is the number one date-rape drug. If you are in a situation where people are abusing alcohol and drugs, you may be at higher risk for harm and should exercise caution.
  • Say no when you mean no; say yes when you mean yes. Intentional, healthy sexual communication is critical when engaging in any sexual contact.
  • Believe in your right to express your feelings and learn how to do so assertively.
  • Trust your instincts. Be aware of specific situations in which you do not feel relaxed or in charge.

Bystander Intervention

You can play a vital role in the prevention of sexual assault and sexual violence by being able to identify unsafe situations and knowing when and how to intervene safely. The National Sexual Violence Recourse Center provides free online education on the role of bystanders in preventing sexual violence. For more information, visit the NSVRC website or contact the UWEC Center for the Awareness of Sexual Assault.

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