Sexual assaults affect millions of Americans annually. The term encompasses various actions that involve behavior or contact toward another person without their consent. The actions are defined by state law and can therefore differ by jurisdiction. However, some common examples of sexual assault include:
Fondling, kissing, or making unwanted bodily contact;
Forcing another person to perform or receive oral sex;
Forcing a tongue, mouth, finger, penis, or an object on another person's anus, penis, or vagina; and
Sexual Assault Info.
Sexual Assault Terms and Definitions
Any unwelcome behavior of a sexual nature that is committed without consent or by force, intimidation, coercion, or manipulation is called sexual misconduct. It can be committed by a person of any gender, and between people of the same or different gender.
If you're unsure if you've been a victim of sexual misconduct, chances are you've been victimized. It's important to remember that healthy sexual relationships are based on respect, trust and consent. Every individual has agency over their own body, and has the right decide what may or may not happen to their body. Below are definitions of some different types of sexual misconduct.
Sexual contact or behavior that occurs without explicit consent of the victim. Sexual assault is a broad spectrum, that includes various kinds of unwanted sexual contact, and can even occur without physical touch. Different types of sexual assault are listed and defined below:
Unwanted sexual advances, verbal obscene remarks, or requests for sexual favors. Sexual harassment can occur in the workplace, or in other social settings.
The touching of the private body parts of another person, including breasts, buttocks, genitals, inner thighs, groin, or anus. Fondling can occur through or underneath the clothing.
Forced Sexual Contact
Force doesn’t always refer to physical pressure. Perpetrators may use emotional coercion, psychological force, or manipulation to coerce a victim into non-consensual touching of private areas. This also includes forcing a victim to perform sexual acts they do not want to perform, such as oral sex or penetration.
Assault on another person with the intent to rape, but rape does not occur.
A form of sexual assault in which vaginal, anal, or oral penetration occurs without consent.
A form of sexual assault in which vaginal, anal, or oral penetration occurs with a minor by an adult. In Texas, the age of consent is 17. Any person under 17 is not legally considered able to give consent, and therefore verbal consent from a minor is not considered to be legal consent.
The act of sexual intercourse with one’s spouse without the other spouse’s consent. You absolutely can be raped in a marriage.
Dynamics of Sexual Assault
Any form of sexual assault can be traumatizing. It's important to understand sexual assault isn't the fault of the victim or survivor. Only the perpetrator is responsible for the words and actions that took place. Sexual assault is not brought on by anything the victims say, don’t say, clothing, or by the perception of the victim’s actions. Any form of sexual assault is an intentional method of one person having power and control over another.
Most rapes are perpetrated by someone known to the victim, and it's often more difficult to avoid this type of attack (as opposed to an assault by a stranger). It's important to keep in mind that, though these strategies may be helpful in certain situations, there's no way to completely avoid risk. If you're attacked, regardless of whether you took any, all or none of these precautions, it's not your fault. Only the rapist is responsible.
Communicate assertively and clearly. Be clear with yourself and the other person about your boundaries.
Keep in mind that excessive drinking or drugs impair judgment and communication skills.
Do not leave drinks unattended, which could provide and opportunity for someone to drug you.
Try to avoid situations or locations that isolate you from others.
Make a scene if necessary. Don’t worry about looking foolish.
Common Reactions to Rape
There's no right or wrong way to feel after being raped. People are different and deal with their emotions in many ways. Survivors will commonly experience these feelings.
Loss of trust
Most rape victims experience one or more of the following reactions:
Inability to concentrate
Sleeplessness or sleeping too much
Eating for comfort or not eating enough
Sexual problems (avoiding sex altogether or engaging in high-risk sexual activity)
Many victims believe or are encouraged to believe that they should forget about the rape and get on with their lives. This may work temporarily but seldom works long term. Eventually, the burden of suppressing thoughts and feelings about the rape may begin to affect the survivors work and/or personal life.
If you wish to seek medical assistance for a SANE exam, you can go directly to the hospital. You shouldn't shower, change clothes, eat or drink anything before you go. While we understand it's difficult to refrain from doing these things, the purpose is to ensure all potential evidence from any clothing or bodily fluids will be collected for evidence. Also be aware that the hospital will collect the clothing you are wearing, and it will be sent off for evidence.
The hospital will likely ask if you would like to have a SANE exam done. A SANE Exam is an exam that is used by medical examiners to collect evidence in your allegation. Victims are encouraged to have one done as it will provide evidence should the victim decide to press charges within the next 10 years. The person who performs the exam is specially trained in collecting evidence of sexual assault, and is called a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (S.A.N.E.).
The hospital will offer you a very potent antibiotic that will help fend off most STD’s. However, this does not work on HIV or AIDS.
The hospital will also offer female survivors the morning after pill. It's up to you whether or not you take it. There's no wrong way to handle your situation.
The SANE Nurse will encourage you to schedule a follow-up appointment with your family physician to make sure that everything is still going well after a couple of weeks. It is important to attend this follow up visit because if you have questions, you will be able to have them answered.
At any point, you have the right to ask for an advocate to be there with you for support.
First Step has staff that is ready to be supportive and encouraging. It is very difficult to go through this type of trauma. Know that you are not alone and First Step advocates will be there to help with any of your needs regarding the situation. If you are more comfortable with other community entities, First Step works closely with the universities and other agencies to ensure services are survivor-centered and consistent.
Some other counseling and support resources are listed below:
– If you’re part of the Air Force Community, you can contact the Family Advocacy Program at Sheppard Air Force Base.
– If you’re a student at:
– Midwestern State University: You can contact the Counseling Center.
– Vernon College: You can contact the Vernon College Counseling Department.
If you’re a survivor, you’re not alone. 1 in 6 women, and 1 in 3 men have experienced sexual violence at some point in their lives. If you'd like to explore healing through support group meetings, please contact our administrative office at 940-723-7799.
Safety can often be a long-term concern for anyone who has experienced sexual assault. Safety planning is brainstorming ways to make yourself feel safe, and help prepare you for what to do in a future crisis. For examples of how and when to create a safety plan, click here.
Resources for Friends, Relatives, Co-workers, and Bystanders
It can be difficult speaking with your child about sexual assault. However, these necessary conversations can be crucial to helping your children understand how to stay safe. Click here for some great tips on how to be involved with your child to help them stay safe. Should your child disclose they have been sexually assaulted, please know there is no “right” way to respond. You may experience a wide range of emotions, but it’s important to manage your feelings to create an environment that makes your child feel safe for disclosing, and also keeps your child from feeling any blame. Click here for information on how to respond, questions to ask, and actions to take to help your child through this difficult time.
If your co-worker has recently disclosed they have been a victim of sexual assault or sexual harassment by a co-worker, it's important to contact your company’s Human Resource division. Companies have policies against sexual harassment, sexual coercion, and sexual assault, and it's important to report sexual misconduct by a supervisor or co-worker. You can reference your company's policies and procedures for reporting sexual misconduct in the workplace.
Relatives and Friends
It can be a very hard thing to hear when your friend or relative discloses that they have been sexually assaulted. You may experience a range of different emotions, and be unsure of what to say or do. That reaction is completely normal. What happens after, however, could make all the difference. If you need help talking to your friend or loved one about sexual assault, click here. Please understand that it is not your problem to “fix,” simply being present, and being supportive is the best kind of help you can offer.
Anyone can become a victim of Sexual Assault, but anyone can be an advocate as well. If you see something happening that doesn’t seem right, all it takes is a single act to change a life for the better.
If you’re out with friends and someone makes a misogynist comment or joke about rape: Gently question the speaker as a way of getting them to think about it in a different way. Try asking how they would feel if they had experienced rape and overheard this? Ask them what if the subject of the joke was a member of their family, do they think they’d feel differently?
If you’re in a nightclub and you see someone grope someone else: Approach the victim, maybe pretend as if you know them to deter the other person. Offer them help, ask them if there’s anything you can do and if they’re ok. Maybe tell them you saw the incident and you’re sorry it happened. Offer to go to the bar manager, or wait with them until they get a cab, or until the person who groped them has left.
If you see someone being catcalled and harassed in the street or continually receiving unwanted advances: It’s not advisable to go wading in like Prince Charming, you could end up exacerbating the situation and putting yourself at risk. Offering to wait with someone at the bus stop, calling them a cab, or calling the police if need be is a good start. Providing affirmation that it’s not OK and you’re on the victim’s side is a powerful way to support them and help them to recover.
What should you do if you see someone being assaulted or attacked?
As with any other type of violent crime, you should call the police.
Practical Advice for the Significant Other
Sexual assault is an extremely invasive violation that has a dramatic impact on the lives of its victims. This experience might bring other problems to the surface. In order to offer the best possible support while also maintaining and protecting the relationship, it's important that significant others understand not only the impact of a sexual assault on the victim but also how this incident will affect them personally.
Some Important Facts
The primary motive for sexual assault is power, not sex.
Someone’s actions or dress doesn't mean they asked to be raped.
Most rapes are planned in advance. It's not an impulsive act.
It's not uncommon for victims to “freeze” when confronted with danger. Not fighting back does not mean the victim “wanted it.”
A sexual assault brings up strong feelings of powerlessness. It's important to allow the victim to make choices and be in control of what they need and want to recover.
When a friend or a family member confides in you, the first thing you should do is listen. Click here to learn how to be a better supporter.
Male Survivors of Sexual Assault
Sexual assault can happen to anyone, no matter age, sexual orientation, or gender identity. Men and boys who have been sexually assaulted may experience many of the same effects of sexual assault as other survivors, and may face other challenges that are more unique to their experience due to social attitudes and stereotypes about men and masculinity. Men who were sexually abused as boys or teens may respond differently than men who were sexually assaulted as an adult.
If something happened to you, know that you are not alone. The following list includes some of the common experiences shared by men and boys who have survived sexual assault. It's not a complete list, but it may help you to know that other people are having similar experiences:
Anxiety, depression, fearfulness, or post-traumatic stress disorder
Avoiding people or places that are related to the assault or abuse
Concerns or questions about sexual orientation
Fear of the worst happening and having a sense of a shortened future
Feel like “less of a man” or that you no longer have control over your own body
Feeling on-edge, being unable to relax, and having difficulty sleeping
Sense of blame or shame over not being able to stop the assault or abuse, especially if you experienced an erection or ejaculation
Withdrawal from relationships or friendships and an increased sense of isolation
Commonly Asked Questions
Who are the perpetrators of sexual assault against men and boys?
Perpetrators can be any gender, sexual orientation, or age, and have any type of relationship to the victim. Like all perpetrators, they might use physical force, psychological and emotional coercion tactics.
How does being assaulted affect sexual orientation?
Sexual assault is in no way related to the sexual orientation of the perpetrator or the survivor. A person’s sexual orientation cannot be caused by sexual abuse or assault. Some men and boys have questions about their sexuality after surviving an assault or abuse—and that’s understandable. This can be especially true if the you experienced an erection or ejaculation during the assault. Physiological responses like an erection are involuntary, meaning you have no control over them.
Sometimes perpetrators, especially adults who sexually abuse boys, will use these physiological responses to maintain secrecy by using phrases such as, “You know you liked it.” If you have been sexually abused or assaulted, it's not your fault. In no way does an erection invite unwanted sexual activity, and ejaculation in no way condones an assault.
What if abuse happened when I was a child or teen?
If you were sexually abused when you were a child or a teenager, you may have different feelings and reactions at different times in your life. 1in6, an organization dedicated to helping men who survived unwanted or abusive sexual experiences in childhood, may have answers to many of the questions or concerns you might have as an adult survivor.
What if the assault or abuse occurred when I was an adult?
Some men who have survived sexual assault as adults feel shame or doubt, believing that they should have been “strong enough” to fight off the perpetrator. Many men who experienced an erection or ejaculation during the assault may be confused and wonder what this means. These normal physiological responses do not in any way imply that you wanted, invited, or enjoyed the assault. If you were sexually assaulted, it was not your fault.
How will this affect my relationship?
Coming forward about surviving sexual assault or sexual abuse can be difficult and requires a lot of trust and understanding on both parties. Thinking through one’s reasons for telling, and the goals one hopes to accomplish, is a critical first step. Maybe you've fears that don’t actually reflect what the other person will think, feel or say, but how can you know for sure? At the same time, you may have more control than you think over how it will go and what the results will be. 1in6 has comprehensive answers to some of the questions you might have about telling a partner; after all, telling someone about something you’ve held a secret for a long time can be life changing.
If something happened to you, know that you are not alone. There are resources available to aid with healing.
Call the First Step Hotline at 1-800-658-2683 to speak with a trained advocate for more information and resources.
Visit online.rainn.org. Chat anonymously and confidentially with a support specialist who is trained to help.
Call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4763) to be connected to a trained staff member from a local sexual assault service provider in your area.
Consider therapy or other mental health support. First Step has a Survivor Specialist on staff to provide confidential counseling services to help you navigate the issues you may be facing as a result of abuse or assault. Or, you can ask your insurance company which providers are covered by your insurance plan.