Shame, despair, and powerless are a few of the emotions that victims of rape and sexual assault may experience. These same emotions often interfere with their ability to decide to prosecute their perpetrator. There are also many thoughts such as, “We were drinking. He couldn’t help it. Maybe my outfit led him on.” The list of minimizing statements go on and on. Alcohol does indeed contribute to the number of rapes each year, but when a female (or in some cases male) says “no!” to sexual relations, a forced encounter is always rape. The fact is most rapes do not happen in unfamiliar, dark places, but in a friend, relatives, or their own home. Unfortunately, it is estimated that 17% of adolescent girls are coerced into at least one non-consensual sexual contact. Because of the stigmatization and shame associated with rape, the actual number of young women who are assaulted each year is probably grossly underestimated. But how is sexual assault different from rape? Often rape, which always includes penetration, is included in discussions about sexual assault. However, assault also includes non-invasive forms of crossing sexual boundaries, such as voyeurism, exhibitionist, and sexual harassment.

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Author: Evelyn Wenzel, MSW, LCSW, CAP