Was I assaulted?
There is a lot of information about sexual assault that can be confusing. Sometimes it is tough to know if you experienced sexual assault especially since you might be reading different things on the internet, or hearing different opinions from friends and family.
Consent is essential to understand sexual assault. Consent is when one person gives someone else permission without experiencing fear, guilt, threats or manipulation. Consent for sexual activity can’t be given if someone is under legal age, asleep, unconscious, drunk or high, being forced, pressured, manipulated or threatened. Even if you don’t say no or fight someone, even if you’ve been with that person sexually before, it doesn’t mean that consent was present. You can change your mind and take back your consent at any time. You can be sexually assaulted by someone you love, are married to, in a relationship with, or any other relationship if consent isn’t present. Sexual activity without consent is sexual assault. Some examples include:
- Someone touching intimate parts of your body or genitals without consent.
- Requests for sexual favors from someone who holds power over you (boss, teacher).
- Friends, partners, spouses or other people who have sex with you when you have not consented.
- Any type of sexual contact by a helping professional (teacher, doctor, therapist, priest, police officer, and others) when you are their student, patient, etc.
- When someone has sexual contact with a person who is under legal age of consent or has a developmental or intellectual disability
Sexual assault is when someone doesn’t consent to sexual activity. Any sexual contact without your explicit consent is sexual assault. If you are a minor, you may not legally be able to consent to any kind of sexual activity depending on the age of the perpetrator and state law.
Most sexual assaults are done by someone the person knows.1 They might be someone you’re on a date with, neighbor, partner, acquaintance, or a trusted friend or family member. In this case, it is common to feel confused and betrayed. However, no matter how you know a person, sexual violence is still wrong.
How do drugs and alcohol affect my ability to give consent?
Sexual assault involving alcohol can include situations when someone has chosen to drink and/or do drugs, and/or when someone gives a survivor drugs and/or alcohol without consent. Choosing to drink or use drugs does not give another person permission to hurt you. Drugs and alcohol impact people differently. If you drank alcohol and/or took drugs and felt like you were not in the right state of mind to give consent to sexual activity, you deserve support for your experience.
Experiencing trauma can impact your memory. When drugs and alcohol are combined with the trauma of an unwanted sexual experience, it can cause partial or total memory loss and confusion around what happened. For many people, this can be scary and difficult. Be gentle with yourself and think about reaching out for support. Remember, it is never your fault if you experience a sexual assault.
- If this has happened to you, you are not alone. A study found that 62% of sexual assaults were involving drugs.2 At least 50% of college student sexual assaults are associated with alcohol use.3
- People can take advantage of normal social settings where alcohol and drugs are being used to commit sexual assault. For example, perpetrators often pose as “the rescuer” or “the helper.” For example, offering to provide a ride home.