Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Domestic Violence vs Sexual Assault Is there a difference?

Domestic violence vs sexual assault. Is there a difference?

One of the things that I am seeing more often are victims who tell me they've been sexually assaulted by a boyfriends, ex-husband or husband.That's actually domestic violence manifested as a sexual assault. I don't want to upset anyone but there is a difference between the two situations and each situation has different considerations.

Domestic violence is a pattern of abuse where the victim and abuser have a relationship. And yes, even a past relationship counts. Typically, the domestic violence pattern begins with a honeymoon stage where all is wonderful. Then the control starts. After pressure starts to build there is some kind of explosion or release. This leads into the battering stage. This stage can include emotional battering and physical or sexual battering (or a combination.)

It is critical to make a domestic violence safety plan after someone has been sexually assaulted or otherwise victimized when in a relationship. The best way to create a plan is to call or sit down with a trained advocate. The advocate can help the survivor think through and develop a plan. If you do not know how to contact your local domestic violence program you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1.800.799.SAFE. They will help you find a program near you.

It may not be necessary to develop a detailed safety plan for a sexual assault of a more random nature. It may be that the most important things are appropriate supportive care such as medical treatment, emotional and legal support. Friends and family of rape victims may also find such support to be helpful. The Rape Abuse Incest National Network provides a 24 hour hotline. The toll free number is 1.800.656.HOPE.

Whether a person is a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault or both, it is appropriate to have long term care. Often, the best place to find this care is from your local Sexual Assault Crisis Center or Domestic Violence Agency.

Survivors of either crime deserve to have a good support network and emotional support. Although guilt and blame are common, it is never appropriate for the victim to feel that she or he somehow deserved to be abused or raped. Sexual assault centers and domestic violence agencies can help with these feelings.

No matter what, one key thought to remember is that abuse is never the fault of the victim. It is never ok to take ones anger or frustration out on another person. It is ok for the survivor to get any help that is needed to heal.


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