Rape Response Services: 1-800-310-0000

Rape Response Services

About Sexual Violence


Sexual violence is the use of sexual actions and/or words that are unwanted by and harmful to another person.

Some of these actions are defined as crimes by Maine law. Other experiences of sexual violence, while clearly personal violations, may not rise to the level of a crime. That does not in any way diminish the victim/survivor’s experience of being violated.

Specific Forms of Sexual Violence

Rape/Sexual Assault: Unwanted, coerced and/or forced sexual penetration. The perpetrator may penetrate the victim’s vagina, mouth, or anus, either with a body part or another object. The victim may also be forced to penetrate the perpetrator’s vagina, mouth, or anus.

Child Sexual Abuse: Forced, tricked, bribed, blackmailed, or coerced sexual behavior between a child and adult.

Incest: Sexual abuse that is committed by one family member against another. Incest can be committed by a parent, sibling, other family member, or an unrelated person living with, or treated as part of the family.

Sexual Harassment: Unwanted verbal sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other visual, verbal, or physical conduct of a sexual nature. Sexual harassment can occur in the workplace or at school and can create an intimidating or hostile environment for the victim. The perception of the victim, not the intent of the harasser, determines whether particular words or actions are harassing.

Sexual Exploitation: Forcing, tricking, or coercing someone, either a child or an adult, into posing for sexually explicit photographs or movies. Other forms of sexual exploitation include performing sexually explicit acts for the entertainment or benefit of others and forcing or coercing someone into dressing in a sexual manner for the entertainment or benefit of others.

Facts about Sexual Violence

  • Anyone can be a victim of sexual violence. Age, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender, and size do not matter. Victims come from all different backgrounds.
  • Most often, sexual violence happens between people who know each other. The perpetrator may be a friend, family member, spouse, or dating partner.
  • Both men and women can be raped. No one ever asks for or deserves to be raped. Rape is not an act of overwhelming love or passion; it is an act of VIOLENCE. Rape is a crime that is punishable by law.
  • A large number of sexual assaults involve the use of alcohol or other drugs.
  • Incest is the most common form of sexual violence.
  • Most victims of sexual violence do not have any apparent physical injuries. Alcohol, drugs, manipulation, and/or coercion are used more often than physical force in order to get a victim to comply.
  • You have the right to work and/or go to school in an environment free from sexual harassment. Your employer or school can be held liable for failing to take appropriate steps to ensure this.
  • Victims are not chosen because of their age, the way they look, or what they wear. They are chosen because of their perceived vulnerability or the perpetrator’s opportunity.
  • Rape is the most under-reported violent crime in the United States.
  • In Maine law, rape is called gross sexual assault.

Understanding Consent

When you give consent it simply means that you give your permission. Consent is an agreement reached by both partners to engage in a specific activity. Engaging in sexual activity with a person who has not given or cannot give her/his consent is an act of sexual violence.

Consent is not present when a person:

  • Fears the consequences of not consenting (including the use of force)
  • Feels threatened or intimidated
  • Is coerced
  • Says no, either verbally or physically (such as crying, kicking, or pushing away)
  • Has disabilities that prevent the person from making an informed choice
  • Is impaired by drugs or alcohol
  • Is below the legal age of consent (please refer to the State of Maine website for more information about the legal age of consent)

Understanding Sexual Coercion

Pressuring someone to agree to a sexual act by intimidating, threatening, misusing authority, manipulating, tricking, or bribing with actions or words is coercion. When a person has been coerced, she or he has not given consent.