In general, sexual assault is involuntary sexual contact that occurs through the use of force, coercion or the victim’s incapacitation. However laws vary from state to state on the definition of sexual assault . Sexual assault can be verbal, visual, or anything that forces a person to join in unwanted sexual contact or attention. There are many different types of assault but they all are invasive and leave the victim damaged physically and emotionally.
Victimization leaves many survivors with many anxiety disorders such as severe addictions, low self-esteem, shattered trust, fears, helplessness, hopelessness, depression, suicide thoughts and many other disorders. Some are unable to have intimate, healthy relationships and find themselves in abuse relationships and multiple divorces. Support groups and support services help survivors of sex crimes work through the trauma. With these helps survivors realize 1. They are not alone, 2. The crime is not their fault 3. They can recover and live a healthy life again.
One of the most common ways of an offender overpowers their victim is to make them incapacitated usually through some type of drug normally put in an alcoholic drink. The law will consider the victim incapacitated if they do not have the mental ability to understand the nature of the sexual acts, or if they are physically incapable of indicating their unwillingness to participate in the sexual conduct. Another example is someone who is incapacitated due to physical, mental or psychological illness and has an inability to resist assault. This happens in hospitals, medical institutions, rehab and retirement homes.
- 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 infections (STIs) 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.
- If you decide you want to file a police report, you or the hospital staff can call the police from the emergency room.
- Ask the hospital staff to connect you with the local rape crisis center. The center staff can help you make choices about reporting the attack and getting help through counseling and support groups.
- National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or 1-800-787-3224 (TDD)
- National Sexual Assault Hotline 1-800-656-HOPE (4673)
There are many organizations and hotlines in every state and territory. These crisis centers and agencies work hard to stop assaults and help victims. You can find contact information for these organizations at http://www.womenshealth.gov/violence/state. You also can obtain the numbers of shelters, counseling services, and legal assistance in your phone book or online.
There are things you can do to reduce your chances of being sexually assaulted. Follow these tips from the National Crime Prevention Council.
- Be aware of your surroundings — who’s out there and what’s going on.
- Walk with confidence. The more confident you look, the stronger you appear.
- Know your limits when it comes to using alcohol.
- Be assertive — don’t let anyone violate your space.
- Trust your instincts. If you feel uncomfortable in your surroundings, leave.
- Don’t prop open self-locking doors.
- Lock your door and your windows, even if you leave for just a few minutes.
- Watch your keys. Don’t lend them. Don’t leave them. Don’t lose them. And don’t put your name and address on the key ring.
- Watch out for unwanted visitors. Know who’s on the other side of the door before you open it.
- Be wary of isolated spots, like underground garages, offices after business hours, and apartment laundry rooms.
- Avoid walking or jogging alone, especially at night. Vary your route. Stay in well-traveled, well-lit areas.
- Have your key ready to use before you reach the door — home, car, or work.
- Park in well-lit areas and lock the car, even if you’ll only be gone a few minutes.
- Drive on well-traveled streets, with doors and windows locked.
- Never hitchhike or pick up a hitchhiker.
- Keep your car in good shape with plenty of gas in the tank.
- In case of car trouble, call for help on your cellular phone. If you don’t have a phone, put the hood up, lock the doors, and put a banner in the rear mirror that says, “Help. Call police.”
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.