Sexual Assault

What is sexual assault?

The term sexual assault refers to sexual contact or behavior that occurs without explicit consent of the victim. Perpetrators may use physical force or emotional coercion like threats or manipulation. Sexual assault can be committed by a stranger, but is most often committed by someone the victim knows. Sexual assault can be committed by someone you are in a relationship with. Victims of sexual assault can be female or male.  Sexual assault can take many different forms, but one thing remains the same: it’s never the victim’s fault.

Some forms of sexual assault include:

Rape or Attempted rape: Rape is a form of sexual assault, but not all sexual assault is rape. Rape includes penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person without that person’s consent.

Drug facilitated sexual assault: Drug-facilitated sexual assault occurs when alcohol or drugs are used to compromise an individual’s ability to consent to sexual activity. Drug-facilitated sexual assault occurs in two ways: when the perpetrator takes advantage of a victim’s voluntary use of drugs or alcohol or when the perpetrator intentionally forces a victim to consume drugs without their knowledge. These substances make it easier for a perpetrator to commit sexual assault because they inhibit a person’s ability to resist and can prevent them from remembering the assault.

Child sexual abuse: Child sexual abuse is a form of child abuse that includes sexual activity with a minor. A child cannot consent to any form of sexual activity, period. When a perpetrator engages with a child this way, they are committing a crime that can have lasting effects on the victim for years. Child sexual abuse does not need to include physical contact between a perpetrator and a child. Some forms of child sexual abuse include:

  • Exhibitionism, or exposing oneself to a minor
  • Fondling
  • Intercourse
  • Masturbation in the presence of a minor or forcing the minor to masturbate
  • Obscene phone calls, text messages, or digital interaction
  • Producing, owning, or sharing pornographic images or movies of children
  • Sex of any kind with a minor, including vaginal, oral, or anal
  • Sex trafficking
  • Any other sexual conduct that is harmful to a child’s mental, emotional, or physical welfare

Incest: The term incest refers to sexual contact between family members. Unwanted sexual contact from a family member can have a lasting effect on the survivor.

Effects of Sexual Assault

Please note that the effects of sexual assault can vary widely between survivors. Here are some possible effects and reactions:

Physical Effects

  • changes in eating patterns
  • changes in sleeping patterns
  • eating disorders
  • fatigue
  • gastrointestinal irritability
  • headaches
  • muscular tension
  • nightmares
  • physical injuries
  • pregnancy
  • sexually transmitted diseases
  • substance abuse
  • soreness
  • stress related depression
  • immune system responses

Emotional Effects

  • anger
  • anxiety
  • denial
  • depression, sadness
  • embarrassment, feeling exposed, humiliated
  • fear
  • helplessness
  • hopelessness
  • muscular tension
  • mood swings
  • numbness
  • obsessions/compulsions
  • phobias
  • sense of disbelief
  • sense of unreality
  • shame, guilt, self-blame
  • vulnerability
  • shock

Cognitive Effects

  • confusion
  • difficulty concentrating
  • flashbacks
  • self-blame
  • feeling like it was deserved
  • denial
  • fear of what others will think
  • fear of not being believed

Social Effects

  • changes in lifestyle
  • difficulty getting things accomplished
  • difficulty with intimacy
  • difficulty/apprehension around men or apprehension around persons having similar attributes to the perpetrator
  • discomfort around other people
  • disruption in sexual relations
  • fear of being alone
  • fear of leaving house (especially alone)
  • fear/nervousness in crowds
  • hypersensitivity when relating to others
  • loss of trust in self and others
  • withdrawal from people, relationships, activities

For more information, visit the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) at

For local resources and support, call our crisis helpline at 989-755-0411 or toll-free at 888-399-8385