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No Safe Place
No Safe Place: Violence Against Women
Rape and Sexual Assault
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Discussion Questions: Introduction

Sexual assault is defined as any unwanted sexual act including forced sexual contact and sexual touching. Women always have the right to say no to any sexual involvement. Rape is defined as sexual intercourse without the consent of both parties. Like domestic violence, rape and sexual assault are crimes that are far too common. Each year women report almost half a million rapes and sexual assaults. That's according to the most recent U.S. Justice Department survey. Keep in mind, however, that most rapes are never reported.

Rape is a devastating crime. Some women are badly physically injured. Some become pregnant. Some contract HIV. But the emotional trauma can be worse than any physical injury. The lives of women who are raped are forever changed. Victims say they will never be the same, that it feels like dying. Even if they have not been physically harmed, women who have been sexually assaulted often suffer from long-term psychological and physical health problems. Still, most rapes and sexual assaults go unreported, because of shame, fear and deep-seated cultural notions that the woman is somehow to blame.

Rape and sexual assault are never the woman's fault.

Who rapes women?

Three-fourths of rapes are committed by a man the woman knows. Studies show that a rapist can be anyone -- a date, a boyfriend, a father, a grandfather, an uncle, a neighbor, a friend, a brother, a son.

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Who is most likely to be a victim?

According to the Rape Recovery Center in Utah, rapists look for victims who are vulnerable, which is why children and even the elderly are at risk. Each year, the Rape Recovery Center hears stories from women of all backgrounds, races and ages. Last year, they heard more than 4,000 stories, including those of a 94-year-old woman who was raped and a two-and-a-half-week-old baby boy who was sexually abused. Half of the rape and abuse victims the staff served in emergency rooms were under 14 years of age. A 10-year government study that looked at more than a million cases of rape in the United States showed that 88 percent of rape victims are between the ages of 12-28. Prison psychologists say that while some rapists are calculating and planning, often stalking their victims, many rapists tend to be random -- often looking for unlocked doors, or open windows, for example. They seize opportunities in an impulsive act.

What should a woman who is attacked do?

There is not universal agreement on how a woman should respond during an attack. Some experts suggest a woman should resist, fighting back with every imaginable resource. They cite statistics showing that if women fight back, their odds of being raped are cut in half, while their odds of being injured are raised by 10 percent. Most experts caution that there is no one correct response. The important thing is to live through the assault.

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No Safe Place: Violence Against Women is made possible in part by a grant from the Albert and Elaine Borchard Foundation and the Dr. Ezekiel R. and Edna Wattis Dumke Foundation. The documentary is a production of public television station KUED in Salt Lake City, Utah.

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