The Trauma of Sexual Assault: Treatment, Prevention, and Practice

By Jenny Petrak; Barbara Hedge | Go to book overview

Chapter 11
LEGAL AND FORENSIC ISSUES

Deborah J. Rogers

The purpose of this chapter is to familiarize the reader with the forensic and legal processes pertinent to a sexual assault, the psychological impact of these processes on the assaulted person, and the implications for trauma aftercare. The chapter also contains a detailed discussion regarding 'false allegations' to assist the practitioner with providing psychological care for persons who make such allegations.

In this chapter the term 'sexual assault' includes penetration of the vagina or anus with a penis, digit, or inanimate object; insertion of a penis into the mouth; and other, non-penetrative sexual acts. Currently in England non-consensual penetration of the vagina or anus is legally defined as 'rape' which has a maximum penalty of life imprisonment; other penetrative sexual acts (e.g. fellatio) are combined with non-penetrative sexual acts (e.g., touching the breasts) under the umbrella of 'indecent assault', punishable by a maximum of 10 years imprisonment (Sexual Offences Act 1956, as amended by the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994). Other jurisdictions (e.g., Victoria in Australia) have legislation in which fellatio is also considered as 'sexual intercourse' with the same maximum penalties as non-consensual penile penetration of the other body orifices (Crimes Act 1958). In Sweden the legal definition of 'sexual intercourse' is soon to be extended to encompass penetration by parts of the body other than a penis (Swedish Government Fact Sheet, 1999).

Official global statistics reveal that the number of sexual assaults committed each year is increasing (WHO, database, 2000). Even so, it is widely acknowledged that official databases are likely to underestimate the extent of the problem; various international studies have found that only 3–16% of women who recount non-consensual peno-vaginal or peno-anal penetration in self-report studies divulged the offence to the

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