Silence and a general lack of knowledge about intimate or domestic violence and sexual assault contribute to the problem. Education is the first step toward eliminating intimate violence. Learning about the issue will help us make personal changes that set a positive example for family, friends, and others around us. Spreading awareness will help shed light on the issues and altogether help our communities understand and evolve.
What Is Sexual Violence?
Often when we hear the term sexual assault, we think of rape. Sexual assault, sexual violence, molestation, domestic violence, and intimate violence are umbrella terms that include rape as well as other behaviors. The National Center for Injury Prevention and Control defines sexual violence as “a sexual act committed by another person without freely given consent of the victim or against someone who is unable to consent or refuse.” Sexual assault is never acceptable and it includes but is not limited to:
- Rape. The act of sex without clear consent from both partners.
- Attempted rape
- Unwanted touching or fondling
- Unwanted or forced kissing
- Forcing someone to perform any sexual act, including oral sex
What is Consent?
A crucial part in healthy relationships and sexual activity has to include clarification around how partners agree or consent to engage in sexual activity and how a person expresses what they want or don’t want. The term “no means no” is easy to understand. It’s as simple as asking do you want tea or no tea.
- Explicit – There is no confusion or assumptions. She/he didn’t say “no” is not an acceptable form of consent.
- Checking in along the way – Consenting to one sexual activity, one time isn’t consent for increased or repeated sexual activity. Slow down and make sure you are both still on the same page.
- You can change your mind along the way.
Consent Is Not:
- Hesitation, silence or giving in to pressure
- Being flirty or dressing up does not = consent
- Agreeing to sex while under the influence of alcohol or drugs
- Being with someone under the legal age of consent
What Is Relationship Abuse?
Relationship abuse, sometimes called domestic violence, exists on a spectrum. This means that abusive behaviors can range from the obvious, things like physical violence, to less obvious but more insidious behaviors, like manipulation and “gaslighting.” This can mean that relationship abuse, especially some of the more subtle forms, can be difficult to identify. Here are some red flags that suggest your partner may be abusing you:
- Falsely accusing you, particularly of some sort of infidelity or deception
- Checking your phone or email, particularly without your permission
- Insulting you or putting you down
- Making you think that you are unlovable
- Isolating you from your friends, family or other support networks
- Attempting to control you or tell you what you can and cannot do
- Using a tracking device, possibly on your cell phone, to track your movements
- Displaying extreme jealousy or insecurity
- Displaying possessive behavior
- Displaying inordinate mood swings or a violent temper
- “Gaslighting” you (causing you to doubt your own perceptions)
- Physically hurting you in any way
- Treating you like your feelings, desires or ideas are not valid
- Forcing or otherwise pressuring you to have sex
While not all of these behaviors indicate sexual assault, they are all indicators of domestic or relationship violence and should be taken seriously.
What are the Qualities of a Healthy Relationship?
In contrast to a relationship characterized by abuse, a healthy relationship is one in which both partners communicate. They are both able to speak up and feel confident that they will be heard. In general, healthy relationships are relationships in which both partners:
- Speak up. If something is bothering you or causing you concern, you should be able to speak to your partner and know that you will be listened to compassionately
- Respect one another. In a healthy relationship, both partners respect one another as individuals. Both partners also respect one another’s feelings in a healthy relationship, even if they happen to feel differently about something.
- Compromise. It’s natural that partners sometimes disagree. In a healthy relationship, partners can calmly discuss these disagreements and reach a compromise that suits both parties. If one party always gets his way and the other party always caves in, that is not compromised.
- Respect one another’s privacy. Being in a relationship, even a serious one, does not mean that two partners have to share everything. It’s ok to spend time alone; it’s ok to have interests and hobbies that your partner doesn’t necessarily share.
- Support one another. In a healthy relationship, both individuals offer encouragement and reassurance to one another. They build one another up, rather than put one another down.
What Resources Are Available?
If you or someone you know has survived sexual assault or is living with domestic/relationship abuse, there are a number of resources available.
The state of Alaska’s Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault offers a number of resources for Alaskan residents:
- Stand Up, Speak Up Alaska is a program aimed specifically at teen dating violence. Weekly webinars are offered through this program.
- Alaska Men Choose Respect is a program designed to encourage men to address and reduce violence of all types in their communities.
- The Choose Respect Campaign is a wonderful program designed to educate all Alaskans about sexual assault and relationship violence. This is a tremendous resource, especially for those who are unsure whether they are in a safe, healthy relationship.
- Green Dot Alaska is another resource focused on educating with a goal towards preventing sexual assault and relationship violence.
- RAINN is a nation-wide resource for sexual assault survivors. Their national hotline is 800-656-HOPE. Don’t hesitate to call if you are a sexual assault survivor.
- Sunshine Community Health Center can help people who have experienced domestic violence by addressing the emotional, logistical, and physical barriers to healing. Our Behavioral Health Specialists are equipped to provide a variety of therapeutic options to treat trauma.
- Families in Crisis Fund is funded by the Talkeetna Bachelor Society and may provide financial help for those who experience violence.