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Sexual assault is a term that refers to unwanted sexual acts against or without a person’s consent. This type of assault includes more than violent physical incidents—sexual assault refers to any sexual, physical, verbal or visual act that forces a person against their will to join in unwanted sexual contact or attention.
Who can be a victim?
Sexual assault can happen to anyone, regardless of age, race, sex, culture, religion, social status, education, employment, or marital status. Both men and women can be victims. Perpetrators can be family members, friends, acquaintances, or complete strangers to the victim, but 2 out of 3 victims know the person that assaulted them.
Are there different types of sexual assault?
Just as with domestic violence, there are many types of sexual assault that can occur. Here are just some of the types of sexual assault a victim might experience:
Forced sexual intercourse, including vaginal, anal, or oral penetration. Penetration may be by a body part or an object. Rape victims may be forced through threats or physical means. In about 8 out of 10 rapes, no weapon is used other than physical force. Anyone may be a victim of rape: women, men or children, straight or gay.
Sexual acts committed without a person's consent and/or against a person's will when the perpetrator is the individual's current partner (married or not), previous partner, or co-habitator.
Child Sexual Abuse
Child sexual abuse includes everything from sexual intercourse, touching, to exploitation. All offences that involve sexually touching a child, as well as non-touching offenses and sexual exploitation, are just as harmful and devastating to a child’s well-being.
When drugs or alcohol are used to compromise an individual's ability to consent to sexual activity. In addition, drugs and alcohol are often used in order to minimize the resistance and memory of the victim of a sexual assault. Alcohol remains the most commonly used chemical in crimes of sexual assault, but there are also substances being used by perpetrators including: Rohypnol, GHB, GBL, etc.
Sexual Exploitation by a Helping Professional
Sexual contact of any kind between a helping professional (doctor, therapist, teacher, priest, professor, police officer, lawyer, etc.) and a client/patient.
Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature in which submission to or rejection of such conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual's work or school performance or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work or school environment.
What are the effects of sexual assault on victims?
Every person’s reaction to sexual assault is unique. Many factors come into play when looking at the possible effects on a victim, such as physical health, mental health, normal reactions to stress, relationship to perpetrator, frequency of abuse, and more. Here are some of the potential effects of sexual assault:
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that is triggered by a terrifying event. Some common symptoms associated with PTSD are flashbacks, nightmares, severe anxiety and uncontrollable thoughts about the event. Many people who go through traumatic events have difficulty adjusting and coping. But with time and intensive counseling, such traumatic reactions usually get better.
Depression is more than common feelings of temporary sadness. Symptoms can include prolonged sadness, feelings of hopelessness, unexplained crying, changes in appetite with significant weight loss or gain, loss of energy or loss of interest and pleasure in activities previously enjoyed. Depression can affect a person’s outlook, which can lead to feelings of hopelessness. This, in turn, can impact his or her thought process and ability to make decisions. In extreme cases of depression, people may even experience suicidal thoughts and/or attempts.
Changes in how you view trust
Anger and blame
Loss of control
Sense of vulnerability
Self-blame/guilt for "allowing" the crime to happen