Much has been said of late about sexual assault so I decided to educate myself about how the law defines it in my state. My good friend Alice, a brilliant and respected attorney, sent me the NC Statutes regarding Rape and Sexual Assault. You can read them in their entirety here: NC General Statutes – Chapter 14 Article 7B For the purposes of this post, I am limiting my focus to Sexual Battery.
In understanding the Statute, certain Definitions are given and, once again I list here those most pertinent to this post and you can click the link above to see them in full.
- (5) “Sexual contact” means (i) touching the sexual organ, anus, breast, groin, or buttocks of any person, (ii) a person touching another person with their own sexual organ, anus, breast, groin, or buttocks, or (iii) a person ejaculating, emitting, or placing semen, urine, or feces upon any part of another person.
- (6) “Touching” as used in subdivision (5) of this section, means physical contact with another person, whether accomplished directly, through the clothing of the person committing the offense, or through the clothing of the victim. (1979, c. 682, s. 1; 2002-159, s. 2(a); 2003-252, s. 1; 2006-247, s. 12(a); 2015-181, s. 2.)
I now skip to:
§ 14-27.33. Sexual battery.
(a) A person is guilty of sexual battery if the person, for the purpose of sexual arousal, sexual gratification, or sexual abuse, engages in sexual contact with another person:
- (1) By force and against the will of the other person; or
- (2) Who is mentally disabled, mentally incapacitated, or physically helpless, and the person performing the act knows or should reasonably know that the other person is mentally disabled, mentally incapacitated, or physically helpless.
(b) Any person who commits the offense defined in this section is guilty of a Class A1 misdemeanor. (2003-252, s. 2; 2015-181, s. 15.)
I have been a victim of sexual assault at least three times in my life. I didn’t know it at the time it was happening because I was young, naive, uninformed, and completely unprepared to respond to such an assault. But I knew something was happening to me that I did not encourage or willingly participate in. Something that made me feel violated.
One day while going up the stairs in my high school, a male classmate reached up and grabbed my ass. Naturally I pulled away as he laughed, and I ran up the stairs thoroughly embarrassed.
Also while in high school at a friend’s house, her father cornered me and tried to kiss me when she left the room. Luckily I was able to pull away, and I made sure that I was never in the room alone with him again. It felt terrifying but how could I tell my friend that her father was assaulting me when I didn’t even know how to define it?
While in college, my boyfriend’s grandfather copped a feel of my breast after he “sweetly” pulled me down to sit on his lap. Of course I jumped up horrified but was too embarrassed to tell my boyfriend that his sweet little old grandfather had just assaulted me when his back was turned.
My point in all this? Groping, fondling, unwanted touching, whatever you want to call it, IS sexual assault. The victim and the assailant may be fully clothed. Not by my opinion, but by the law. Considering that I am just an ordinary person living an ordinary life, it got me wondering how many other women, just like me, have also been victims of this kind of sexual assault during their lifetimes? I think if all women were honest, the number would be staggering.
Why is this so? I believe it is because we live in a society that does not have a mindset of zero tolerance regarding all forms of sexual assault. Everyone seems to agree that rape is abhorrent and wrong but groping is viewed as innocent male “horseplay,” something that boys and men can laugh about in the “locker room.” It doesn’t really “hurt” anybody and it isn’t a “big deal” so women should just “get over it.”
And many women do endure it and are silent on the matter. Especially since in most instances boys and men take advantage of young naive girls and women who are in some way in their control or under their power of influence. Males also use the element of surprise and assault women in public places catching them alone and off guard.
So what can be done? First of all, women can end their silence if they have been a victim of sexual assault because speaking out is an act of empowerment. (This is happening now among online social groups like pantsuit Nation.) Secondly, men and women of integrity can work to raise our standards of decency and respect by demanding a zero tolerance of any form of sexual assault. Not only of ourselves, but of our school and business leaders and especially our elected officials. Religious leaders, here-to-for virtually silent on the matter, should be the most vocal and outspoken advocates of a zero tolerance society.
Finally, we must teach young girls to know what sexual assault is and to know their rights should they be a victim. We must give them tools to help them protect themselves, make them pro-active and prepared. We must embolden them to speak up and not be silent. We must all lead by example.
Dear Readers, have you been a victim of sexual assault? If so, without details would you share something of your experience? What are your thoughts and suggestions on how we can work together to end our society’s casual and cavalier tolerance of sexual battery?
Let’s keep this discussion going among our family, friends, co-workers, and elected officials. Please share this post via email or Facebook.