Sexual assault is any forced or coerced sexual activity, such as unwanted touching, committed against a person’s will or without consent. Rape is a form of sexual assault that includes but is not limited to forced vaginal, anal and oral penetration.
Rape and sexual assault are crimes of violence with sex used as a weapon that can be committed by strangers, friends, relatives, dates, partners and spouses.
Someone can force another person to have sex by:
- Physical force: holding down, beating up the survivor or using a weapon.
- Threat of force: threatening to hurt the survivor or using physical size/strength to intimidate.
- Drugs or Alcohol: getting the survivor drunk, putting a drug in the survivor’s drink or taking advantage of the fact that someone is too drunk or high to consent to having sex.
- The assault was not your fault. You are the survivor of a crime.
- Any reaction or feeling after an assault is normal.
- Sexual assault is a major crisis. Take good care of yourself.
- People often lack understanding about the issues of sexual assault. Don’t be surprised if people’s responses to your assault seem insensitive.
- Ask for help. You are not alone.
- You have every right to be upset. Take time to understand and deal with your feelings.
- Find a caring person and talk about your experience or call Women Helping Women.
Possible Feelings Survivors Have
There is no typical sexual assault or rape survivor, nor is there a typical response to sexual assault. Survivors of rape or sexual assault may experience numbness, confusion, difficulty concentrating, withdrawal, denial, nightmares, flashbacks, rage, anger, revenge, depression, difficulty eating or sleeping, extreme and unexplainable fear, guilt and self-blame.
A sexual assault survivor may also experience:
Feelings of shock and confusion are common. Survivors often express that they can’t believe what has happened to them.
Attempts to end the anxiety and confusion are often made by rationalizing the rape. Survivors might try to forget about the rape and appear outwardly that everything is fine.
Insomnia fear and nightmares may be experienced in this stage. This can mean that feelings about the sexual assault are surfacing.
Anxiety and fear about rape decrease. Energy returns. It may take months or years to heal from the impact of a sexual assault.
There are many areas of concern after a sexual assault. With support, a person who has experienced an assault can heal. Women Helping Women can help you understand and clarify these concerns, which may include medical, legal, emotional or family issues.
What You Can Do
You have several choices. You can:
- Contact a crisis center for information and support.
- Attend a sexual assault survivor support group.
- Seek counseling.
- Seek medical care.
- Take legal action.
Information about all of these options is available by calling Women Helping Women at our 24-Hour Crisis Line at 513-381-5610, Toll-Free 1-877-889-5610 or TTY 513-977-5545.
Do you think you were sexually assaulted or raped? Take the sexual assault quiz.
If you or someone you know was sexually assaulted, click here for resources and support.
- Every two minutes, someone in the United States is sexually assaulted.
- Approximately 73% of rape survivors knew their assailant
- 1 in six women and 1 in 33 men will be a survivor of sexual assault in their lifetime.
- Six out of ten sexual assaults take place in the survivor’s home or in the home of a friend, relative or neighbor.
- 60% of sexual assaults are not reported to the police.
Women Helping Women works with thousands of community members and professionals every year to educate and prevent domestic violence. If you would like to learn more about our programs, or schedule a program, visit our Prevention and Education page.