May 24, 2004

Surviving Sexual Assault

Posted in Surviving Sexual Assault at 11:42 am by iBlog

Sexual assault is one of the most underreported crimes in the United States, with researchers estimating that more than half of all sexual assaults and rapes going unreported. Based on the 2004 National Crime Victimization Survey, someone is sexually assaulted approximately every two and a half minutes in the United States.

Rape and sexual assault are not exactly the same. There are many definitions of these two terms but simply put, rape is unwanted sexual intercourse while sexual assault is any unwanted sexual activity, including touching, fondling, kissing, intercourse, or any other sexual activity that you do not agree to. Rape is therefore one type of sexual assault, and it is important to know that intercourse does not have to occur for a person to have been sexually assaulted.

Anyone can be sexually assaulted, both males and females. Yet, the majority of sexual assault victims are female and the majority of perpetrators are heterosexual males. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that one in six women and one in 33 men experience an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime. Sexual assault is not just about sex, it is a crime that is motivated by the need for control and power. Unfortunately, rape and sexual assault are all too common in our society. According to the National Crime Victimization Survey, in 2004 there were 209,880 victims ages 12 years or older of sexual assault or attempted sexual assault. This survey also showed that 47% of victims were assaulted by a friend or acquaintance (sometimes referred to as date rape). The CDC reports that in 8 out of 10 sexual assaults, the victim knows the perpetrator.

It’s important to know how to protect yourself from sexual assault and if it does happen to you or someone you know, how to survive it. The following questions and answers provide advice on how to be a survivor and not just a victim. Fortunately, there are resources available to help you or someone you care about through the healing process.

What can I do to reduce my risk of being sexually assaulted?
There is no way that any of us can guarantee our safety but there are some precautions that we can take to minimize the risk of being sexually assaulted. Even so, it’s important to realize that sexual assault is never the victim’s fault.

Since most sexual assaults involve people who know each other, consider these tips when out with acquaintances or on a date:

  • Trust your instincts. If you feel uncomfortable, try to remove yourself from the situation immediately.
  • Set limits on sexual activity. It’s okay to speak up when you’ve had enough.
  • Be aware when someone is intruding on your personal space. It may be a sign that they do not respect your boundaries.
  • Go out on group dates when possible to avoid being alone with someone you don’t know that well.
  • Clearly communicate what you want and don’t want.

Sexual assaults can involve a stranger. Keep these tips in mind:

  • Be observant and aware of your surroundings.
  • Walk with confidence.
  • Trust your instincts. If you feel uncomfortable, try to remove yourself from the situation immediately.
  • It’s unfortunate but true: more people will respond to a call to “Fire” rather than “Help.”
  • When in a parking lot, have your keys in your hand before you start walking to your car and once you get in your car, lock your doors immediately. Also, have your keys out and ready when you are going in your house and as soon as you are inside, lock the door behind you.
  • Walk in well-lit areas and drive on well-lit streets.
  • Never hitchhike or pick up hitchhikers.
  • Keep the doors of your house/apartment locked at all times.
  • If you are driving and think that you are being followed, drive to the nearest police station, fire department, or open business.
  • If you have to leave your car at a mechanic/auto body shop or parking garage, leave only the key to your car.

What should I do if I’ve been sexually assaulted?
If you have been sexually assaulted, the first thing to do afterwards is to get to a safe place away from the attacker. Once you’re away from your attacker and in a safe place, follow the steps below:

  • Get medical attention as soon as possible. You can go to a hospital emergency room where you can be checked for injuries and you can receive treatment to prevent pregnancy and STDs. They may be able to conduct a “rape kit” to collect evidence for possible prosecution of the attacker.
  • Do not shower, bathe, or clean yourself in any way or change your clothes. This can all be used as evidence.
  • Call 911 or the police. You can call the police from the hospital.
  • If you think you may have been drugged, you can ask the medical staff to take a urine sample.
  • Call someone to talk to. It can be a friend, a family member, or someone at a hotline. If you’ve been assaulted, it’s very important to talk to someone about how you are feeling – even if you don’t think you want to or need to. There is a national sexual assault hotline that is free and confidential: 1-800-656-HOPE.
  • Write down any details that you remember about the attack and the attacker immediately. Many women are amazed at what they will forget because of the stress and trauma.
  • Remember that it wasn’t your fault.
  • Even if the sexual assault happened a while ago, it’s never too late to get help and it’s always important to talk to someone.
    Remember that it will take time to heal after being sexually assaulted. Talking to someone about how you’re feeling will help you move forward.

Where can I get help?
There are many resources available if you’ve been sexually assaulted. However, sometimes it’s difficult knowing whom to turn to and deciding where to go.

For information on resources and knowing your rights, click:

To find local resources in your state, click:

What can I expect to happen if I have a sexual assault exam?
It may be helpful to bring someone with you to the exam. This can be a friend or someone from a hotline or local women’s center, anyone who can offer support. If you would feel comfortable, you can have someone with you during the exam. The following will occur at an exam:

  • A history will be taken to check for injuries and determine treatment needed for you.
  • A pelvic exam will need to be conducted.
  • With your consent, a “rape kit” will be used to collect evidence. It is possible that the attacker may have left behind evidence (hair, saliva, semen, etc.) that could help in an identification. Swabs will need to be taken from the mouth, genitals, and rectum, along with hair samples. They will check under your fingernails for evidence of the attacker’s blood or skin.
  • Photographs will need to be taken of any bruises and other injuries.
  • Blood tests will be conducted (this is to check for pregnancy and STD’s). It’s important for you to consult with the doctor to review the results of these tests once they are received.
  • Tell the nurse or doctor at any time during the exam if you need to take a break or you want to stop the exam.

The doctor should inform you about emergency contraception (also known as Plan B) to prevent pregnancy. If the doctor doesn’t, and you could possibly get pregnant, you can ask for it yourself. Plan B should be taken within 72 hours to be effective in preventing a pregnancy. Plan B is a form of birth control that works after unprotected sex, not a form of abortion. To get more information on Plan B and find out how to get it, click:

How can I help a friend who has been sexually assaulted?
If you know someone that has been sexually assaulted, they need your support and understanding. Sexual assault is a traumatic experience. Remember that it may take time for your friend to heal both physically and emotionally. Also, many victims of sexual assault don’t report it right away. Those who commit sexual assault are likely to do it again if it is not reported and they are not held accountable for their crimes. These are things you can discuss with your friend. You can also call a hotline to discuss ways to talk to your friend. Most importantly, know that it is not your friend’s fault if they were assaulted and respect their right to make decisions they are comfortable with.

For more information on sexual assault, check out these sites:

For information on date rape drugs, go to:

To read the report Sexual Assault on Campuses: What Colleges and Universities Are Doing About It, click:

About Domestic Violence

Posted in Domestic Violence at 11:08 am by iBlog

Domestic violence (also known as domestic abuse or spousal abuse) occurs when a family member, partner or ex-partner attempts to physically or psychologically dominate another. Domestic violence often refers to violence between spouses, or spousal abuse but can also include cohabitants and non-married intimate partners. Domestic violence occurs in all cultures; people of all races, ethnicities, religions, sexes and classes can be perpetrators of domestic violence. Domestic violence is perpetrated by both men and women.

Domestic violence has many forms, including physical violence, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, intimidation, economic deprivation or threats of violence. Violence can be criminal and includes physical assault (hitting, pushing, shoving, etc.), sexual abuse (unwanted or forced sexual activity), and stalking. Although emotional, psychological and financial abuse are not criminal behaviors, they are forms of abuse and can lead to criminal violence. There are a number of dimensions including mode – physical, psychological, sexual and/or social; frequency – on/off, occasional, chronic; and severity – in terms of both psychological or physical harm and the need for treatment – transitory or permanent injury – mild, moderate, severe up to homicide.

Recent attention to domestic violence began in the women’s movement in the 1970s, as concern about wives being beaten by their husbands gained attention. Awareness and documentation of domestic violence differs from country to country. Estimates are that only about a third of cases of domestic violence are actually reported in the United States and the United Kingdom. In other places with less attention and less support, reported cases would be still lower. According to the Centers for Disease Control, domestic violence is a serious, preventable public health problem affecting more than 32 million Americans, or more than 10% of the U.S. population.

Popular emphasis has tended to be on women as the victims of domestic violence. However, with the rise of the men’s movement, and particularly men’s rights, there is now advocacy for men victimized by women.

The term “intimate partner violence” (IPV) is often used synonymously. Family violence is a broader definition, often used to include child abuse, elder abuse, and other violent acts between family members. Wife abuse, wife beating, and battering are terms sometimes used, though with acknowledgment that many are not actually married to the abuser, but rather co-habiting or other arrangements. In more recent years, ‘battering’ or ‘battered wife’ has become less acceptable terminology, since abuse can take other forms than physical abuse and males are often victims of violence as well. Other forms of abuse may be constantly occurring, while physical abuse happens occasionally. These other forms of abuse have potential to lead to mental illness, self-harm, and even attempts at suicide.

The U.S. Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) defines domestic violence as a “pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner.” Domestic violence can take many forms, including physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional, economic, or and/or psychological abuse.

The Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service in the United Kingdom in its “Domestic Violence Policy” uses domestic violence to refer to a range of violent and abusive behaviours, defining it as:

Patterns of behaviour characterised by the misuse of power and control by one person over another who are or have been in an intimate relationship. It can occur in mixed gender relationships and same gender relationships and has profound consequences for the lives of children, individuals, families and communities. It may be physical, sexual, emotional and/or psychological. The latter may include intimidation, harassment, damage to property, threats and financial abuse.

Forms of abuse

Domestic violence can take the form of physical violence, including direct physical violence ranging from unwanted physical contact to rape and murder. Indirect physical violence may include destruction of objects, striking or throwing objects near the victim, or harm to pets. In addition to physical violence, spousal abuse often includes mental or emotional abuse, including verbal threats of physical violence to the victim, the self, or others including children, ranging from explicit, detailed and impending to implicit and vague as to both content and time frame, and verbal violence, including threats, insults, put-downs, and attacks. Nonverbal threats may include gestures, facial expressions, and body postures. Psychological abuse may also involve economic and/or social control, such as controlling victim’s money and other economic resources, preventing victim from seeing friends and relatives, actively sabotaging victim’s social relationships and isolating victim from social contacts. Spiritual abuse is another form of abuse that may occur.

Physical violence

Physical violence is the intentional use of physical force with the potential for causing injury, harm, disability, or death, for example, hitting, shoving, biting, restraint, kicking, or use of a weapon.

Sexual violence and incest

Sexual violence and incest are divided into three categories:

1. use of physical force to compel a person to engage in a sexual act against their will, whether or not the act is completed;
2. attempted or completed sex act involving a person who is unable to understand the nature or condition of the act, unable to decline participation, or unable to communicate unwillingness to engage in the sexual act, e.g., because of underage immaturity, illness, disability, or the influence of alcohol or other drugs, because of intimidation or pressure, or because of seduction and submission (as in female forms of sexual aggression); and
3. abusive sexual contact.

Emotional abuse

Emotional abuse (also called psychological abuse) can include humiliating the victim, controlling what the victim can and cannot do, withholding information from the victim, deliberately doing something to make the victim feel diminished or embarrassed, isolating the victim from friends and family, and denying the victim access to money or other basic resources.

Women who are being emotionally abused often feel as if they do not own themselves; rather, they may feel that their significant other has nearly total control over them. Women undergoing emotional abuse often suffer from depression, which puts them at increased risk for suicide, eating disorders, and drug and alcohol abuse.

Economic abuse

Economic abuse is when the abuser has complete control over the victim’s money and other economic resources. Usually, this involves putting the victim on a strict “allowance,” withholding money at will and forcing the victim to beg for the money until the abuser gives them some money. It is common for the victim to receive less money as the abuse continues. This also includes (but is not limited to) preventing the victim from finishing education or obtaining employment, or intentionally squandering or misusing communal resources.


In addition, stalking is often included among the types of Intimate Partner Violence. Stalking generally refers to repeated behaviour that causes victims to feel a high level of fear (Tjaden & Thoennes, 2000). However, psychiatrist William Glasser states that fear and all other emotions are self-caused as evidenced by the wide range of emotions two different subjects might have in response to the same incident.



Main article: Domestic violence statistics

Domestic violence occurs across the world, in various cultures, and affects people across society, irrespective of economic status. In the United States, women are about six times as likely as men to experience intimate partner violence.Percent of women surveyed (national surveys) who were ever physically assaulted by an intimate partner: Barbados (30%), Canada (29%), Egypt (34%), New Zealand (35%), Switzerland (21%), United States (22%). Some surveys in specific places report figures as high as 50-70% of women surveyed who were ever physically assaulted by an intimate partner. Others, including surveys in the Philippines and Paraguay, report figures as low as 10%. The rate of intimate partner violence in the U.S. has declined since 1993. Almost always, surveys will undercount actual numbers. Results will also vary, depending on specific wording of survey questions, how the survey is conducted, the definition of abuse or domestic violence used, the willingness or unwillingness of victims to admit that they have been abused and other factors.

Another controversy is the ratio of man and woman experiencing intimate partner violence. For example majority of 418 surveys collected by Martin S. Fiebert shows no differences between violence against man and woman.

Violence against women

Main article: Violence against women

In the United States, 20 percent of all violent crime experienced by women are cases of intimate partner violence, compared to 3 percent of violent crime experienced by men.

During pregnancy

Domestic violence during pregnancy can be missed by medical professionals because it often presents in non-specific ways. A number of countries have been statistically analyzed to calculate the prevalence of this phenomenon:

* UK prevalence: 2.5-3.4%
* USA prevalence: 3.2-33.7%
* Ireland prevalence: 12.5%
* Rates are higher in teenagers
* Severity and frequency increase postpartum (10% antenatally vs. 19% postnatally; 21% at 3 months post partum

There are a number of presentations that can be related to domestic violence during pregnancy: delay in seeking care for injuries; late booking, non-attenders at appointments, self-discharge; frequent attendance, vague problems; aggressive or over-solicitous partner; burns, pain, tenderness, injuries; vaginal tears, bleeding, STDs; and miscarriage.

Domestic violence can also affect the fetus, the subsequent baby, and existing children:

* Pre-birth: prematurity, Premature rupture of membranes, IUD
* Psychosocial: interference in relationship, witnessing of violence, eating and sleeping disorders, emotional neediness, withdrawn, over-compliant, clingy, aggressive, problems at school, suicidal ideation
* Legal: child protection issues, overlap with child abuse
* Long-term chronic ill-health

Violence against men

Little is currently known about the actual number of men who are in a domestic relationship in which they are abused or treated violently by their female or male partners. Few incidents are reported to police, and data is limited. Richard J. Gelles contends that while “mens’ rights groups and some scholars” believe that “battered men are indeed a social problem worthy of attention” and that “there are as many male victims of violence as female”, he states that such beliefs are “a significant distortion of well-grounded research data”. Others show that while feminists’ groups and some scholars believe that battered women are indeed a social problem worthy of attention there is massive data that battered men are the real problem. Each year there are over 3.2 million cases of men being assaulted by their intimate partner. Advocates have theorized that the increase could be due, in part, to the profession of the male victim. For example, many men work for the federal government, police agencies, military, or other jobs that may require some kind of security clearance. Due to the sensitive nature of the jobs, perhaps they are afraid that protecting themselves physical or legally could cause the loss of their jobs. Male victims are often ashamed that others will perceive them as weak or less of a man.There is also a belief that the police will not take the allegation seriously or that they (the man) will be arrested because “only men” are the abusers.

Research shows that men may be more afraid to testify against a woman than a man. Tjaden and Thoennes found that “men living with male intimate partners report more intimate partner violence than do men who live with female intimate partners. Approximately 23 percent of the men who had lived with a man as a couple reported being raped, physically assaulted, and/or stalked by a male cohabitant, while 7.4 percent of the men who had married or lived with a woman as a couple reported such violence by a wife or female cohabitant.” In male/male relationships there may be some shame because of the nature of the relationship (i.e., homosexual).

Violence against children

When it comes to domestic violence towards children involving physical abuse, research in the UK by the NSPCC indicated that “most violence occurred at home (78 per cent) 40- 60% of men and women who abuse other men or women also abuse their children.Girls whose fathers batter their mothers are 6.5 times more likely to be sexually abused by their fathers than are girls from non-violent homes.


There are many different theories as to the causes of domestic violence. These include psychological theories that consider personality traits and mental characteristics of the offender, as well as social theories which consider external factors in the offender’s environment, such as family structure, stress, social learning. As with many phenomena regarding human experience, no single approach appears to cover all cases.

Resource theory

Resource theory was suggested by William Goode (1971).[59] Women who are most dependent on the spouse for economic well being. Having children to take care of, should they leave the marriage, increases the financial burden and makes it all the more difficult for them to leave. Dependency means that they have fewer options and few resources to help them cope with or change their spouse’s behavior.

Couples that share power equally experience lower incidence of conflict, and when conflict does arise, are less likely to resort to violence. If one spouse desires control and power in the relationship, the spouse may resort to abuse. This may include coercion and threats, intimidation, emotional abuse, economic abuse, isolation, making light of the situation and blaming the spouse, using children (threatening to take them away), and behaving as “master of the castle”.

Power and control

In some relationships, violence arises out of a perceived need for power and control, a form of bullying and social learning of abuse. Abusers’ efforts to dominate their partners have been attributed to low self-esteem or feelings of inadequacy, unresolved childhood conflicts, the stress of poverty, hostility and resentment toward women (misogyny), hostility and resentment toward men (misandry), personality disorders, genetic tendencies and sociocultural influences, among other possible causative factors. Most authorities seem to agree that abusive personalities result from a combination of several factors, to varying degrees.

A causalist view of domestic violence is that it is a strategy to gain or maintain power and control over the victim. This view is in alignment with Bancroft’s “cost-benefit” theory that abuse rewards the perpetrator in ways other than, or in addition to, simply exercising power over his or her target(s). He cites evidence in support of his argument that, in most cases, abusers are quite capable of exercising control over themselves, but choose not to do so for various reasons.

An alternative view is that abuse arises from powerlessness and externalizing/projecting this and attempting to exercise control of the victim. It is an attempt to ‘gain or maintain power and control over the victim’ but even in achieving this it cannot resolve the powerlessness driving it. Such behaviours have addictive aspects leading to a cycle of abuse or violence. Mutual cycles develop when each party attempts to resolve their own powerlessness in attempting to assert control.

Questions of power and control are integral to the widely accepted Duluth Domestic Abuse Intervention Project. They developed “Power and Control Wheel” to illustrate this: it has power and control at the center, surrounded by spokes (techniques used), the titles of which include:

* Coercion and threats
* Intimidation
* Emotional abuse
* Isolation
* Minimizing, denying and blaming
* Using children
* Economic abuse
* Male privilege

The model attempts to address abuse by one-sidedly challenging the misuse of power by the ‘perpetrator’.

Critics of this model suggest that the one-sided focus is problematic as resolution can only be achieved when all participants acknowledge their responsibilities, and identify and respect mutual purpose.

The power wheel model is not intended to assign personal responsibility, enhance respect for mutual purpose or assist victims and perpetrators in resolving their differences. It is an informational tool designed to help individuals understand the dynamics of power operating in abusive situations and identify various methods of abuse.

Alcohol-related and non-alcohol related violence

Other factors associated with domestic violence include heavy alcohol consumption, mental illneness, classism, various political and legal characteristics such as authoritarianism and dehumanisation.

Research has shown that alcohol-related violence is related to higher levels of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) testosterone (and therefore could theoretically benefit from treatment with anti-androgenic agents). On the other hand, non-alcohol related domestic violence is related to significantly reduced levels of spinal 5-HIAA – a serotonin metabolite, suggesting that non-alcohol related domestic violence may benefit from treatment with medications like selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs)

Sex and gender

Modes of abuse are stereotyped by some to be gendered, females tending to use more psychological and men more physical forms. The visibility of these differs markedly. However, experts who work with victims of domestic violence have noted that physical abuse is almost invariably preceded by psychological abuse. Police and hospital admission records indicate that a higher percentage of females than males seek treatment and report such crimes.

Unless or until more men identify themselves and go on record as having been abused by female partners, and in a manner whereby the nature and extent of their injuries can be clinically assessed, men will continue to be identified as the most frequent perpetrators of physical and emotional violence.

See also the section “Gender Differences” in this article, and some of the statistics in the subsection “U.S.” in the “Statistics” section.

Cycle of violence

Frequently, domestic violence is used to describe specific violent and overtly abusive incidents, and legal definitions will tend to take this perspective. However, when violent and abusive behaviours happen within a relationship, the effects of those behaviours continue after these overt incidents are over. Advocates and counsellors will refer to domestic violence as a pattern of behaviours, including those listed above.

Lenore Walker presented the model of a Cycle of Violence which consists of three basic phases:

Honeymoon Phase
Characterized by affection, apology, and apparent end of violence. During this stage the batterer feels overwhelming feelings of remorse and sadness. Some batterers walk away from the situation, while others shower their victims with love and affection.
Tension Building Phase
Characterized by poor communication, tension, fear of causing outbursts. During this stage the victims try to calm the batterer down, to avoid any major violent confrontations.
Acting-out Phase
Characterized by outbursts of violent, abusive incidents. During this stage the batterer attempts to dominate his/her partner(victim), with the use of domestic violence.

Although it is easy to see the outbursts of the Acting-out Phase as abuse, even the more pleasant behaviours of the Honeymoon Phase serve to perpetuate the abuse. See also the cycle of abuse article.

Many domestic violence advocates believe that the cycle of violence theory is limited and does not reflect the realities of many men and women experiencing domestic violence.

Gender differences

The role of gender is a controversial topic related to the discussion of domestic violence.

Erin Pizzey, the founder of an early women’s shelter in Chiswick, London, has expressed her dismay at how she believes the issue has become a gender-political football, and expressed an unpopular view in her book Prone to Violence that some women in the refuge system had a predisposition to seek abusive relationships. She also expressed the view that domestic violence can occur against any vulnerable intimates, regardless of their gender.

A Freudian concept, repetition compulsion, has also come up in modern psychology as a possible cause of a woman who was abused in childhood seeking an abusive man (or vice versa), theoretically as a misguided way to “master” their traumatic experience.