Sexual Violence

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Sex without consent is sexual assault, whether the offender is a stranger or someone you know. Sexual violence occurs when you are forced, threatened, or manipulated into sexual contact against your will. It can happen to anyone at any age, place, or time. The way a person dresses or acts does not cause sexual assault. No one asks or deserves to be raped.

Sexual assault is a crime of violence and power. It is caused by the decision to control someone in the most personal way. It is not caused by sexual desire.

Sexual Violence can be any of the following actions:

  • rape (forced sexual intercourse)
  • forced anal or oral sex
  • forcible object penetration (penetrating someone’s vagina or anus, or causing that person to penetrate her or himself, against that person’s will)
  • stealthing (removing condom during sex without the knowledge or consent of the other person)
  • unwanted sexual touching
  • sexual contact with minors, whether consensual or not
  • sexual contact with a person who lacks the capacity to give consent
  • incest ̶ sexual contact between family members
  • any unwanted sexual contact

How can a person ‘force’ another person to have sex?

Most sexual assaults involve some type of force, but force is not always physical. There are ways people can force you to have sex without using a weapon or physical violence. They can use verbal or mental methods, or pressure you with their position of power.

Here are some examples of each method:


Verbal or mental
  • using verbal threats to intimidate you
  • threatening to harm a family member, friend, service animal, or pet.
  • Implying that something bad will happen if you don’t give in, for example, “you will be placed in a nursing home,” “I will tell everyone that you did it anyway,” or revealing your sexual orientation to your family or employer.
  • manipulating you or tricking you by not telling the truth

Physical or use of power
  • having sex with you when you are too drunk or medicated to say no or otherwise unable to consent.
  • overpowering you physically
  • using a position of authority/trust, such as a caregiver or teacher, to persuade you to agree to do something sexual.
  • not taking no for an answer

Get to a safe place:

This could be your home, a friend's home, or a public place like a police station.

Preserve evidence:

If you think you might want to pursue a criminal case, you can help preserve evidence until you can have a sexual assault forensic examination by not bathing, changing your clothes, eating or drinking, combing your hair, urinating, wiping after urination, or douching. DNA evidence on your body, hair, or clothing may help police identify and arrest the assailant. If you change your clothing, place it in a clean paper bag and bring it with you. If you do shower, eat, drink, or urinate, DNA evidence may still be obtainable and you can still get an exam. 

Ask for help:

You can speak to RDVIC confidentially by calling 304-292-5100 or police by calling 911 or going to the police station. You can also talk to a trusted friend, spouse, parent, or relative to ask for help.  

Go to a hospital emergency room:

You can receive medical care for injuries, as well as medication to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. 

Get a sexual assault forensic examination:

Local hospitals are able to provide trauma-informed forensic examinations and will contact RDVIC to provide an advocate to help you understand your medical and legal options and to provide emotional support. 

Making the decision to get a forensic exam does not mean that you have to report to law enforcement if you are not sure that is what you want. The Forensic Nurse Examiner can collect evidence and send it to Marshall University where it will be stored for a minimum of two years; if you decide to report to police during this time, the kit can be sent to the state crime lab for processing. Please note  there is no statute of limitation for reporting a sexual assault in the state of WV; if it has been more that two years, you can still report to police and it may be possible that Marshall University will still have the kit , but please know this evidence can degrade over time. 

If you report to the police, do you have to prosecute?

You can have evidence collected without reporting to the police. You can choose to report at a later time. Unless you are under 18 years of age, it is your choice whether to report. Once you have reported to the police and the case is given to the prosecuting attorney, it is up to them whether to move forward. They cannot and will not force you to participate. 

Seek ongoing support:

Everyone responds to trauma differently, but everyone can benefit from ongoing support, whether from peers, professional advocates, or professional counselors. 

Believe them:

Many survivors are already afraid to disclose because they are afraid that they will not believed. Let them know that you believe them and acknowledge that it took courage and trust for them to disclose to you. 

"What happened to you was not your fault.":

How many times have you thought "I should have done this differently," or "if I hadn't done this, that wouldn't have happened" in a variety of situations? Many survivors have these same thoughts going through their minds on repeat. Sexual assault is an act of control, it is someone  exerting their power over another person. Survivors deserve to be told that they are not responsible for someone else's decision, that it is not their fault, and that they did nothing to deserve what happened to them. 

Listen nonjudgmentally and avoid minimizing:

Again, remember that it took courage and trust for someone to come to you to talk about what happened. Let them lead the conversation and take the time to listen to them and affirm what they are telling you. If they view it as sexual assault, then it is sexual assault; sexual assault takes place in many forms and each form can be traumatic to the person who has experienced it. Avoid using phrases like "it could have been worse," "at least he/she/they didn't..." or "it sounds more like a bad sexual experience than a real assault." You may feel that you are helping them by pointing out the positives and reminding them that it could be worse, but everyone experiences trauma differently and these phrases often minimize the trauma they have endured and cause the survivor to withdraw and suffer alone. Instead, use phrases that affirm what they have experienced like "I'm sorry that happened to you," "that must have been scary," and "thank you for trusting me with this." 

Take care of yourself:

For someone to trust you enough to come to you means a lot, but you cannot support someone else if you are not in the proper mental space to do so. It's okay to say "I want to be here for you, but now is not a good time. Can I check in with you later?"  Being a good support person does not mean being responsible for someone else's mental health, nor does it mean that you should make yourself available at the risk of your own wellbeing. Offer to help them with expanding their support system or getting in touch with resources like RDVIC's 24-hour hotline for when you are not available. Also, please know that RDVIC is here for you, too. Even if you are not a survivor, if sexual assault has affected your life then you deserve to be supported. 

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