Sexual assault, rape, stalking, domestic violence, abuse and sexual coercion are all major problems in our society. They also happen too often, with 1 in 5 women reporting that they have been victims of rape or attempted rape, and 1 in 4 reporting having been beaten by a partner. What’s scary to me, though, isn’t just that statistic. It’s how many women I know who have realized what happened to them well after the fact. 

In this study, the women were self-reporting, but what about the women who did not yet understand what had happened to them? How many are there, and how would their experiences impact these statistics? What about the women who didn't feel comfortable admitting their experiences?And what of the men and non-binary folks? How many people- not just women- have experienced these things? Between sexual assault, rape, coercion, stalking and partner violence, I would imagine that nearly everyone has experienced at least one of these things. Yet they’re still associated with shame and shrouded in mystery. So, here is a comprehensive guide to seeing if what happened to you did, in fact, count.


Stalking: Stalking is repeatedly watching, following, threatening, and/or harassing someone to the point that they feel afraid and unsafe. Stalking can manifest in obsessive, destructive, and overly-interested behaviors, such as unsolicited calls, texts, emails, gifts, visits or the destruction of property and spreading of lies and rumors regarding the target of the stalking.  For further clarification or advice on what to do if being stalked, visit this link.

Sexual assault: Sexual assault is when a person is forced to participate or be acted upon sexually against their will. The term “explicit consent” is often used in definitions, in that an act could be qualified as sexual assault if this form of consent was not given. This could be touching, kissing, or other similar acts. RAINN is a particularly useful resource when it comes to this.

Sexual coercion: Similar to sexual assault, this is when someone is made to do something sexual or let something sexual be done to them either by being persuaded, manipulated or lied to. For example, this meme:

This a, rather horrifying, depiction of sexual coercion. If you agreed to sex under one circumstance but it happened under another, you were coerced.

Domestic violence/abuse: When one partner intentionally does physical harm to the other person in the relationship, that is an instance of domestic violence. Abuse can take multiple forms- emotional, physical, mental, et cetera. Your partner could manipulate your emotions, consistently put you down or cause you bodily harm, and regardless of which they did, they’d be abusing you.

Rape: Rape is a form of sexual assault in which one person (or multiple people) has sex with an unwilling individual. It is typically thought of as a man forcing himself on a woman, but in truth, a person of any gender can be a rape victim or a rapist. Once again, RAINN is a great resource for those who have had the experience of being raped to help cope and work through the resulting difficulties.

To conclude, here’s a good rule of thumb: if you in any way feel uncomfortable/scared/ashamed/confused/upset about what happened with a partner, then seek out information and support to determine exactly what occurred. Taking action does not make you any less of a person or subject you to victimization. If your experience matches up with any of the above terms, please refer to the resources provided in this article.


Images c/o: Pinterest, quickmeme.com

Support Feminist Media! During these troubling political times, independent feminist media is more vital than ever. If our bold, uncensored reporting on women’s issues is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $25, $50, or whatever you can afford, to protect and sustain BUST.com. Thanks so much—we can’t spell BUST without U.