Sexual abuse or assault (rape) can happen to anyone. If this has happened to you, you are not to
blame. Sexual abuse is any type of sexual activity that is done against your
will. It can be nonviolent sexual abuse, such as nontouching sexual exposure
(like being forced to look at sexual pictures) or unwanted or forced sexual
touching. Or it can mean a violent sexual assault, such as rape or attempted rape.
The attacker may be a stranger, someone you do not know well, a close friend,
or a family member (incest). Many victims of abuse or assault know their
Teens and young adults may be at risk for becoming victims of sexual assault or violent behavior in situations where certain drugs are used.
It is often hard for people to talk about sexual abuse
or assault. The abused person often feels shame or guilt and may be too afraid
of the abuser to say anything. But it is important to seek help and then
continue to get help for as long as you need it. Talk to the police or to a
health professional, such as a doctor, nurse, or counselor. Or call a local
rape crisis center. Any of these people can help you get medical treatment,
deal with your feelings, and take steps to stop the abuser or rapist.
Nonviolent sexual abuse
Sexual abuse can be something
spoken or seen, or it can be anything that forces a person to join in unwanted
sexual contact. This type of abuse may occur over and over. Examples of
nonviolent sexual abuse include forcing a person to:
- Look at a naked body or naked genital
- Watch, look at, or be a part of sexual
- Watch a sexual act, such as masturbation.
Violent sexual assault
Violent sexual assault is any forced
sexual contact where something is put into (penetrates) the
vagina, anus, or mouth. Violence or fear is used to
force the person to have sex. Examples of violent sexual assault
- An object placed into the vagina or
- Forced oral sex.
- Forced sexual intercourse
Check your symptoms to decide if and when
you should see a doctor or get other help.
If you feel threatened or need
- If you have been
- Call the police immediately, or call a
health professional such as a doctor, nurse, or counselor.
- Remember the assault (rape) was not your
- Find a safe environment—anywhere away from the
- Preserve evidence of the attack—do not change clothes,
eat, drink, smoke, bathe, brush teeth, or clean up in any way. Write down all
the details about the attack and the attacker.
- Get medical
attention. Even with no physical injuries, it is important to determine the
risk of pregnancy or
sexually transmitted infections (STIs), such as
gonorrhea, hepatitis B, or
HIV. To preserve evidence, ask the hospital to do a
special exam (called a forensic medical exam). If you think you may have been
drugged, ask that a urine sample be taken.
- Call the National
Sexual Assault Hotline toll-free (1-800-656-HOPE or 1-800-656-4673) for free, confidential
- Call the National Teen Dating Abuse Hotline
toll-free (1-866-331-9474) or (1-866-331-8453 TTY).
- Find local
resources that can help in a crisis. Your local rape
crisis center or hotline, police department, mental health clinic,
or hospital can help you.
- Be alert to warning signs, such as
threats or drunkenness, so that you can avoid a dangerous
- If a child tells you that he or she has been sexually abused
or assaulted, stay calm. Tell the child that you believe him or her and that
you will do your best to keep him or her safe. Report the abuse or assault to
the local police or a child protective services agency. For more information,
see the topic
Child Abuse and Neglect.
If you have been a victim of abuse and continue to have
problems related to the abuse, you may have
post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). For more
information, see the topic
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Symptoms to watch for during home treatment
If you are concerned that sexual abuse or
assault has occurred, call your doctor to decide if and when
you should see a doctor or get other help.
Sexual abuse and assault is never the victim's fault. But there are some things you can do that may help reduce your risk.
- When you go to a party, go with a group of
friends. Arrive together, watch out for each other, and leave
- Do not leave your beverage unattended or accept a drink
from an open container.
- Be aware of your surroundings at all
- Do not allow yourself to be alone with someone you do not
know or trust. Do not get a ride from someone you do not
- Think about how intimate you want to be in a relationship, and
clearly state your limits.
Reduce the chance of your child being sexually abused or
- Teach your children that it is against the
"rules" for adults to act in a sexual way with children. Use
- Teach your children that it is okay to say no and that it is
okay to leave the situation if they are uncomfortable.
- Teach your
children that their bodies are their own and that it is okay if they do not
want a hug or other contact that might make them
- Speak to your children about using the proper names
for their body parts. Informed children are better able to talk to you about
someone acting in a sexual way with them.
Organizations such as Planned Parenthood can help you learn
more about reducing your chances of being a victim. Contact Planned Parenthood
toll-free at 1-800-230-PLAN (1-800-230-7526) or online at www.plannedparenthood.org.
To prepare for your appointment, see the topic Making the Most of Your Appointment.
If you have made an
appointment with your health professional, you may be able to get the most from
your visit by being prepared to answer the following questions:
- Has anyone forced you to have sexual
- Has the sexual abuse increased recently? When was the
last forced sexual contact?
- Has a child, family member, or friend
been forced to have sexual activities? When did it occur? What action was
- Has the abuser threatened violence against your children or
other people? Is he or she violent toward your children?
- Is the
person who harmed you using any illegal drugs or alcohol?
- Does the
person who harmed you have access to guns or other violent
- Do you have any
risk factors that increase your chance of becoming a victim of sexual abuse
Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) (U.S.)