The facts about sexual assault

Facts about sexual assault, commonly know as rape and abuse, are often dismissed because people have grown up with false beliefs about why a person is sexually violated and who is responsible for the crime. Any person may be a victim of sexual assault or sexual abuse regardless of their age or sex. Contrary to popular belief, victims and perpetrators come from all socioeconomic backgrounds, ages and races. Most perpetrators know or are friends of their victims; 33 percent of all rapes occur on dates. Statistics indicate that more than 1/3 of all rapes take place in the victim’s home. Sexual violence occurs not as a response to sexual desire, but when an attacker perceives that the age, situation, time or attitudes of his victim make her/him vulnerable to attack. A substantial percentage of victims and perpetrators have consumed alcoholic beverages before the occurrence.

Illinois law divides sexual violence into two categories, sexual penetration of the victim, which is termed criminal sexual assault, and sexual conduct involving unwanted touching or fondling. Criminal sexual assault exists where there has been sexual penetration and (1) the use of force or threat of force; (2) the accused knew that the victim was unable to understand the nature of the act or was unable to give knowing consent, or (3) where the victim was under 17 years of age and a family member of the accused. Criminal sexual assault is a Class I Felony with a sentence of between 4 to 15 years imprisonment.

Criminal sexual abuse consists of an act of sexual conduct committed by force or the use of force or when the victim was unable to understand the nature of the act or unable to give effective consent. Sexual conduct means any intentional or knowing touching or fondling of the victim or the accused, either directly or through clothing, of the sex organs, anus or breast of the victim or the accused, or any part of the body of a child under 13 years of age for the purposes of sexual gratification or arousal of the victim or the accused. Criminal sexual abuse is a Class A Misdemeanor (up to 1 year in jail) and becomes aggravated if the accused used a dangerous weapon or caused great bodily harm. This is a Class 2 Felony (3 to 7 years imprisonment).

A person accused of sexual violence can raise the defense of consent to any charge requiring proof of force or threat of force by presenting evidence that agreement was freely given to the sexual act in question. Lack of resistance or submission by the accused does not constitute consent. The law does not presume consent simply because the victim knows the offender.

All rape victims should get medical attention whether or not they choose to report the attack to the police. The Illinois Rape Victims Emergency Treatment Act provides that a hospital must treat you even if you do not have public or private medical insurance.

It is a hospital’s responsibility to apply for reimbursement from the Illinois Department of Health. The primary medical concerns are physical injuries, venereal disease and pregnancy. Resist the temptation to bathe, douche or change clothes before the exam—this destroys evidence. Preventive pregnancy medication is only effective if given within 24 hours of the assault and certain physical evidence can only be obtained within 72 hours of the attack. Hospital personnel cannot release information to the police without the victim’s explicit consent.

Sexual assault victims endure pain, humiliation, guilt and grief. Talking to a counselor can help you obtain a perspective on the situation. Any confidences shared with a counselor cannot be revealed without your permission. If you have been raped or want more information on rape prevention, call: Sexual Assault and Abuse Center 758-6655; NIU Health Services 753-1311; Counseling and Student Development 753-1206; University Police 753-1212.