Rape is not just a woman's problem. Nor is rape something that happens to someone else, somewhere else. It happens everywhere, every day, and every minute to girls and women of all ages. Family and friends of the victim are also affected. We are all affected: rape is the result of a culture that promotes male dominance and views women as inferior beings. It's the extreme expression of a continuum of sexist behaviors that inhibit women from having equal access to opportunities; these behaviors range from sex-role stereotyping and sexist remarks and jokes to sex-based discrimination and, ultimately, to actual sexual harassment and violence against women.
Rape is a significant problem on college campuses across the nation, where most victims are acquainted with their assailants. A recent research study has shown that one in six female college students and one in 71 male college students report having been raped during their college years. The study goes on to state that only 20% of female student victims report to law enforcement (Cantor, D., et al. "Report on the AAU Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Sexual Misconduct." Association of American Universities, 2015.) The effects of rape on these student victims can be devastating, creating emotional, trauma-related difficulties and, consequently, disrupting or ending their academic careers. Because rape is everyone's problem, we can solve it only through the efforts of women and men working together. Take the time now to learn the facts about rape and what you can do.
What is the crime of rape?
According to Pennsylvania law:
Rape (a first-degree felony), is sexual intercourse obtained:
- Through "forcible compulsion,"
- Through threat of "forcible compulsion,"
- When a person is unconscious or unaware that intercourse is occurring even though conscious,
- When a mental disability renders a person incapable of consent,
- When a person is less than 13 years of age even though consent is given, or
- When the offender gets his victim drunk or high for the purpose of preventing resistance without the knowledge of the victim. "Forcible compulsion" is defined as "compulsion by use of physical, intellectual, moral, emotional, or psychological force, either express or implied," and does not require that the victim resist the offender.
Sexual assault: (a second-degree felony), consists of non-consensual sexual intercourse. Sexual intercourse includes vaginal, anal or oral sex. There must be some penetration, however slight, but ejaculation is not necessary.
Aggravated indecent assault: also a second-degree felony, consists of penetration of the genitals or anus by a part of the offender's body without consent. Indecent assault is unwanted touching of intimate parts of the body and is a second-degree misdemeanor. A stranger, acquaintance, close friend, relative, date, or a spouse can commit rape and sexual assault. Alcohol or other drug use can impair an individual's ability to give consent. The penalties range from imprisonment for up to two years for indecent assault to imprisonment for up to ten years for sexual assault and twenty years for rape, in addition to fines and restitution. The statute of limitations for reporting rape, sexual assault, and aggravated indecent assault is five years and two years for reporting indecent assault.
How to deal with rape... learn the facts
Myths about rape are pervasive in our culture. They function to discredit victims and make them feel personally responsible so they will not report the rape. Myths also give women a false sense of security and dis-inhibit the behavior of rapists. Replacing myths with facts is the first step in altering the conditions that lead to rape.
MYTH: Rape can't happen to me or to someone I know.
FACT: Rape victims come from all socioeconomic classes and ethnic backgrounds and range in age from 3 months to 97 years. Men and boys can be victims too. The highest rape victimization rate is for women between the ages of 16 and 19; the second highest is for women between the ages of 20 and 24.
MYTH: Most rapes are committed by strangers in a dark place at night.
FACT: It is estimated that as many as 80 percent of all rapes are committed by someone the victim knows. Rape can take place anywhere, at any time. Many acquaintance rapes occur in the context of a dating relationship and typically take place on the man's turf. For college women, their normal social environment - a party where alcohol is used - involves more of a risk for sexual victimization than does walking alone down a dark street.
MYTH: Women provoke rape by how they behave, dress or where they choose to go. Rape is the victim's fault.
FACT: Rape is never the victim's fault. If a woman wants to be involved sexually with a man, it would not be necessary for him to use force or threats of physical violence. Research shows that rapists look for available women they perceive as vulnerable.
MYTH: In a dating situation, when a woman says "no," she really means "yes."
FACT: "No" means NO
MYTH: Women report rapes to get even with men or to protect their reputations.
FACT: According to the FBI, fewer than 2% of reports of rapes are false, which is the same percentage for the false reporting of other crimes. In fact, anywhere from 50 to 90 percent of all rapes are not reported to police.
- Think about what your sexual limits are, and be prepared to communicate them directly.
- Be aware of sex-role stereotypes that prevent you from acting as you want to, such as a woman not being able to initiate sexual activity or a man not being able to say "no".
- Pay attention to nonverbal behaviors, including the signals you may be sending. Make sure that your body language is consistent with verbal messages.
- Remember that alcohol and other drugs can interfere with your ability to communicate effectively and deal with potentially dangerous situations. Be responsible in your decision making with regard to alcohol and drugs.
- Learn to be assertive and speak directly. Don't worry about being polite. Expect and demand that your rights and feelings be respected.
- Be aware that some men make assumptions about a woman's willingness to engage in sexual activity because of her behavior. If she's drinking heavily, dressed provocatively, or goes to his room, he may assume that she's available.
- Trust you instincts. If the situation doesn't feel right, it probably isn't. Confront the person immediately or leave.
- Avoid being in a vulnerable situation with someone you don't know well.
- Know how you're getting home from a social event. If the friend or group of friends you were planning on walking with have already left, call the Penn State Escort Service rather than walking alone or with someone you just met.
- Use common sense to avoid stranger attacks: lock your doors, cooperate with residence hall security measures, try to walk with someone at night, stay alert to your surroundings, take well-lit walkways, use the escort service.
- In a dating situation, listen carefully to the woman's statements. If you're confused about what she means particularly if you feel that she's giving a mixed message, ask for clarification.
- Don't make assumptions about a woman's behavior. You can't assume that a woman who drinks heavily, dresses provocatively, or goes to your room wants to have intercourse with you; if she consents to kissing or petting, again, don't assume that she's willing to have intercourse.
- Assume that "no" means NO.
- Do not exploit others sexually. Focus on consent and mutuality.
- Avoid participating in peer pressure that encourages "scoring" and bragging about sexual activity.
- Instead, use peer pressure positively to discourage exploitation of women. For example, don't engage in "locker room" talk about women or laugh at rape jokes.
- Confront exploitative and/or violent behaviors when they are occurring. As difficult as it may be, you truly will be helping all those involved.
Know what to do if someone is raped
No matter how careful you or your friends are, it may not be possible to prevent a rape. Then it becomes important to know what to do to help yourself or a friend feel safe again. Remember that it is not your fault or her fault. No one asks to be raped, and no one deserves it. After a rape occurs, a female victim should.
- Get to a safe place as soon as she can.
- Try to preserve all physical evidence. The victim should not bathe, shower, douche, use the toilet, or change clothing until she has a medical exam.
- Contact the police. Rape is a crime; it is important to report it. However, reporting a crime is not the same as prosecuting. The decision to prosecute can be made at a later time.
- Get medical attention as soon as possible. An exam will determine the presence of physical injury, sexually transmissible diseases, or pregnancy; it is important for her well-being. The exam, if done within seventy-two hours following the rape, can obtain evidence to assist in criminal prosecution.
- Contact a close friend who can be with her for support. The friend can accompany her to the medical exam and/or police department.
- Consider talking to a counselor. She may be feeling a variety of strong emotions - fear, anxiety, depression, guilt, powerlessness, shame, shock, disbelief, embarrassment, denial, anger. She may also have some physical problems such as sleep disturbances and nausea. Therefore, seeing a counselor may be important in helping her understand her feelings and being the process of recovery.
- Get a copy of Penn State's Guide for Sexual Assault Victims in order to learn more about medical care options, emotional support services, and police and legal services.
As a friend of a victim, there are things you can do to help. The kind of support she gets determines how quickly she will heal from the rape. It's important to listen in a non-judgmental way; let her know she is not to blame; encourage action; let her regain control of her life by making decisions she needs to make; understand that each victim reacts and recovers differently. Most likely you will be affected, too - take care of yourself and your own needs as well.
For Male Victims
While most victims of sexual assault are women, men can be victims, too. At Penn State the same medical, emotional, and legal services are available to men. Health care is provided through Sharon Regional Health System.
What Penn State is Doing About Sexual Assault
- Provides sexual assault counseling, including crisis services, through on campus Counseling Services
- Offers the "trauma drop," a procedure for the retroactive withdrawal from semesters or dropping of courses, for victims of violence.
- Includes a Policy Statement on Sexual Assault and Abuse in the Code of Conduct, which specifies that, "The Pennsylvania State University will not tolerate sexual assault or abuse, such as rape (including acquaintance rape) or other forms of non-consensual sexual activity. These acts degrade the victims, our campus community, and society in general. While the University cannot control all the factors in society that lead to sexual assault and abuse, the University strives to create an environment that is fee of acts of violence." Violations of the policy are subject to disciplinary proceedings through Judicial Affairs.
If you are a victim of sexual assault and are concerned about becoming pregnant you may be able to take advantage of emergency contraceptive services. If the assault has occurred in the past 72 hours, you are a candidate for the emergency contraceptive pill (ECP). Please contact Mercer County AWARE and ask for a same-day appointment:
Mercer County AWARE
109 S. Sharpsville Avenue, Suite D
Sharon, PA 16146