Sexual Assault is any sexual contact or sexual attention
committed by force, threats, bribes, manipulation, pressure, tricks, or
violence. It includes rape and attempted rape, child molestation,
incest, and sexual harassment. Sexual assault is a terrifying and often
brutal crime: assailants can be strangers, acquaintances, friends, or
family members. The devastating effects are shared by victims and those
who love them.
is a crime of violence, anger, and power. It is not motivated by sexual
Rapists use sexual violence as a weapon to control, humiliate, and hurt
their victims. Anyone can become a victim. Victims are not selected for
their attractiveness or appearance. Sexual assault of any type is never a
victim's fault. No one ever "asks for" or deserves to be sexually
Types of Sexual Assault
The victim and offender have no relationship and will not
recognize each other.
Sexual contact occurs within a relationship and is
obtained through the use of force or coercion. The victim and offender
know each other or can recognize each other prior to the assault. This
is the most common type of sexual assault.
The victim and assailant are spouses. This type of rape often
occurs within a domestic violence situation.
There are multiple assailants with whom the victim may or may
not be acquainted with.
Sexual Assault Facts
- Rape is the most underreported crime in the United States.
- One out of every eight women are victims of rape.
- 76% of sexual assault victims knew the perpetrator of the
- 83% of sexual assault victims are under the age of 25.
- While there has been a national decrease in the number of
violent crimes, 10% in the last decade, since 1996, there has been an
increase between 13% to 23% every year of sexual assault victimization.
- 90% of sexual assault perpetrators did not possess a weapon at
the time of the assault. However, most victims of sexual assault fear
for their lives, fear threats of bodily harm, or fear threats of harm to
friends or family.
- Evidence collection is geared towards substantiating a forced
sexual act, and not the identification of the perpetrator because most
victims of sexual assault know the perpetrator.
- The average number of rape victims per rapist is seven. Sexual
assault perpetrator apprehension is a public safety concern.
Victims of sexual assault may experience shock, numbness,
disorientation, difficulty concentrating, withdrawal, denial,
nightmares, flashbacks, rage, anger, revenge, depression, difficulty
eating, or sleeping, extreme and unexplainable fears, guilt, and
There is no typical sexual assault nor is there a typical pattern of
responses to rape. However, counselors report that a victim may
experience a number of different responses to rape.
Victims of rape feel fear because of the threats made by the rapist
and fear of what may happen if they don't do as the rapist says. The
rapist often threatens to harm or kill victims if they report the crime,
telling them he will "find them somewhere or somehow."
Victims may also fear society's reaction if they tell anyone. People
who have been raped are afraid the blame will be placed on them rather
than on the rapist.
Fear of other men may occur because of what the rapist has done. It
is easy to generalize all men in the same category.
Most victims of rape fear not being believed, especially if they
victim knew the rapist or if the rapist was well known in the community.
Many times victims will internalize the mythology that the rape was
somehow their fault. "I should have been wearing something else." "I
should have locked the door." "It must have been something I did." It is
important to remember that the rape is a crime committed against a
victim and that the rapist is responsible for the assault.
Many times victims will feel guilty that they didn't attempt to
fight the rapist or they didn't fight hard enough. It is important to
remember that staying alive is the most important thing and that
fighting the attacker may cause more harm or even death to the victim.
Some victims may feel that because they knew the rapist they should
have known he wasn't as he appeared. There is no way of knowing who is a
rapist and who is not. Victims may have been with their assailant
before and were never raped - how would they know that this time would
Many victims have the idea that they would be able to resist or
could take care of themselves if a rape were attempted. After the rape,
self-doubt and guilt run rampant.
Many victims are embarrassed to talk about the physical details of
the assault. They have been brought up to believe that their bodies and
sexual activities are private and to be discussed.
Talking or telling anyone about the rape may be embarrassing and
Many victims isolate themselves from family and friends because they
are embarrassed to have friends and family find out about the assault.
The victims may also fear being blamed by friends and family for the
The medical exam may also be embarrassing. A victim's body is again
exposed to others, which may be an emotionally painful experience.
Many victims feel extreme anxiety and often react by shaking. When
they remember the incident, physical reactions such as shortness of
breath, panic, shaking in fear, etc., are common. Nightmares occur
frequently as well. It is important for them to realize they are safe
and the physical reactions are occurring as a result of feelings about
Why it Happened to Them
Many victims of rape wonder why the rapist chose them or what it was
that separated them from others. Rapists decide to rape, and they plan
the rape. But they may not decide who the victim will be until the time
of the attack. The decision may be based on who happens to be available,
not because of who she is, what she does, or how she dresses.
It is important to know that for many victims there is anger
about the events following the rape, just as there is anger about the
rape itself. Victims experience anger at having to change their
lifestyles, and they feel anger because of the feelings of
powerlessness. Anger can be a very appropriate reaction for victims of
assault, because anger directed at the perpetrator can be the start of
working through the assault. Counseling, reporting, and prosecuting may
be ways to vent those feelings.
to Take If You Think You Have Been Drugged and/or Sexually Assaulted
If you or a friend feel dizzy, confused, or have other sudden,
unexplained symptoms after drinking a beverage, call a family member,
friend, the police, a doctor, or 911 for help in getting to a hospital.
Here are the steps you should take:
- Get to a safe place and call a rape crisis center for
information or support. For a toll free crisis hotline, call 1-800-656-HOPE
- Determine whether or not to report the incident to the police.
If there is any chance you want to report the assault, the person should
not shower, bathe, douche, change clothes, or straighten up the area
until medical and legal evidence is collected because these actions will
- If you want to report the incident, first call the police and
then go to the hospital and have the medical evidence collected.
- Go to a hospital, clinic or private doctor for treatment of
external and/or internal injuries, tests for pregnancy and sexually
transmitted diseases, and support services.
- Request a urine test to detect the presence of sedating
substances as quickly as possible. Every hour matters. Chances of
getting proof are best when the sample is obtained soon after the
substance has been ingested, but the test can be reliable even on a
sample obtained 72 hours later. The test can be requested by law
enforcement officers, rape crisis centers or the hospital emergency
Developed by Coalition Against Sexual Assault ND, with format
from the D.C. Rape Crisis Center
If you know someone who has been raped, you can:
the facts about sexual assault.
The more educated you are about sexual assault, the more likely you are
to be a positive support for a loved one who has been assaulted.
It is important to learn:
- how often sexual assault happens in your area as well as
- what the effects of sexual assault are on victims and their
- guidelines on how best to support victims while taking care of
your own emotional needs.
- who the mental and physical care professionals are in your area.
Support the victim.
- Listen without judging or giving advice. The victim may be
feeling afraid (of being raped again, of being killed by the rapist);
vulnerable; out of control; embarrassed; ashamed; guilty; angry and
- Do not criticize the victim's feelings. Do not tell a victim to
feel or not feel a certain way.
- Do not criticize the victim's actions. The victim made the best
decisions possible in a dangerous situation.
- Do not press for information. Allow the victim to share
information that feels comfortable. Respect victim privacy and
- BELIEVE THE VICTIM. Speculation, criticism and doubt will
prevent victims from talking about the assault, and possibly discourage
them from seeking help from the criminal justice system, hospital, or
local rape crisis center.
- Give support. Be prepared that recovery may take years. The
victim will need support throughout the entire process.
Know what to expect.
- Victims' feelings vary during the crisis reaction, and these
feelings are unpredictable.
- Victims may feel numbness, sadness, grief, terror, happiness
that they are alive, and confusion.
- Feelings may be expressed or controlled. A victim may be
outwardly upset or appear very calm.
- Over time, feelings may be accompanied by loss of appetite and
disturbance in sleep patterns such as nightmares.
help to deal with your own feelings.
- You may experience rage, guilt, and blame.
- You may feel impatient with the long, slow process of healing.
- Anger is a natural reaction to what has happened, but extreme
rage toward the rapist may only frighten the victim.
- Guilt may be the result of feeling responsible for protecting
the victim. You could not have prevented the assault. The responsibility
for this crime belongs with the assailant.
- Accept your feelings. You may want to talk to a counselor or
advocate about what you are experiencing. You and the victim will have
to deal with many feelings; talking about it together can help. Recovery
takes time and patience.
Trauma Syndrome" or "Rape-related Post Traumatic Stress Disorder"
describes what many victims continue to experience long after the rape.
- Victims may mentally and physically relive the assault many
- The victim may be afraid of seeing the rapist or fearful of all
people for a time. Victims may be afraid to leave home, or afraid of
crowds. This is because their trust in the environment has been
- Most rape victims continue to experience physical discomfort;
nightmares; loss of appetite; sexual dysfunction; and extreme mood
swings. A victim must grieve a sexual assault similar to any type of
loss. Grieving takes a long time. The victim will likely go through
cycles of denial, resolution, anxiety and grief.
- The victim of rape must have understanding and support for the
changes that will be experienced. Recovery is possible, but life has
been significantly altered. It may be helpful to talk with a trained
counselor. A support group with other victims may also be helpful.
Everyone reacts with different feelings.
Respect not only the survivor's feelings and your own, but other family
members' as well. Responses will vary but the victim's well-being is the
(Adapted from Advocate Program at Crisis Services, Inc.)