Sexual Assault

What is Sexual Assault


Sexual assault is any behavior or contact of a sexual nature that is unwanted or makes a person uncomfortable. Sexual assault occurs any time a person is forced, coerced, and/or manipulated into any unwanted sexual activity. People of all ages, all economic classes, all races, and all levels of education can be victims of sexual assault.

Sexual assault includes a range of behaviors which may take the form of degrading verbal comments, unwanted touches, or invasions of space. Some forms of sexual assault are against the law (for example, rape) and others are not (for example, cat calling). However, even noncriminal forms of sexualassault are unacceptable and can have an impact on the people the behavior is directed towards. With any type of sexual assault, there is a lack of respect for the individual who was or is being abused.

Why Me?

Are you wondering why you were sexually assaulted? This is a question that many individuals struggle with after a sexual assault. It is normal to want to find a reason why the assault happened.

Sometimes victims of sexual assault begin to blame themselves. You may be wondering about your own actions – could you have done something differently that would have prevented the assault from happening? You need to know that nothing you did caused the assault. No one deserves to be sexually assaulted. Sexually assaulting someone is a choice made by the offender. Responsibility and blame for the sexual assault needs to be placed where it belongs – with the person who chose to sexually assault you.

Where to get help

If someone is in immediate danger, call 911.

If you or a friend might be in an abusive relationship, talk to a parent/caregiver, a school counselor, or another adult you trust, or a local domestic or sexual violence program.

Hotline Numbers

National Dating Abuse Helpline 1-866-331-9474 or to chat online

National Suicide Hotline 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

National Sexual Assault Hotline

1-833-656-HOPE (4673) or to chat online

Common Reactions Following an Assault

There are a variety of ways a person may be affected following a sexual assault. Every person reacts differently to trauma; there is no right or wrong way to react. Replaying the incident and wondering what you could have done to stop the assault is normal. Know that you reacted appropriately and did the best you could to survive the assault.

The following is a condensed list of other reactions you may or may not experience after a sexual assault:

  • Physical Reactions: change in sleeping patterns, nightmares, headaches, loss of appetite or overeating, stomach problems, muscle tension, lack of concentration, impaired memory, and/or increased use of drugs or alcohol.
  • Emotional Reactions: denial, fear, sadness, anger, guilt, shame, embarrassment, flashbacks, hypervigilence, mood swings, irritability, depression, and suicidal thoughts. You may feel very upset, very calm, or anything in between.
  • Social Reactions: fear of being in public or social situations, fear of being alone, withdrawing from friends and family, difficulty trusting others, trouble with physical intimacy in relationships, and feeling isolated from others. It is important to remember that any of these responses are normal and appropriate after experiencing an assault.