Sexual Assault: The Silent Killer

Victims of sexual assault often suffer in secret, but their battles don’t have to be fought alone. April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and unfortunately there are many people who have been victims of sexual assault who don’t even realize it or have never told anyone about it. By definition, sexual assault is to knowingly cause another person to engage in an unwanted sexual act by force or threat. When many people think about sexual assault (also known as sexual abuse), the image is a violent, dramatic act, similar to what you would see in a movie: a girl is held down, screaming for her life, while a man is on top of her tearing at her clothes. Now, this is not to say that sexual assault is not like that; there are some cases that are very extreme and violent. However, most cases are subtle. In fact, many survivors don’t realize they were abused until years later. This is mainly because approximately two-thirds of all sexual abuse is committed by someone the victim knows—such as a parent or family member—and 38 percent is caused by a friend or acquaintance.

Sexual assault is very prevalent in today’s society and can take on many forms. If a child is being touched inappropriately (either by an adult or another child), that is molestation. A woman who is forced to engage in sexual activities is being raped, even if the offender is her boyfriend. A boss who makes advances in the workplace or touches his employee inappropriately is sexually assaulting that individual.

Here are a few questions to help determine if you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual assault:

1. Were you ever fondled, hurt or watched inappropriately while being bathed, dressed and disciplined, or during any other normal activity? 2. Were you forced to perform oral sex or any other sexual acts to satisfy someone else’s sexual needs? 3. Were you ever subjected to excessive talk about sex that made you feel uncomfortable? 4. Were you ever shown sexual movies or other pornographic material? 5. Were you ever raped or otherwise penetrated? 6. Were you ever forced to pose for seductive or sexual photographs? 7. Were you ever forced into a situation in which you were physically, emotionally or sexually tortured?

Sexual assault is an epidemic in today’s society. It leaves its victims feeling worthless, depressed and alone. It not only affects the victim, but also everyone connected to the victim—loved ones, family members, friends, coworkers and even strangers. Because sexual assault presents itself in many different forms, it may be difficult to pinpoint exactly how the abuse has impacted the victim. It can affect every area of his or her life: relationships, self-image, mentality and even intimacy. The effects vary from person to person and can have major, devastating results or little nuances that can go unnoticed.

Sexual assault is often referred to as “The Silent Killer.” Because of the stigma surrounding this topic, many cases go unreported and the victims don’t get the help they need. Not talking about sexual assault allows it to continue at alarming rates, killing everyone in its path. Although not all cases end in physical death, they all end in emotional and spiritual death.

If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, it is important to get help and begin the healing process. The first step is admitting that it happened. So many people are still being victimized by the abuse simply because they won’t talk about it. Breaking the silence is the first step to stopping the hurt. It is important to find a trusted person to talk to. This can be a family member, minister or psychiatrist. There are also many organizations and support groups available to victims and survivors of sexual assault. The most important thing for the victim is to remember that it is not their fault, they have the right to heal, and they are not alone. The healing process can be a long and sometimes painful process, but it is worth it.