What is Sexual Assault? Unpacking Its Definition

Author : Daisy Magana
September 24, 2020

What is Sexual Assault? Unpacking Its Definition

In light of recent accusations of sexual assault against Erick Morillo, Bassnectar and Billy Kenny, it’s important we all understand the definition of sexual assault and are able to fully contextualize it within the music space. Sexual assault is a form of sexual violence and can be defined in different ways. But first and foremost, the thing to fully grasp is this: it is never the victim’s fault, period. Drugs and alcohol are commonplace in the music industry and nightlife in general, and all too often non-consensual drugging plays a role in sexual assaults. Regardless, whether non-consensual drugging takes place or not, victim-blaming remains commonplace with “responsibility” for the assault levied on the victim’s use of alcohol and drugs, rather than on the perpetrator of the assault. This is not ok and has been used far too long to justify predatory behavior that we must eradicate not just from the music space, but from society at large.

Despite the rampant substance (ab)use in the music space, we, its community members, need to start denormalizing rape culture and violence against our community members, and in particular women and trans.

What is Considered Sexual Assault?

People use drugs and alcohol as an attempt to blur the lines around sexual consent. Let’s make this clear. If force or coercion was used and the actions were nonconsensual (not wanted or agreed to), an assault occurred. There are no “but they came over” or “we were all having a good time” excuses that will ever justify sexual assault.

Forms of Sexual Assault

Sexual assault can take many forms of unwanted sexual activity including:

  • attempted rape
  • fondling
  • unwanted sexual contact or touching
  • forcing a victim to perform sexual acts (i.e. oral penetration or other forms of sex)
  • rape: unlawful sexual intercourse or penetration of the victim’s body by a body part or object

However, sexual assault doesn’t only involve physical force but it can also come in unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or sexually suggestive physical or verbal behaviors. The latter is considered sexual harassment and is still a type of sexual violence.

Important Considerations

Regardless of whether people were partying or not, and even if a perpetrator thought it was okay, situations can change. Have you never changed your mind about something? Exactly. A person can change their mind about consenting to sexual acts at any time, and just because they were comfortable with something that doesn’t give a green light for everything. Anything done in the past is just that, history. To use past experiences as a hall pass is not okay.

Sexual assault can happen anywhere. In the home, at work, on college campuses and most definitely at parties, nightclubs, music festivals, green rooms or the home of your “favorite” DJ.

Know Your Rights, Break the Silence

A sexual assault survivor has the right to report any form of unwelcome sexual advance. You can, and should, seek legal action to prevent a perpetrator from inflicting further harm. While the road to recovery can be long and painful (emotionally, mentally and physically) seeking legal action can help give peace of mind. It gives power back to the survivors. Many cases go unreported due to fear of not being believed or others finding out, but submitting a report even if you don’t file a claim can help protect others. Knowing the perpetrator or being in a relationship with them are other common reasons why many cases go unreported.

Here’s What to Do

Seek safety and support. Reach out to your close group of friends or find a place that makes you feel safe. This can be anywhere from a police station to a good friend’s house. Sexual assault has an adverse impact on your mental health, so if you’re with someone who’s experienced this know they can be experiencing an emotional and psychological shock. Consider not only seeking medical care but reach out to your states’ resources. They often have certified advocates and hotlines, support centers.

You can also reach out to the National Sexual Assault Hotline for professional support at (800) 656-HOPE (4673).

It is totally up to the victim to seek legal action. Each state has a statute of limitations, so the best way of obtaining information on how long you have to file a sexual assault claim is by contacting a sexual assault attorney.

If you’re searching for advice on what to do after a sexual assault, consider this step-by-step guide for a detailed overview of what to do immediately following the incident, your rights, sexual assault laws in your state, and how to seek help with filing a sexual assault claim. CLICK HERE FOR THE GUIDE