What is sexual assault?

Sexual assault isn’t always a clearly defined term and can often sound vague to most people. The U.S. Department of Justice defines sexual assault as “any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient. Falling under the definition of sexual assault are sexual activities as forced sexual intercourse, forcible sodomy, child molestation, incest, fondling, and attempted rape.” It doesn’t always need to involve extreme acts of physical violence. It’s important to understand that rape is a form of sexual assault, but not all sexual assault is rape. Rape includes penetration by definition whereas sexual assault is much broader than that.

Many people think that sexual assault is something that happens in private, and that’s not entirely true. While it can happen in private, it can happen in public as well. Sexual assault can happen anywhere: in the residence halls, at a party, or even in the classroom. Sexual assault may involve physical violence or may ongoing acts of harassment. There are many different variations of sexual assault and this can create numerous different experiences.

There is often a strong stigma associated with sexual assault and many survivors find themselves being asked questions like “Well what did you do?” or “Why didn’t you stop them?” It is crucial not to blame the person who has been sexually assaulted. Sexual assault is not a choice you make, it’s a choice that someone else makes and someone who has been sexually assaulted did not choose to go through that.

If someone you know experiences sexual assault, it’s important not to blame them or ask them questions that can make them feel like this was their fault. We recommend that you validate their experience, listen to them, and help them find the proper resources so they can get the support they need both from you and from other sources. One resource is RAINN support telephone line. Please call 1.800.656.HOPE (4673) to be connected with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area.

SPEAK UP, LaunchPoint Solutions

Alpha Sigma Alpha, in partnership with LaunchPoint Solutions, introduced the SPEAK UP program to all collegiate members in January 2018. SPEAK UP empowers members to take a stand against sexual assault and gives them the tools they need to speak up and intervene in difficult situations. The SPEAK UP program offers video-based online learning experiences on a multitude of topics. SPEAK UP will help members understand the concepts of healthy relationships, bystander intervention, self-care and consent, and alcohol and risk reduction. To learn more or view the SPEAK UP videos, please visit MyASA.AlphaSigmaAlpha.org. 

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