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What is Sexual Violence? *
Sexual violence is degradation (shame or humiliation) of an individual in a sexual manner; depictions (representations, pictures) of rape or other sexual acts; and any sexual act that is forced against someone’s will. It can be physical, verbal or psychological.
Sexual assault is one person forcing another person to engage in a sexual act (oral, anal or vaginal) without the victim’s consent. Consent means permission.
Rape is one person forcing vaginal sex and the victim did not give consent.
Child Sexual Abuse is sexual contact between a child and someone who is older, bigger, has authority or guardianship over the child. This abuse includes genital fondling of the abuser or the child, anal contacts, oral to genital contacts and vaginal sex.
Sexual harassment includes unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature that affects an individual’s work or school performance.
Maryland state laws concerning sexual crimes can be viewed at the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault (MCASA) website at http://www.mcasa.org/law-public-policy/maryland-laws-and-regulations/
Consent means permission. Coercion is not the same as consent. Many sexual crimes in Maryland include the term “without the consent of the other person” as an element or condition of the crime. There is no universal agreement on what is necessary for a victim to do or say in order to demonstrate their lack of consent. Some think a simple “no” should be enough, while others think that yelling, screaming and physical resistance should be the standard. Ultimately the judicial system and the courts will decide whether a victim’s behavior and/or words constitute the lack of consent in the case they are hearing.
There are protections for those whose capacity to consent is permanently or temporarily impaired. The terms used and defined in the Maryland statutes are: “Mentally Defective Individual,” “Mentally Incapacitated Individual” and “Physically Helpless Individual”. Individuals meeting these criteria are considered incapable of consenting to sexual activity.
The age of consent in Maryland is 16 for vaginal, oral and anal intercourse and 14 for sexual touching and fondling. At age 16 there are no age limitations as to how much older a sexual partner may be. Under age 16 or 14 (depending on the sexual activities involved) there are restrictions to engaging in sexual activities with anyone 4 or more years older.
The Sexual Assault Legal Institute (SALI) is a part of the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault (MCASA). They provide direct civil legal services for victims and survivors of sexual assault. SALI also provides technical assistance and training for attorneys, rape crisis, recovery center staff, volunteers and professionals working with survivors. The SALI portion of the MCASA web site has detailed information about consent and the Maryland statutes defining sexual crimes. They are available to answer specific questions about those statures.
For more information about SALI, visit http://www.mcasa.org/A/3-1/A3-1.htm.
Drug Facilitated Sexual Assault *
There are numerous drugs available in our society and consumption of drugs can greatly enhance the chances of a sexual assault. In a drug facilitated sexual assault, the victim may have either involuntarily consumed (drugged by the offender) or voluntarily consumed (ingested drugs themselves) drugs. Alcohol is the 1 drug used in drug facilitated sexual assault and usually the victim consumed the alcohol voluntarily. Just because someone consumes alcohol or drugs does not mean morally or legally that they intended to engage in sexual behavior. Having sex with someone who is intoxicated is against the law!
Effects of Sexual Assault *
Sexual assault does not just affect the victim, but it affects the victim’s entire family and friends’ network. It is important to remember that there is no “right” way to react after being a victim of sexual assault. Victims react with a variety of emotions and behaviors after an assault. Some victims may react with hysteria and crying, others may “shut-down” emotionally and appear stone-faced. Some victims may want to immediately inform police; most want to curl up and forget it ever happened. Some victims may pretend the assault was not a big deal and may even “laugh” it off at first (particularly teens).
Long-term effects of sexual assault can include mental health issues, problems with healthy relationships (particularly true for victims assaulted by a non-stranger), constant fear and loss of feeling safe anywhere, and a general loss of self-esteem.
Victims of sexual assault are: *
- 3 times more likely to suffer from depression.
- 6 times more likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.
- 13 times more likely to abuse alcohol.
- 26 times more likely to abuse drugs.
- 4 times more likely to contemplate suicide.
Source: Rape Incest and Abuse National Network, www.rainn.org.
Negative impacts of the sexual assault can be greatly decreased when family and friends are supportive and if victim seeks help after the assault. The sooner the victim recovers from their assault, the less likely long-term impacts will dominate their life.
73% of sexual assaults were perpetrated by someone known to the victim:
- 38% of rapists are a friend or acquaintance
- 28% are an intimate
- 7% are a relative
Source: Rape Incest and Abuse National Network, www.rainn.org.
Sexual Assault is the most underreported crime in the nation. Many sexual assaults that are reported to police are not investigated and those that are investigated are rarely resulting in a conviction of the sex offender.
The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) calculates national statistics as well. Visit RAINN at www.rainn.org.
For statistics on reported crimes in the nation, see the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report at http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/ucr.htm.
For statistics on reported crimes in Maryland including rape, see the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention website at
Safety Tips *
- Avoid headphones while walking alone or reduce the volume so you will be able to hear an approaching attacker.
- Be aware of your surroundings. Look for an escape route at every location just in case. As a parent, you should also be aware of where your child is hanging out.
- Practice the buddy system. Everywhere your child goes, they should have a trusted friend who is not only known to them but also to you. The buddies should never leave the other behind in any situation!
- Choose dates where lots of people are around, like the movies, malls, restaurants and with a lot of mutual friends. Assaults and rapes usually happen when the couple is all alone!
- Have access to a phone wherever you go! Have your child call periodically when they are away from your supervision.
- Trust your instincts! If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t right. Let your child know that if they feel uncomfortable, make sure they can trust you to help them out of a situation. Reward them for coming to you for help!
- Communicate. Let your child know they can always talk to you about anything, including when they make mistakes. Children often don’t disclose to their parents because they are afraid of getting in trouble.
- Practice dealing with sexual pressure with your child. Including what to say to the person pressuring them and how to leave a pressured situation.
- Avoiding alcohol consumption is important for everyone’s safety. Alcohol is the #1 drug used in date rapes!
- Avoid romantic and/or sexual contact with someone who has been using alcohol or drugs.
- Create a family/friend code word so you may call loved ones in the event you are scared or need help without alerting anyone you are with.
Internet Sex Crimes and Safety *
How the Internet is used to hurt us
- To harass (Including Cyber Stalking)
- To gather information about others without their knowledge (there are many legal and illegal ways to gather personal information on the internet)
- To develop relationships and trust with prospective victims
- To arrange for meetings with prospective victims
- To monitor the victim
- To communicate with other perpetrators
- To communicate to the victim without the knowledge of others (particularly children)
Why Internet is used
- Able to “groom” the victim well before physical contact
- Offers a sense of anonymity
- The “relationship” can be easily hidden from parents and other family members
- Able to access large amounts of information
Who are the Offenders?
- All ages, from all social, economic, religious, occupational and ethnic backgrounds
- Mostly male
- Mostly repeat offenders
- Mostly heterosexual
- Many are married
- Some “recreational” users
Who are the Victims?
- Mostly Children – 14 & 15 year olds most common
- Mostly Females
*The majority of sexual crimes, including those on the internet, are not reported
If anyone is
- Trying to get personal and/or sexual information
- Trying to meet in person
- Trying to get or give pictures or video files
- Asking to keep things or conversations secret
- Driving a wedge between already established relationships (family, friends, dates, etc.)
RED FLAGS for Parents to Watch
- Minimizing the screen or hiding what they are looking at
- Spending a lot of time on the web, particularly late at night
- Strange phone calls from people you don’t know
- New clothes, toys or other items from unknown sources
- Overly upset if access is restricted even for a short time
- Unusually withdrawn
Who can take a report