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Sexual Abuse or Assault (Rape) - Topic Overview

Sexual abuse or assault (rape) can happen to anyone. If this has happened to you, you are not to blame. Sexual abuse is any type of sexual activity that is done against your will. It can be nonviolent sexual abuse, such as nontouching sexual exposure (like being forced to look at sexual pictures) or unwanted or forced sexual touching. Or it can mean a violent sexual assault, such as rape or attempted rape. The attacker may be a stranger, someone you do not know well, a close friend, or a family member (incest). Many victims of abuse or assault know their attacker.

Teens and young adults may be at risk for becoming victims of sexual assault or violent behavior in situations where certain drugs are used.

It is often hard for people to talk about sexual abuse or assault. The abused person often feels shame or guilt and may be too afraid of the abuser to say anything. But it is important to seek help and then continue to get help for as long as you need it. Talk to the police or to a health professional, such as a doctor, nurse, or counselor. Or call a local rape crisis center. Any of these people can help you get medical treatment, deal with your feelings, and take steps to stop the abuser or rapist.

Sexual abuse can be something spoken or seen, or it can be anything that forces a person to join in unwanted sexual contact. This type of abuse may occur over and over. Examples of nonviolent sexual abuse include forcing a person to:

  • Look at a naked body or naked genital area.
  • Watch, look at, or be a part of sexual pictures.
  • Watch a sexual act, such as masturbation.
  • Be touched (fondled).

Violent sexual assault is any forced sexual contact where something is put into (penetrates) the vagina, anus, or mouth. Violence or fear is used to force the person to have sex. Examples of violent sexual assault include:

  • An object placed into the vagina or anus.
  • Forced oral sex.
  • Forced sexual intercourse (rape).

Check your symptoms to decide if and when you should see a doctor or get other help.

    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: September 05, 2013
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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