What is Sexual Assault?

What is sexual assault?


Sexual assault and abuse is any type of sexual activity that you do not agree to, including:

Inappropriate touching

Vaginal, anal, or oral penetration (by anything)

Sexual intercourse


Attempted rape

Child molestation


Sexual assault can be verbal, visual, or anything that forces a person to join in unwanted sexual contact or attention.


Types of Sexual Assault




Rape victims may be forced through threats, coercion, or physical means. In about 8 of 10 rapes, no weapon is used other than physical force. Anyone may be a victim of rape: women, men, children, straight, lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered people.


Acquaintance Rape


Acquaintance rape is an umbrella term used to describe sexual assaults in which the survivor and the perpetrator are known to each other within any context. They may be passing acquaintances or may know each other intimately.

Date rape is a specific kind of acquaintance rape, referring to assaults made by one dating partner onto the other during or after the date. Most women are raped by men they know. Acquaintance rape can be divided into three distinct stages: intrusion, desensitization, and isolation. Intrusion may include touching (sexual or nonsexual), suggestive remarks, or intimate conversation. After this, the potential victim frequently becomes desensitized (the touch/remarks/conversation become normal for that point in time) and may not pick up on warning signs that the behavior is about to escalate. The final stage is active isolation of the victim so the rape can take place. Although these steps seem very methodical, they are usually carried out in such a way as to be unrecognizable by the survivor. Depending on the relationship between the perpetrator and the survivor, the intrusion, desensitization, and isolation can take very different forms.

Marital Rape is a kind of acquaintance rape in that it describes sexual assault by a spouse, the most intimate of acquaintances. This may occur within any long-term relationship, regardless of whether a legal “marriage” has taken place. Historically, marital rape has not been a crime, but today it is illegal in all fifty states. It is difficult for victims to report rape by their spouse because the victim must live with the spouse as well as the situation that would arise by reporting such a rape. Many people still believe that a woman should be sexually available to her husband regardless of her desires. Spousal rapists are the best-hidden serial rapists because they are often able to “get away with” raping their partner multiple times with no repercussions to themselves. Many women experience rape at the hands of their spouse when they are in the process of leaving a violent relationship.


Child Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse of a child is one form of child abuse. It includes a wide range of actions between a child and an adult or older child. Often these involve body contact, but not always. Exposing one’s genitals to children or pressuring them for sex is sexual abuse. Using a child for pornography is also sexual abuse.

Most sexual abusers know the child they abuse. They may be family friends, neighbors or babysitters. About one-third of abusers are related to the child. Most abusers are men. If you think a child may have been abused, it’s important to report it.

Drug Facilitated Sexual Assault (or Substance-Related Rape)

Drug facilitated sexual assault is the type of sexual assault in which drugs or alcohol are used to compromise an individual’s ability to consent to sexual activity.  In most substance-related rape, the parties both voluntarily use substances, though the rapist may “feed” the victim alcohol or drugs to more easily perpetrate the assault. Although drugs and alcohol are implicated in many assaults, drug use alone does not cause sexual violence. The effects of alcohol might lessen the survivor’s ability to resist unwanted sex, and may heighten the perpetrator’s preexisting beliefs about the acceptability of non-consensual sexual contact.


Incest is the type of sexual contact that occurs between persons who are so closely related that their marriage would be illegal.

Male Sexual Assault

Male victims of sexual assault are an often forgotten population – unseen, neglected, and underserved. Male victims have unique needs that tend to be overlooked by service providers. This can include shame, emasculating feelings, feeling as if they should have fought to the death, and social stigma, which is greater for male victims of sexual assault. Straight men who are raped by a man may question their sexual orientation.

Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment includes unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature that it affects an individual’s work or school performance.

Stranger Rape

Three major categories include Blitz Sexual Assault (dark alley or out of the bushes type), Contact Sexual Assault (like at a bar), and Home Invasion Sexual Assault.



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