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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.[1] 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.[2] Generally, victims are more likely to be assaulted by an acquaintance (such as a friend or co-worker) 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. Many argue that there are risk factors for sexual assault that lie with the victim; that is, certain behaviors by the victim exist may increase the chance of sexual assault.

While it is widely accepted that the victim is not to blame, for would-be victims of sexual assault, there are a variety of precautions that may be taken to minimize the chance of falling victim to sexual predators. Various reputed organizations and legal agencies have provided suggestions to this end, including the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, The Canadian Women's Sexual Assault Centre,, and Amnesty International.

The advice given is extensive, and vary in specifics, they all tend to include certain precautions:

  • Avoid being alone in public, particularly at night, or in dark and/or isolated places.
  • Maintain situational awareness. Be aware of other persons.
  • Keep personal information (such as name, address and telephone numbers) on your person, and not on key-chains.
  • Keep your vehicle and home locked.
  • Avoid isolated places such as deserted parking lots or stairwells in office buildings as much as possible.
  • If a motorist asks for assistance, stand a distance from the vehicle.
  • Be alert. Never sleep in public—including buses, cabs and benches. Have car and house keys ready before you reach the door.
  • Walk facing traffic.
  • Trust your instincts—if you feel you are being followed, if you have suspicions about a minor auto accident, or being stopped by a police official, keep driving to a well-lit, populated area before stopping. In the case of a police officer, in the United States and many other countries, a driver who does so for their own safety cannot be further penalized for evading arrest or failing to stop (provided they do so eventually).
  • Don't allow yourself to be alone with someone whom you do not know or trust. This may prevent stranger sexual assault (2% of all assaults), although will not prevent the more common types of assault such as acquaintance sexual assault.
  • If you are in trouble or feel you are in danger, don't be afraid to attract help any way you can. Scream, yell or run away to safety.
  • If you choose to carry any type of weapon for self-protection, give careful consideration to your ability and willingness to use it. Remember there is always the chance that it could be taken away and used against you.

See also

  • Medical emergency
  • Sexual assault in the U.S. military
  • Tailhook scandal
  • 2003 U.S. Air Force Academy sexual assault scandal


  1. ^ Frequently Asked Questions About Women's Health: Sexual Assault, The National Women's Health Information Center, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
  2. ^ Chapter 6: Female Sex Offenders, All about Female Offenders, by Katherine Ramsland.

Further reading

  • Wishart, G.D. (2003). "The Sexual Abuse of People with Learning Difficulties: Do We Need A Social Model Approach To Vulnerability?", Journal of Adult Protection, Volume 5 (Issue 3).

Support organizations

  • After Silence, support forums and chat room for survivors of rape and sexual abuse.
  • Pandora's Aquarium, an online support group, message board, and chat room for sexual assault survivors and their supporters.

Research and information

  • Award Winning Documentary on Sexual Assault and Healing
  • Rape Crisis Information Pathfinder- research on sexual assault
  • U.S. Army Sexual Assault Prevention & Response Program
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Sexual_assault". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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