Sexual Assault

What is Sexual Assault?

Sexual Assault is an umbrella term that describes any type of sexual activity that lacks consent. This includes unwanted sexual touching, rape, attempted rape, and sexual abuse.

Rape is defined as forcible sexual intercourse without the person’s consent. Sexual intercourse refers to oral, vaginal or anal penetration by a body part or an object. Washington State Law uses the term rape and divides the law into three degrees listed in the Revised Code of Washington.

The majority of rapes are committed by someone known to the survivor as an acquaintance, friend or dating partner. It usually does not involve weapons or extreme physical force. Often sexual assault involves one person ignoring the other’s protest and forcing intercourse without consent.

Victims and Survivors

People who have experienced sexual violence may identify as victims or survivors depending on where they are in the healing process. This term can have negative connotations by misrepresenting someone as passive, defeated and powerless. Because victims of sexual violence exhibit incredible strength, resiliency and ability to heal, we prefer to use the word survivor.

Survivor is a term that represents strength, empowerment, resiliency, healing and growth that each victim experiences in a unique way. We aim to help “victims” make the transition to “survivors” by regaining control of their lives and moving forward with the healing process.

Washington State Laws for Rape

The following are brief summaries of the laws in Washington State. For more complete information see the Revised Code of Washington (RCW) section Title 9A Washington Criminal Code. The law is gender neutral and recognizes that rape occurs between members of the same or opposite sex. The law only recognizes marital rape in the first and second degree.

Rape in the First Degree

The perpetrator engages in forcible sexual intercourse without the victim’s consent, where the perpetrator:

  • Uses or threatens a weapon or
  • Kidnaps the victim or
  • Inflicts serious physical injury or
  • Enters into a building/ car where the victim is located.

Rape in the first degree is a class A felony punishable by up to life in prison and/or a $50,000 fine.

Rape in the Second Degree

The perpetrator engages in forcible sexual intercourse without the victim’s consent, where:

  • Perpetrator uses forcible compulsion;
  • Victim is incapable of consent because he or she is physically helpless, mentally incapacitated or developmentally disabled.

Rape in the second degree is a class A felony punishable by up to life in prison and/or a $50,000 fine.

Rape in the Third Degree

The perpetrator engages in forcible sexual intercourse without the victim’s consent, where:

  • Victim’s lack of consent was expressed by words or conduct or
  • Perpetrator threatens substantial harm to victim’s property.

Rape in the third degree is a class C felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison and/or a $10,000 fine.

Indecent Liberties

The perpetrator engages in forcible sexual contact without the victim’s consent, where:

  • Perpetrator uses forcible compulsion;
  • Victim is incapable of consent because he or she is physically helpless, mentally incapacitated or developmentally disabled.

This is similar to rape in the second degree but refers to sexual contact that excludes sexual intercourse. Indecent liberties is a class A felony.

Getting Help If You’ve Been Sexually Assaulted

Believe in yourself

Remember that no matter what the circumstances, you are not to blame for what happened to you. Give yourself permission to do what you need to do to take care of yourself.

Tell someone you trust for support

This could be anyone, so think about who would be the most supportive. This person may be a good listener or be able to provide resources and options.

Trust your instincts

Don’t downplay the danger. If you feel unsafe, you probably are. Take threats seriously.

Develop a safety plan, if needed

This includes things like deciding who you can call when you need help, changing your daily routine, arranging for a place to stay and using the buddy system. The SARIS Specialist or UW Police Department Crime Victim Advocate can help you create a safety plan.

Seek medical care

Medical care after a sexual assault can be helpful for treating or preventing illness and injury. Generally, you want to have tests done as soon as possible. Having a medical exam within 120 hours is best for collecting physical evidence of the sexual assault. Even if you are not sure you are ready to file a police report, it may be reassuring to have the evidence if you decide to press charges later. Explore all of your options for testing and medical care.

Contact SARIS for support, advocacy and resources

The SARIS specialist listens and supports all students by providing a confidential place to discuss sexual assault, relationship violence, stalking and related issues. The SARIS specialist can assist you in reporting to the police and in exploring and arranging for counseling, academic help or changes in living situations.

Report to the police

If you decide to report to the police, you can call the UW Police Department and the police officer will meet you in a location of your choice. You can also contact SARIS to review your reporting options. It is your decision to file a report or to go forward with an investigation, and you do not have to make it immediately. However, if you decide to file a report, it would be advantageous to your case to do this as soon as possible. If you are making an immediate police report, evidence may be preserved in the following ways: do not wash, bathe, or brush your teeth; don’t remove sheets or clothes; and don’t straighten up or touch anything in the area where the assault took place.

Report to the University

Sexual assault, sexual harassment, physical abuse and threats are violations of the UW Student Conduct Code. Community Standards and Student Conduct (CSSC) can help you make a formal report and determine if the University can take action for these behaviors. You may want to talk to a lawyer or legal advocate about civil lawsuits and other options.

Seek supportive counseling

Regardless of whether you get a medical exam or report the assault, you may want help dealing with the impact of the assault. The Counseling Center and Hall Health Mental Health are resources on campus. SARIS can also provide referrals to off-campus community services.

Resources

On Campus

Local

National

References

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