Let’s Talk About Sexual Assault

When you look up the legal definition of sexual assault the U.S. Department of Health tells you:

Sexual assault is any type of forced or coerced sexual contact or behavior that happens without consent. Sexual assault includes rape and attempted rape, child molestation, and sexual harassment or threats. In the United States, nearly one in five women has been raped, and almost half of women have experienced another type of sexual assault. If you have been sexually assaulted, it is not your fault.

But what if your experience doesn’t fall in the legal definition; then what is it? If you felt assaulted or sexually violated does that not constitute sexual assault?

I’ve been following a few conversations on social media where I’ve watched people disagree about what constitutes sexual assault. Not just people, but women.

Some women have said if someone does something to you that’s sexual in nature, against your will, without your consent, it’s sexual assault. Other women have said that sexual assault is too harsh of a statement in say a situation where maybe dancing in the club went too far.

READ: Spelman Student Starts Anonymous Twitter Account to Safely Reveal Rape On Campus

The argument seems to be that a man could have “misread signals” or things “got out of hand”, but at the end of the day that language belittles how a victim may feel. Not only that but in an effort to not assassinate a man’s character it belittles what a man may have done. That way of thinking is the small scale version of the Stanford rapist’s protection for his “first offense.”

So where do we go from here? Can you call an unwarranted act that made you sexually uncomfortable as a woman, sexual assault? If you’re not allowed to call it sexual assault, then what are you allowed to call it? How do you classify and categorize a feeling in a way that you can make people understand that you were indeed violated, your personal being assaulted?

READ: Siri Now Takes Rape Claims More Seriously

There are situations that I can look back on and genuinely regret not allowing myself to categorize it as sexual assault or harassment, because I thought it was “too harsh.” In the moment the word seemed unfit to classify what happened, because I’d operated under the belief that it was simply my own discomfort and therefore my sole burden to bare. So does the firm definition of sexual assault scare us away from using it to describe our violations?

Where does the conversation start? If we as women can’t collectively come to a consensus on how not to police other women’s bodies and pain then how do we make sure that men can’t find their way into the cracks in our foundation?

We want to know how you feel, what would you consider sexual assault and are there times when that language isn’t necessary? Sound Off! 


Ariel Leconte

Ariel Leconte

Ariel is the Associate Editor of Jawbreaker and creator of Revolutionary In Pink Pumps blog. She is equally obsessed with social justice, lipstick, culture, and red wine.