Sexual assault

Sexual assault is any physical contact of a sexual nature without voluntary consent. While associated with rape, sexual assault is much broader and the specifics may vary according to social, political or legal definition.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, sexual assault includes inappropriate touching, anal, and oral penetration, sexual intercourse, rape, attempted rape, and child molestation plus torturing the victim with many sexual ways. In Australia, the term "sexual assault" is more synonymous with rape.

Perpetrators may include, but are not limited to, strangers, acquaintances, superiors, legal entities (as in the case of torture), or family members. Both male and female sex predators can commit sexual assault against same-sex or opposite-sex victims or both. Generally, victims are more likely to be assaulted by an acquaintance (such as a friend or co-worker), an intimate partner, or a family member than by a complete stranger. The act is sometimes accomplished by force sufficient to cause physical injury. More often, the act is accomplished by psychological coercion alone, with no overt physical injuries to the victim. However, even when no lasting physical injury is sustained, the psychological damage done by this form of intimate violation may be substantial. Psychological damage is often particularly severe when sexual assault is committed by parents against children due to the incestuous nature of the assault.

Who is vulnerable

Anyone is a potential victim of sexual assault, although females are at a higher risk of victimization than men. A person who is the victim of sexual assault may require assistance from medical and law enforcement resources. Medical and law enforcement professionals strongly recommend that a victim call for help and report what has happened.

Medical professionals are concerned for the well-being of the victim, who may need immediate medical attention, not only for injuries, but against sexually transmitted disease, and possibly to avoid unwanted conception. In many locations, EMTs, emergency room nurses and doctors are trained to help rape victims. Some emergency rooms have rape kits which are used to collect evidence.

"A victim of sexual assault should be offered prophylaxis for pregnancy and for sexually transmitted diseases, subject to informed consent and consistent with current treatment guidelines. Physicians and allied health practitioners who find this practice morally objectionable or who practice at hospitals that prohibit prophylaxis or contraception should offer to refer victims of sexual assault to another provider who can provide these services in a timely fashion."-"Management of the Patient with the Complaint of Sexual Assault" from the American College of Emergency Physicians

Police are charged with the enforcement of the laws forbidding sexual assault and to gather evidence to identify and prosecute the offender. Further, police provide safety advice and prevention tips, to prevent people from becoming victims of sexual assault.

Reducing the risk of sexual assault

Police agencies routinely offer safety tips and advice for reducing the risk of sexual assault. While many individuals may offer 'tips' to reduce the risk of being sexually assaulted, research has shown that sexual violence is an offender variable, and that any traditional tips for survivors of sexual assault not only are ineffective, but can be highly damaging to the recovery process by blaming the victim and excusing the offender. By giving tips such as 'avoid being alone in public', if a man or woman is assaulted while walking alone, they will feel blamed for not heeding the suggestion, when research has shown that a person is much more likely to be assaulted by someone they know. Often it is the designated 'safe person' who is chosen to chaperone who will perpetrate sexual assault, as just one example.

Tips such as carrying Mace, or having your keys in your hands at the ready are also highly ineffective. If someone is sexually assaulted through coercion by an acquaintance or partner, these responses will not come into play. In addition, sexual assault is a shocking life event, and people react to this life event in all different sorts of ways. This may look like screaming, or running away, or fighting back. One of the most common reactions is freezing. If this is the reaction, it doesn't matter if you have your keys in your hand, if someone's initial physiological reaction to this stress is to freeze, it won't matter. Of course, everyone should do whatever they need to so that they feel safe. The problem with these tips comes in when people tell others to follow them to 'be safer' when research has shown them to be ineffective and very harmful to a survivor's recovery process.

The most effective 'tip' for how to prevent sexual assault is to not perpetrate sexual assault. If no one perpetrated this violence, it would be eliminated. This again speaks towards how this violence is an offender variable, and only offenders can decrease the prevalence rates of sexual assault. Other ways to work towards preventing sexual violence is to know when sexual assault is and to raise awareness about how common it is. By speaking openly about this issue, survivors will know that they will be believed if and when they disclose, and perpetrators will know that people will not be silenced in this violence. By not questioning the survivors behaviour and instead questioning the offenders (ie, "why did you have so much to drink?" vs. "why did you not stop when s/he indicated they the did not wish to continue?"), survivors will feel more comfortable coming forward with their stories. Other ways to get involved in decreasing this type of violence is to volunteer at a local sexual assault centre.

See also

Further reading

External links

National organizations

Support organizations

Research and information

Index: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

This article is based on "Sexual assault" from the free encyclopedia Wikipedia ( It is licensed under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation Licencse. In the Wikipedia you can find a list of the authors by visiting the following address: