Featured

graphic for Immediate Help Resources which links to the Resource Directory page

News & Events

Department Image

Know the Facts - Rape and Sexual Assault

Know the Facts

Crimes Against Women

What is Rape?

Learn the Facts

Take Action Now

Know What to Do After a Rape

What PSU is Doing




Sexual Assault Awareness... Because rape is everyone's problem.

Rape is not just just a women's problem. Nor is rape just something that happens to someone else, somewhere else. It happens everywhere, every day, every minute to people of all ages. Family and friends of the victim are also affected. We are all affected. Rape is the result of a culture that promotes male dominance and views women as inferior beings. It's the extreme expression of a continuum of sexist behaviors that inhibit women from having equal access to opportunities; these behaviors range from sex-role stereotyping and sexist remarks and jokes to sex-based discrimination and, ultimately, to actual sexual harassment and violence against women.

Rape is a significant problem on college campuses across the nation, where most victims are acquainted with their assailants. At Penn State approximately 100 students sought assistance for sexual assault during the 1996-97 academic year.* Most of these students (80 percent) knew the person who attacked them. Alcohol was involved in at least 70 percent of the cases. The effects of rape on these student victims can be devastating, creating emotional, trauma-related difficulties and, consequently, disrupting or ending their academic careers. In fact, in 1996-97 three students at Penn State planned to withdraw from the University and two became pregnant as a result of their experience.

*All data about sexual assault is compiled by the Sexual Assault Committee from reports submitted by staff who provide direct services to student victims of sexual assault. Incidents were not investigated, except when reported to the police. Incidents are not categorized based on legal criminal definitions.

What Is the Crime of Rape?

According to Pennsylvania law, rape, which is a first-degree felony, is sexual intercourse obtained:

* "Forcible compulsion" is defined as "compulsion by use of physical, intellectual, moral, emotional, or psychological force, either expressed or implied," and does not require that the victim resists the offender.

Sexual assault, which is a second-degree felony, consists of non-consensual sexual intercourse. Sexual intercourse includes vaginal, anal, or oral sex. There must be some penetration, however slight, but ejaculation is not necessary.

Aggravated indecent assault, also a second-degree felony, consists of penetration of the genitals or anus by a part of the offender's body without consent.

Indecent assault is unwanted touching of intimate parts of the body and is a second-degree misdemeanor.

Rape and sexual assault can be committed by a stranger, acquaintance, close friend, relative, date, or a spouse. Alcohol or other drug use can impair an individual's ability to give consent. The penalties range from imprisonment for up to two years for indecent assault to imprisonment for up to ten years for sexual assault and twenty years for rape, in addition to fines and restitution. The statute of limitations for reporting rape, sexual assault, and aggravated indecent assault is five years and two years for reporting indecent assault.

back to top


How to Deal With Rape: Learn the Facts

Myths about rape are pervasive in our culture. They function to discredit victims and make them feel personally responsible so they will not report the rape. Myths also give women a false sense of security and disinhibit the behavior of rapists. Replacing myths with facts is the first step in altering the conditions that lead to rape.

MYTH: Rape can't happen to me or to someone I know.
FACT: Rape victims come from all socioeconomic classes and ethnic backgrounds and range in age from 3 months to 97 years. Men and boys can be victims, too. The highest rape victimization rate is for women between the ages of 16 and 19; the second highest is for women between the ages of 20 and 24. The average age of sexual assault victims at Penn State is 19.

MYTH: Most rapes are committed by strangers in a dark place at night.
FACT: Approximately 80% of the students who sought services for sexual assault at Penn State were assaulted by an acquaintance. National data also indicate that most sexual assaults and rapes are committed by someone the woman knows. Rape can take place anywhere, at any time. Many acquaintance rapes occur in the context of a dating relationship and typically take place on the man's turf. For college women, their normal social environment - a party where alcohol is used - involves more of a risk for sexual victimization than does walking alone down a dark street.

MYTH: Rape is a sexual crime, impulsively committed by a man for sexual gratification.
FACT: Rape is a crime of violence and aggression. Its intent is to overpower, degrade, and humiliate the victim.

MYTH: Women provoke rape by how they behave, dress, or where they choose to go. Rape is the victim's fault.
FACT: Rape is never the victim's fault. If a woman wants to be involved sexually with a man, it would not be necessary for him to use force or threats of physical violence. Research shows that rapists look for available women they perceive as vulnerable.

MYTH: In a dating situation, when a woman says "no," she really means "yes."
FACT: "No" means No.

MYTH: Women report rapes to get even with men or to protect their reputations.
FACT: According to the FBI, fewer than 2 percent of reports of rapes are false, which is the same percentage for the false reporting of other crimes. In fact, anywhere from 50 to 90 percent of all rapes are not reported to the police. During 1996-97, only 18% of student victims of sexual assault at Penn State reported their experience to local or campus police.

back to top


Take Action

Women and Men:

Women:

Men:

back to top


Know What to Do When Someone Is Raped

No matter how careful you or your friends are, it may not be possible to prevent a rape. Then it becomes important to know what to do to help yourself or a friend feel safe again. Remember, it is not your fault or her fault. No one asks to be raped, and no one deserves it.

After a rape occurs, a female victim should:

204 Boucke Building | 814.863.2027 | Contact the Center for Women Students