There is often a lot of controversy surrounding rape charges and allegations, and what is “constituted” as sexual assault. There is a lot of confusion between the two terms. To clarify, I would like to break this concept down into its bare-bones, bite sized pieces. Sexual assault a small word with a large meaning, and has very high-stakes for all of those involved. First and foremost, sexual assault is nationally and federally recognized as: “Any type of sexual contact or behaviors that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient. Falling under the definition of sexual assault are sexual activities such as, forced sexual intercourse, forced sodomy, child molestation, incest, fondling, and attempted rape.” That, definition, from the U.S. Department of Justice, states blatantly that, touching a person without their consent is illegal, and is a sexual assault charge. The crazy and confusing word here is, behavior. Behavior can be anything. It can be physical or it can be verbal, because as we know it well, children that throw tantrums have “bad behavior”. When children use vulgar language, that is
Let’s bring this concept to life though. The “trending” topic this week is our, how do I put this, eloquently spoken, Presidential hopeful, Donald Trump, and his comments from 2005. His words, verbatim, “I just start kissing them…I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab them by the pussy. I can do anything”. These statements, are more than just statements. These lewd, crude and disrespectful statements are based upon actions that he is allegedly guilty of pursuing on multiple women, including a minor. But at the very base of it all, it is textbook sexual assault. His sexual behaviors towards women, the words he is saying, are intimidation techniques often seen by abusers in domestic violence relationships.
I understand if the jump from one to the other was not followed, so I’ll break that down again. The words he chose are verbs, action words. GRAB: to seize suddenly or quickly; to take illegal possession of; seize forcibly or unscrupulously. In these terms, to “grab her pussy”, insinuates that, without permission or consent, to quickly or forcibly obtain possession of a women’s genitalia. That is an unprompted, nonconsensual sexual behavior in both verbal and physical terms. Let’s take another example. “I can do anything”. CAN: to know how to; to have the power or means to; to have the right or qualifications to; to have permission to. In this context, he is speaking of his ability to treat that specific woman, or any woman if we are speaking in context, in a manner in which he does not respect their wishes. ‘I can do anything’, is a bold statement relating to someone’s inability to stop him. That is a threatening statement towards any person, stating that their opinion or attempts to stop an act doesn’t matter. This is the type of statement that sexual assault victims hear all too often.
Bringing things back to where they started, that was simply the federal definition. Sexual assault is any form of sexual behavior or action that consists of a non consenting party. Rape, on the other hand, is sexual penetration of any orifice with any body part or inanimate object. Rape, is covered under the sexual assault blanket, but there does not need to be a rape for an action to be sexual assault. There is a big difference between sexual assault and rape, because rape is one action and sexual assault covers many.
Now that these issues are at the top of the political debates, social media, and news outlets, people are speaking out about it. There are more women and men openly talking about situations of all types of sexual assault that they have encountered, than ever before. This deplorable act, has actually began a revolution. Having such a high-stakes accusation made to someone that has maintained daily spotlight on every news source for over a year, created an openness for others struggling to find the light in their darkness, feel acceptance, and that they Ending the Silence Together 10.13.2016 will be met with empathy instead of aggression. Here is to a new protection for all survivors everywhere. Here is to people not immediately assuming every survivor is lying for revenge or financial gains. It can happen to anyone, and truthfully, I don’t know of any single person that has not endured some type of inappropriate comment, touching, or interaction in their lifetime. Here is to eliminating the silence.
Written By: Marissa Faye Cohen