Sexual Abuse and Assault Against Women
Sexual assault and abuse is any type of sexual activity that you do not
agree to, including:
- inappropriate touching
- vaginal, anal, or oral penetration
- sexual intercourse that you say no to
- attempted rape
- child molestation
Sexual assault can be verbal, visual, or anything that forces a person to
join in unwanted sexual contact or attention. Examples of this are voyeurism
(when someone watches private sexual acts), exhibitionism (when someone exposes
him/herself in public), incest (sexual contact between family members), and
sexual harassment. It can happen in different situations, by a stranger in an
isolated place, on a date, or in the home by someone you know.
Rape is a common form of sexual assault. It is committed in many
situations—on a date, by a friend or an acquaintance, or when you think you are
alone. Educate yourself on “date rape” drugs. They can be slipped into a drink
when a victim is not looking. Never leave your drink unattended—no matter where
you are. Try to always be aware of your surroundings. Date rape drugs make a
person unable to resist assault and have a type of memory loss so the victim
doesn’t know what happened.
Violence against women by any one is always wrong, whether the abuser is
someone you date; a current or past spouse, boyfriend, or girlfriend; a family
member; an acquaintance; or a stranger. You are not at fault. You did not cause
the abuse to occur, and you are not responsible for the violent behavior of
someone else. If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, seek help
from other family members and friends or community organizations. Reach out for
support or counseling. Talk with a health care provider, especially if you have
been physically hurt. Learn how to minimize your risk of becoming a victim of
sexual assault or sexual abuse before you find yourself in an uncomfortable or
threatening situation. And, learn about how to get help for sexual assault and
abuse below. Another important part of getting help is knowing if you are in an
abusive relationship. There are clear signs to help you know if you are being
Get Help for Sexual Assault
Take steps right away if you've been sexually assaulted:
- Get away from the attacker to a safe place as fast as you can. Then call
911 or the police.
- Call a friend or family member you trust. You also can call a crisis center
or a hotline to talk with a counselor. One hotline is the National
Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-HOPE (4673). Feelings of shame,
guilt, fear, and shock are normal. It is important to get counseling from a
- Do not wash, comb, or clean any part of your body. Do not change clothes if
possible, so the hospital staff can collect evidence. Do not touch or change
anything at the scene of the assault.
- Go to your nearest hospital emergency room as soon as possible. You need to
be examined, treated for any injuries, and screened for possible sexually
transmitted diseases (STDs) or pregnancy. The doctor will collect evidence
using a rape kit for fibers, hairs, saliva, semen, or clothing that the
attacker may have left behind.
- You or the hospital staff can call the police from the emergency room to
file a report.
- Ask the hospital staff about possible support groups you can attend right
You can help someone who is abused or who has been assaulted by listening
and offering comfort. Go with her or him to the police, the hospital, or to
counseling. Reinforce the message that she or he is not at fault, and that it
is natural to feel angry and ashamed.
If you're a victim of violence at the hands of someone you know or love or
you are recovering from an assault by a stranger, you are not alone. Get
immediate help and support
The National Domestic Violence Hotline can be reached 24
hours a day, 7 days a week at 800-799-SAFE (7233), 800-787-3224 (TTY). Spanish
speakers are available. When you call, you will first hear a recording and may
have to hold. Hotline staff offer crisis intervention and referrals. If
requested, they connect women to shelters and can send out written information.
For more information, visit their web site at www.ndvh.org.
The National Sexual Assault Hotline can be reached 24 hours
a day, 7 days a week at 800-656-4673. When you call, you will hear a menu and
can choose #1 to talk to a counselor. You will then be connected to a counselor
in your area who can help you. For more information, visit their web site at