We define sexual assault as a completed non-consensual sexual act, an attempted non-consensual sexual act, and abusive sexual contact.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, sexual assault is any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient. Falling under the definition of sexual assault are sexual activities including forced sexual intercourse, forcible sodomy, child molestation, incest, fondling, and attempted rape.
It is estimated that, worldwide, one in five women will become a victim of rape or attempted rape in her lifetime. (United Nations) Women aged 15-44 are more at risk from rape and domestic violence than from cancer, car accidents, war, and malaria. (World Bank) Violence against women and girls is not confined to any particular political or economic system, but it is prevalent in every society in the world. It cuts across boundaries of wealth, race, and culture. (UN Secretary General’s Campaign to End Violence Against Women). Although women and girls are at the greatest risk of experiencing gender based violence, there are many other people who experience sexual violence, including men and boys, members of LGBTQ community, military members, people with disabilities, and other marginalized groups.
What If I Am Sexually Assaulted Abroad?
Sexual assault is never the victim’s fault. Don’t blame yourself. You may feel you can’t think straight. You are afraid. You don’t know what to do and your mind is racing with questions. The questions below are important ones to consider in the event of a sexual assault crisis. Every country has different laws and policies about sexual violence and navigating the complicated legal systems and reporting procedures within a foreign country is a difficult undertaking.
Unfortunately, having an American passport won’t grant you special privileges which is why our advocates are available 24/7 to help you make informed choices and support you during the entire process.
- Are you in a safe place? If you are in a safe place, call or find a safe person to be with you. If you are not safe, call or find a safe person to come and get you, if possible.
- Do you need medical attention? Are emergency contraceptives available? Is a prescription required before acquiring certain medications? What is the potential overall cost for medical services?
- Is it safe to report the sexual assault in the country you are visiting? Is it safe for members of the LGBQT community to report? Is it safe for male victims to report? Are there stigmas present that may cause danger to you or your social network?
- Is it safe to report the assault to the police? Depending on the country you are visiting, it may or may not be safe to report the assault. Every country has different laws and Americans abroad must abide by the laws of the country where the assault was committed. If you are unsure if it’s safe to report the crime, contact our crisis center as soon as possible.
- Are Sexual Assault Advocates available to assist during and/or after the crisis? Are there counseling programs available to survivors of sexual assault? What is the cultural response to sexual assault?
- Do you want to prosecute your perpetrator? Are there laws against various forms of sexual violence? How are crimes of sexual assault or rape defined in the country? Are you able to apply for and receive victim compensation or a protective order?
- Should I report to the American Embassy? There are so many other things to consider, please contact us to get the information you need.
Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Tips*
- Talk to your friends honestly and openly about sexual assault.
- Don’t just be a bystander — if you see something, intervene in any way you can.
- Trust your gut. If something looks like it might be a bad situation, it probably is.
- Be direct. Ask someone who looks like they may need help if they’re okay.
- Get someone to help you if you see something — enlist a friend, RA, bartender, or host to help step in.
- Keep an eye on someone who has had too much to drink.
- If you see someone who is too intoxicated to consent, enlist their friends to help them leave safely.
- Recognize the potential danger of someone who talks about planning to target another person at a party.
- Be aware if someone is deliberately trying to intoxicate, isolate, or corner someone else.
- Get in the way by creating a distraction, drawing attention to the situation, or separating them.
- Understand that if someone does not or cannot consent to sex, it’s rape.
- Never blame the victim.
*This information was provided by President Obama’s initiative to stop sexual assault: It’s on us — all of us —to stop sexual assault.