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
  • rape
  • 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 abused.

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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 trusted professional.
  • 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 away.

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 www.rainn.org.

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Publications

  • Facts About Sexual Harassment - This fact sheet contains information on what sexual harassment is and how to file a complaint for unwelcome sexual advances in the workplace.
  • Frequently Asked Questions - Sexual Assault - This fact sheet explains sexual assault and gives information on what to do if you've been sexually assaulted, where you can go for help, how you can protect yourself, and how you can help someone who has been sexually assaulted.
  • Incest (Copyright © NCVC) - This publication outlines the problem of child sexual abuse and incest in America. It reveals that incest, or rape by a family member, comprises a large portion of all rapes in the United States, while it remains the most under-reported and least discussed crime in our nation. It also discusses the effects that abuse can have on the victims and community as a whole.
  • Myths and Facts about Sexual Violence - This fact sheet debunks common misunderstandings about rape and sexual assault. Topics discussed include victim characteristics, risk assumption, drug use, perpetrators, location of rapes and more.
  • Preventing Sexual Assaults - This publication lists ways to help protect yourself from sexual assault and gives steps that men can take to prevent sexual assaults on women.
  • Sexual Assault Against Females - This publication explains what sexual assault is, how often it happens, how a woman may feel after a sexual assault, and where to go for help.
  • Sexual Assault on Campus: What Colleges and Universities Are Doing About It - This publication explores the sexual assault cases on college campuses and provides information for why sexual assault may happen more frequently on college campuses than at most other places. It also provides information regarding the steps taken by colleges and universities to reduce the number of incidences that occur.
  • Sexual Violence Fact Sheet - This fact sheet discusses the prevalence and incidence of sexual violence, the associated risk factors, and consequences. It also provides some strategies in trying to prevent sexual violence.
  • What to Do After a Rape or Sexual Assault - This fact sheet lists the steps to take if you, a friend, or a family member is raped or sexually assaulted. It also describes the physical and emotional effects of rape and how you can get help.
  • What You Can Do if You Are a Victim of Crime - This publication contains information on what you can do if you've been a victim of crime and lists resources that can help.

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Organizations

  1. Center For Sex Offender Management
  2. National Crime Prevention Council
  3. National Sexual Violence Resource Center
  4. Office for Victims of Crime
  5. Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network
  6. Survivors of Incest Anonymous

WebMD Public Information from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

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