Fort Refuge - Abuse Survivors Support Group

Rape & Sexual Assault


I wish I would have seen a billboard, an article, a book, a website; something that clearly stated,"Stop. Listen. It was rape. It wasn't you."

According to a study conducted by the American Academy of Pediatrics, "up to 25% of all college women and 6% of college men reported having been the victims of assaults that met the legal definition of rape. Virtually none of these episodes had been reported to the authorities". Rape seems to be one of those crimes where victim is often confused if it really happened, if it was ‘bad enough’, if it somehow was their fault, if it counts, etc. So this page provides hotlines and links for further reading (male survivors might be interested in visiting this page too), while addressing the very basics: what specifically is rape.

Rape is non-consensual sex. Consent means - voluntary agreement to an activity, given by a person capable of understanding and making the choice, and not influenced by force, threats, intimidation, drugs, etc. Legal definitions of what specifically constitutes sex (and thus rape) vary by country/state and change over the time. We're not discussing Bill Clinton's style sophisms, so, in a broad sense, for the purpose of this article, sex can be defined as: physical contact between two or more people that involves genitalia, oral, or rectal cavity of at least one of them, and is performed for the purpose of sexual gratification of at least one participant. Rape can be done by anyone to anyone: man to woman, woman to man, man to man, woman to woman. Older to younger or younger to older.

  • Consent refers to each separate encounter. For example, marriage means you consent to have sex on regular basis, in general, but each particular instance requires separate consent too. You have the right to not be in the mood and refuse sex tonight, and your partner has to respect that boundary.
  • Consent to one activity does not constitute consent to others. For example, if you agreed to kissing it does not mean you agreed to have sex, or - if you agreed to vaginal sex it does not mean you agreed to oral sex too. You have the right to refuse it.
  • Consent can be revoked at any point. Even in the middle of the act. You changed your mind, you aren't comfortable, you don't like something your partner is doing, you suddenly remembered your grandma and got sad - whatever the story is, you have the right to say "stop" and have it respected.
  • Lack of consent doesn't necessarily mean "I said "no" but he physically forced me". Aside from physical force, rapists may use threats ("Do this or else I'll publish your photos on FaceBook"), intimidation, drugs, or other means of coercion.
  • Obligations to sex only exist in explicit prostitution, and there the boundaries are very clearly spelled out and agreed upon: what sexual acts will be performed, with whom, for how long, and what will be the price for them. Outside of such explicit agreements there are no obligations. Dinner, jewelry, loan, services, whatever else - are gifts, unless explicitly stated otherwise. You don't owe sex in return unless you agreed to it prior to receiving goods/services.
  • Some people are, by law, unable to give consent - such as minors - sexual acts with them are always a rape, regardless of other circumstances. This does not mean that teens are less capable than adults. It's simply an extra safety net that our society extends to its younger members, so you don't have to wonder whether it was a rape or not, whether it was your fault somehow, whether you share responsibility for it, whether you invited it, contributed to it, etc. If you were under the legal age of consent and an adult had sex with you - it was a rape, by definition. You were a minor. They were an adult. They shouldn't have taken advantage of you.

If you were forced, threatened, intimidated, tricked, drugged, or otherwise involved into non-consensual sex as a victim - you were raped. A crime was committed against you, it's no different from being robbed, assaulted, murdered, or stolen from. The rapist broke the law and violated your rights. It is not OK. It is not your fault. It is not your shame to carry. Please call the hotlines below - get the help you need, and make the rapist accountable for their crime. Feel free to join our forums and chat too - many of us have been through a rape, we understand what it's like, to work through its aftermath, and will never judge you for what happened or for how you're feeling about it now. See you around :)

1-800-656-HOPE The National Sexual Assault Hotline
1-866-331-9474 TTY: 1-866-331-8453 National Teen Dating Abuse Hotline

Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do.
~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
This page was last updated on April 9th, 2016
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