Every 73 seconds someone in the United States is sexually assaulted. Every 9 minutes, that victim is a child.
Sexual assault is any sexual act, attempted or completed, against a person’s will or against a person who is unable to give consent (giving permission or saying Yes!).
Consent is a voluntary, mutual, informed, active, and ongoing agreement between legal aged participants to engage in sexual activity and can be reversed at any time.
Sexual assault includes everything from harassment and indecent exposure to child molestation, incest, Intimate Partner Violence (domestic violence/abuse), and rape. It is motivated by the need to control, humiliate, and harm. Sexual Assault can happen to anyone; rich or poor, any race, any age, any gender.
Sexual assault of any type can be a very traumatic experience, even if you’re able to get away from the attacker. If you’ve been sexually assaulted, it’s important to remember:
- It’s not your fault: Sexual assault is always the attacker’s fault, not yours. People never “ask for it” because of what they’re wearing or how they act. If sex is forced without someone’s consent, it’s rape. It’s still rape if the people are dating, married, or have had sex together before. Remember that you never “owe” someone sex.
- Sexual assault isn’t always violent: If you say no or don’t say anything at all, and the person continues, it’s sexual assault because you never gave your permission. This is true if you are tricked, pressured, threatened, or forced, even if you don’t resist.
- Sexual assault isn’t always about sex: Sex without consent is an act of violence and aggression — it’s not about love and respect. Someone who cares about you will not force you to do anything sexual without your permission.
- Recovering from sexual assault takes time, and how recovery happens will be different for everyone.
Because force is not always physical it can sometimes be difficult to recognize the assault. Signs may include:
- Being forced to watch porn when you do not want to.
- Being touched in a sexual manner against your will, regardless of where you were touched.
- Being prevented from using a condom or other protection during sex.
- Someone putting a penis, finger or object in your vagina, mouth, or anus when you didn’t want them to.
- Taking advantage of you while you’re drunk or otherwise not likely to give consent.
- Being forced to pose for sexual pictures
Rape is a form of sexual assault but not all sexual assault is rape. Rape is a legal term for any attempted or completed sexual penetration (including vaginal, oral, or anal) through the use of physical force (such as being pinned or held down or any use of physical violence) or by threats of physical harm.
One in 10 children will be the victim of sexual abuse before their 18th birthday. Nearly 70% of all reported sexual assaults (including those on adults) occur to children 17 and under. Child sexual abuse is not always physical and can include other actions like exposing oneself, sharing obscene images or taking inappropriate photos or videos of a child.
It’s not always easy to spot sexual abuse because perpetrators often take steps to hide their actions. And some children may show no signs at all. The most important thing to keep in mind when looking for signs of child sexual abuse is to keep an eye on sudden changes in behavior. Trust your gut and don’t ignore your feelings if something seems off. If a child tells you that someone makes them uncomfortable, even if they can’t tell you anything specific, listen.
Physical signs of sexual abuse can include:
- Signs of trauma to the genital area, such as unexplained bleeding, bruising, or blood on the sheets, underwear, or other clothing
- Urinary tract infections, sexually transmitted diseases and abnormal vaginal or penile discharge.
Emotional and behavioral signs or changes are more common than physical signs and can include:
- Excessive talk about or knowledge of sexual topics
- Unusual fear of certain people or places; reluctance to be alone with a certain person
- Change in eating habits
- Change in mood or personality, such as increased aggression
- Decrease in confidence or self-image
- Excessive worry or fearfulness
- Increase in unexplained health problems such as stomach aches and headaches
- Loss or decrease in interest in school, activities, and friends
- Nightmares or fear of being alone at night
- Self-harming behaviors
We can help! The CARES (Children Advancing Through Recovery and Empowerment Services) Project provides counseling proven to effectively address symptoms of PTSD, depression, anxiety, sexualized behaviors, and feelings of shame and mistrust often displayed in children exposed to trauma. Click here to learn more.
How can Family Sunshine Center help?
Do you feel unsafe now?
Our crisis advocates are available 24/7 to provide information, advocacy, and support. You can also call the police/911 if you feel unsafe and need immediate help.
Do you have a safe place to sleep?
Everyone deserves to have a safe place to sleep, eat, and live. We provide short-term, emergency, and safe shelter for anyone fleeing from sexual violence.
Do you want to talk to someone?
We provide the counseling and services you need to start your recovery. We want you to know that we believe you, we support you, and we will stand by your side every step of the way.