Learn the Facts
For sexual activity to be all right, it must be consensual, which means that both people want it to happen. Sexual assault is when any person forces you to participate in a sexual act when you don't want to. This can include touching or penetrating the vagina (often called rape), mouth, or anus; touching the penis; or being forced to touch someone's vagina, penis, or anus. Touching can mean with a hand, finger, mouth, penis, or just about anything else, including objects.
It doesn't always take physical force to sexually assault someone. Offenders can use threats or intimidation to make someone feel afraid or unable to refuse them. It is also sexual assault if the person being abused is drunk, drugged, unconscious, or too young (ages of consent differ from state to state) or mentally disabled to be legally able to agree to sexual contact.
Most survivors are assaulted by someone they know: a friend, date, acquaintance, or boyfriend or girlfriend. Dating or being sexually involved with someone does not give that person the right to force you to have sexual contact you don't want. Even if you have had engaged in consensual sexual activity before, you have the right to not do so again and say "NO" at any time. You are also allowed to change your mind at any time. Please remember: being sexually assaulted is NEVER YOUR FAULT.
Although the majority of sexual assault offenders are male, females are also offenders of this crime. Victims can be boys, girls, men, or women of any age, race, social class, appearance, or sexual orientation.
Sometimes people will use manipulation to get someone to give into sex. They might say things such as "If you really loved me, you'd do it" or "I'm going to tell everyone we did it anyway, so you might as well." This kind of behavior can be hurtful, although it often doesn't meet the legal definition of sexual assault, and is a sign of a controlling or emotionally abusive partner. The same is true of a partner who won't (or won't let you) use birth control when you want to. People who experience this kind of behavior can have similar reactions to people who have been sexually assaulted. If this is happening to you, consider seeking help.
If you or someone you know needs help, please call the Rape Abuse and Incest Network at (800)656-HOPE. You are not alone.
Teen Dating Abuse
Dating abuse isn't an argument every once in a while, or a bad mood after a bad day. Dating abuse (or Relationship Abuse) is a pattern of controlling behavior that someone uses against a girlfriend or boyfriend.
Abuse can cause injury and even death, but it doesn't have to be physical. It can include verbal and emotional abuse - constant insults, isolation from family and friends, name calling, controlling what someone wears-and it can also include sexual abuse.
This section was adapted from materials provided by the Liz Claiborne's Tweens and Teen Dating Violence Survey 2008, available here: www.loveisnotabuse.com
If you or someone you know needs help, please call the National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline at
(866)331-9474. You are not alone.
The mission of the Joyful Heart Foundation is to heal, educate and empower survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse and to shed light into the darkness that surrounds these issues.
Ages 13 to 21.
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