Sexual assault is any unwanted sexual behavior that makes a person feel uncomfortable, threatened or scared. It covers a wide range of unwanted sexual behaviors that are often used by offenders as a way to assert power and control over their victims. It covers:
- Rape: forced, unwanted sex or sexual acts.
- Child sexual abuse: using power over a child to involve that child in sexual activity.
- Indecent assault: indecent behavior before, during or after an assault.
Sexual assault is a serious crime and is never the fault of the victim.
Sexual assault isn’t always about offenders getting pleasure from sex. It can also be about them enjoying asserting control and power over someone. Some offenders have been abused themselves, but this isn’t always the case.
Everyone reacts differently to sexual assault. All of the following responses are normal:
- Shock and denial
- Guilt and blame
- Low self-esteem
- Nightmares and flashbacks
- Mood swings
- Loss of confidence
- Loss of trust
There are many myths around what constitutes sexual assault, so find out the facts:
- Myth: Only women can be sexually assaulted.
- Fact: Both men and women can be sexually assaulted. The offender can also be any gender, and of any sexual orientation
- Myth: To get attention, women often falsely accuse men of sexual assault.
- Fact: Many victims of sexual assault – both females and males – don’t report it for fear of not being believed. Most sexual assault reports are truthful.
- Myth: Most rapists are strangers.
- Fact: Most offenders are known to the assault victim.
- Myth: If you’re a couple or married or a couple it’s not sexual assault.
- Fact: In any relationship unwanted sexual activity is assault.
- Myth: You’re partly responsible if you’re drunk or wearing sexy clothing.
- Fact: Under any circumstances, sexual assault survivors are never responsible for somebody choosing to assault them.
If you’ve been sexually assaulted, it’s not something you have to live with on your own. Here are some things you can do straight away:
- If you’re worried about your safety or if you’re in immediate danger, try to get to somewhere safe and contact emergency services immediately.
- Find someone you can talk to, such as a family member, friend, counselor or youth worker. Contact an organization that can give you relevant information on seeking help.
- Medical support is essential if you’ve been sexually assaulted. If you can, try to get to a health center or hospital where they can give you appropriate medical care.
- Trust your instincts. If someone has assaulted you, you may not feel confident about what to do next. Remember that it’s never okay for someone to assault you for any reason.