Sexual assault and rape are not a joke, they are serious crimes.
I remember attending an vigil called Take Back the Night for victims of sexual assault in college. At the time, I didn’t know what sexual assault meant or how it affected the people it touched. I stood with my friend and classmate while small ribbons were pinned to a wreath in remembrance and community.
The fact that I didn’t know what sexual assault was despite being an adult on a college campus is unacceptable. For anyone reading this who may be unclear, my alma mater’s Sexual Assault Resource Center helpfully provides these definitions.
Defining the Different Types of Violence
Sexual assault and rape
Sexual Assault - an umbrella term that encompasses all unwanted sexual behaviors, including rape. Under this umbrella, everything from nonconsensual kissing and fondling to forced oral, anal, or vaginal sex, is an act of sexual assault.
Rape - any sexual intercourse without a person’s consent. Rape includes instances where sex is forced, and/or against a person’s will, and/or occurs while a person is incapable of giving consent (e.g. incapacitated by alcohol or drug use). It includes forced oral, anal or vaginal penetration, and penetration with a foreign object.
Relationship Violence (Dating and Domestic Violence) - are terms that refer to a pattern of behavior that is used to gain and maintain power and control over an intimate partner. The violence can be physical, sexual, verbal/emotional, economic or psychological. This includes any behaviors that intimidate, manipulate, humiliate, isolate, frighten, coerce, threaten, blame, hurt or injure someone.
Stalking - a pattern of repeated and unwanted attention, harassment, contact or any other course of conduct directed at a specific person that directly or indirectly communicates a threat or places the victim in fear.
Stories of Violence
I’m nearly 30 years old now and have heard and been close to too many stories of sexual assault. I have a very different understanding and perspective than I did early in college.
On Friday, June 3rd, Katie J.M Baker at BuzzFeed News posted a statement from a victim of sexual assault. It is one of the most powerful stories from a victim I’ve read. Extremely well written while also honest, expressive and unforgiving.
Here is an excerpt that begins her statement describing the night of the assault.
Your Honor, if it is all right, for the majority of this statement I would like to address the defendant directly.
You dont know me, but youve been inside me, and thats why were here today.
On January 17th, 2015, it was a quiet Saturday night at home. My dad made some dinner and I sat at the table with my younger sister who was visiting for the weekend. I was working full time and it was approaching my bed time. I planned to stay at home by myself, watch some TV and read, while she went to a party with her friends. Then, I decided it was my only night with her, I had nothing better to do, so why not, theres a dumb party ten minutes from my house, I would go, dance like a fool, and embarrass my younger sister. On the way there, I joked that undergrad guys would have braces. My sister teased me for wearing a beige cardigan to a frat party like a librarian. I called myself big mama, because I knew Id be the oldest one there. I made silly faces, let my guard down, and drank liquor too fast not factoring in that my tolerance had significantly lowered since college.
The next thing I remember I was in a gurney in a hallway. I had dried blood and bandages on the backs of my hands and elbow. I thought maybe I had fallen and was in an admin office on campus. I was very calm and wondering where my sister was. A deputy explained I had been assaulted. I still remained calm, assured he was speaking to the wrong person. I knew no one at this party. When I was finally allowed to use the restroom, I pulled down the hospital pants they had given me, went to pull down my underwear, and felt nothing. I still remember the feeling of my hands touching my skin and grabbing nothing. I looked down and there was nothing. The thin piece of fabric, the only thing between my vagina and anything else, was missing and everything inside me was silenced. I still dont have words for that feeling. In order to keep breathing, I thought maybe the policemen used scissors to cut them off for evidence.
And an excerpt from the middle of her story:
Your attorney has repeatedly pointed out, well we dont know exactly when she became unconscious. And youre right, maybe I was still fluttering my eyes and wasnt completely limp yet. That was never the point. I was too drunk to speak English, too drunk to consent way before I was on the ground. I should have never been touched in the first place. Brock stated, At no time did I see that she was not responding. If at any time I thought she was not responding, I would have stopped immediately. Heres the thing; if your plan was to stop only when I became unresponsive, then you still do not understand. You didnt even stop when I was unconscious anyway! Someone else stopped you. Two guys on bikes noticed I wasnt moving in the dark and had to tackle you. How did you not notice while on top of me?
Please read her whole statement.
I think UCSD’s Center for Advocacy, Resources, and Education (CARE) says it best: “Be there… as a friend to support. as a bystander to intervene. as a Triton to change the culture. Be there to take a stand against sexual violence.”