This Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month, RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network) asked, “What can you do in April?” This simple question prompted me to connect with author Jessica Yaffa regarding this blog post. A survivor of abuse, Jessica recently released her powerful memoir, Mine Until: My Journey Into and Out of the Arms of an Abuser. While surfing Jessica’s website, I noticed that she gives a presentation called, “When is it rape?” I instantly knew that her answer to this question had the potential to help many of those who have read my books. So, I asked Jessica to discuss the topic here. Thanks, Jessica, for sharing your courageous testimony and for guiding others to freedom.
When is it Rape?
by Jessica Yaffa
Over eighty percent of sexual assault survivors report knowing their perpetrator. Even more, thousands of young men and women also express feelings of confusion surrounding the existence of rape within the context of relationship. In my own experience, as well as the experiences that have been shared with me by thousands of young people around the globe, there continues to be a stigma that exists around sexual assault period. It is imperative that we stand up regarding acquaintance rape and sexual exploitation in relationships in order to ensure that we, our friends, those we love, and our communities get clear about the fact that no means no, including when we are in an intimate relationship. Whether we are coerced into having sex by our partner, a friend, a complete stranger, or even a drug, engaging in sexual activity that isn’t 100 percent consensual is assault.
In order to change the way we react and respond, we must honor our bodies, trust our intuition, and ensure that we are being respected by those we care about. Ultimately, we need to create room in our friendships (and our relationships with family) for conversations about sexual assault. We are never obligated to have sex, even if we’ve done so with the same partner before, or consider the person who is perpetrating unwanted touching/sexual advances someone we know and care about.
In addition, we are each responsible for being a safe space to talk about this important topic in the event that a friend or family member confides in us. We must be certain that the message we give to those who are suffering is that sexual assault is not their fault, they did nothing to cause it, they are not alone, they are deserving of help, and that we do not place judgment upon them or the incident.
Please share this with those you love, and affirm your own worth and value today! My partner, Melanie Figaro, and myself have founded an organization by the name of NoSilenceNoViolence, Inc. and look forward to connecting with each of you to ensure you have helpful resources and information at your fingertips.
Thanks again, Jessica, for sharing your story. If you are interested in hearing Jessica speak about this topic, join her at UCLA on Tuesday, April 22.
A few years ago, I co-wrote “She Blames Herself” (with Teresa Boaz and Sandy Ramos) about overcoming sexual abuse. We wrote this song to let victims of abuse know: it’s not your fault. And healing is possible.
Get help today by calling the National Sexual Assault Helpline at 1.800.656.HOPE.