Sexual assaults and rape occur when someone has sexual contact with another against another person's will, by force, threat or intimidation or by taking advantage of another's mental incapacity or physical helplessness. Many people still think of rape only as a crime committed by strangers who "jump out of the bushes." In fact, most sexual assaults and rapes are committed by someone the victim knows. According to criminal reporting statistics from the Virginia State Police, the majority (71%) of forcible sex offenses reported to law enforcement in 2007 were non-stranger offenses. Of these offenses, approximately 28% involved offenses committed against family or household members or intimate dating partners. In addition, nearly two-thirds of the reported victims, both male and female, were under the age of eighteen. (Virginia State Police, Crime in Virginia, 2007 (2008)).
At one time in Virginia, a person could not be found guilty of raping a spouse, unless they were living separate and apart or the defendant caused bodily injury to the spouse by the use of force or violence. This was referred to as the "marital rape exemption." In 2002, through the efforts of former Attorney General Jerry Kilgore, the statute was amended by the General Assembly to eliminate the marital rape exemption.
In addition, marriage was once an absolute defense to statutory rape where the perpetrator married the minor victim. Effective July 1, 2008, the subsequent marriage of an adult to a minor (14 years of age or older) is not a defense to statutory rape of that child.
"Date Rape Drug"
Many people are falling victim to sexual assaults and rape by the use of drugs. The popular "date rape drug," Rohypnol, incapacitates victims and prevents them from resisting sexual assaults. Rohypnol can be easily crushed and dissolved in liquid. It is tasteless and odorless, and can be slipped into people's drinks without their knowledge. A single dose of Rohypnol as small as 1 mg. can produce effects for 8-12 hours after ingestion. The drug causes "anterograde amnesia." This means that individuals are unable to remember events they experienced while under its effects. Therefore, someone could have been raped while under the influence of Rohypnol and not even be aware that it happened.
In 1996, the Drug-Induced Rape Prevention and Punishment Act was enacted to address the problem of "date rape." The law provides penalties of up to 20 years imprisonment and fines for persons who intend to commit a crime of violence (including rape), by distributing a controlled substance to another individual without that individual's knowledge.
Physical Evidence Recovery Kits
Physical Evidence Recovery Kits, or “PERK” exams, are performed by health care providers on victims of sexual assault to obtain and document physical evidence of the crime. Prior to July, 2008, victims were required to report sexual assault to law enforcement or pursue criminal charges in order to obtain PERK exams at no cost. Effective July 1, 2008, however, participation in the criminal justice system or cooperation with law enforcement is no longer required in order for victims to be provided with PERK exams free of charge.
What to do if you need help
If you are a victim of sexual assault, please take these steps:
Make sure you are safe.
Call the police and someone you trust for support.
Contact the Virginia Family Violence and Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-838-8238 or your local sexual assault crisis center.
Do not bathe or change clothes. You might destroy evidence.
Even if you are unsure if you want to file a report, seek medical attention. Ideally, you should be examined by a trained forensic nurse examiner. You also should be examined for sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy.
How You Can Help
Whether or not you know someone who has been sexually assaulted, you can help combat sexual assaults and domestic violence.
Become educated about sexual assault and domestic violence. Your local sexual assault crisis center and domestic violence program can provide information in addition to the information on the OAG's web site.
Make financial or in-kind contributions to local sexual assault crisis centers and domestic violence programs.
Volunteer at local sexual assault crisis centers and domestic violence programs.
Support victims and survivors. Listen if someone confides in you and do not blame them for what happened.
Teach your children that no one deserves to be abused.