Sexual Assaults


Rape is the most under reported crime in America. Significant changes to improve the treatment of sexual assault victims have occurred in the last two decades. The impact of reforms, led by the women’s movement, can be seen in the legal, medical, mental health, and victim services arenas. During the 1970s, the first rape crisis center was established. The treatment of victims in the criminal justice system was questioned, and hundreds of laws were passed to protect rape victims in the courts.

Medical protocols have been developed and widely accepted. The mental health impact of rape is now well documented in the literature, and the practices of mental health professionals have improved. Although the treatment of rape victims today is vastly different from two decades ago, many victims still do not report the crime, and they do not receive the assistance and treatment they need.

The date rape drug – Rohypnol

Rohypnol has been associated with date rape, and has also been called the “Forget Pill, ” “Trip-and-Fall, ” and “Mind-Erasers.” In combination with alcohol, it can induce a blackout with memory loss and a decrease in resistance. Girls and women around the country have reported being raped after being involuntarily sedated with Rohypnol, which was often slipped into their drink by an attacker.

Unfortunately, rape or sexual assault is the violent crime least often reported to law enforcement. Only 16% of rapes are ever reported to the police. In a survey of victims who did not report rape or attempted rape to the police, victims gave the following reasons for not making a report: 43% thought nothing could be done; 27% thought it was a private matter; 12% were afraid of police response; and 12% thought it was not important enough. Remember, sexual assault is against the law. You have the right to report this crime to the police, and to be treated fairly.

What is sexual assault?

Sexual assault is any type of sexual activity that you do not want or agree to. It ranges from inappropriate touching to penetration or intercourse. It also can be verbal, visual, audio, or any other form which forces a person to participate in unwanted sexual contact or attention. Sexual assault includes rape and attempted rape, child molestation, voyeurism, exhibitionism, incest, and sexual harassment. It can happen in different situations, such as: date rape, domestic or intimate partner violence, or by a stranger. All forms of sexual assault are crimes.

Who are the victims of sexual assault & rape?

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, an estimated 91% of rape and sexual assault are female and 9% are male. (Nearly 99% of the reported offenders are male.) The National Victim Center reports that 683,000 women are raped per year, and 13.3% of college women say they had been forced to have sex in a dating situation. The National Violence Against Women Survey found of the women who reported being raped, 54% were under the age of 18 at the time of the first rape and 83% were under the age of 25. However, sexual assault affects women, children, and men of all ages, racial, cultural and economic backgrounds.

What do I do if I am sexually assaulted?

  • Get away from the attacker and to a safe place as soon as you can.
  • Call a friend or family member that you trust. You can also call a crisis center hotline.
  • Do not shower, wash, bathe, clean any part of your body, or change clothes if possible. Also, try not to urinate.
  • If you change clothes, place the clothes from the incident in a paper bag (plastic destroys evidence).
  • Go to your nearest hospital emergency room as soon as possible. You need to be examined, treated for any injuries, and screened for possible sexually transmitted diseases or pregnancy. The doctor will collect evidence that the attacker may have left behind, like clothing fibers, hairs, saliva, or semen. A standard “rape kit” is usually used to help collect these things.

How can I help prevent being sexually assaulted?

  • In general, be alert to your surroundings. Walk with confidence and trust your instincts. If you feel uncomfortable in your surroundings, leave.
  • When out with friends at social events, never leave with someone you’ve just met. Don’t take drugs or alcohol, which might cloud your judgment.
  • Be wary of isolated spots, like underground garages, offices after business hours, and apartment laundry rooms.
  • Avoid walking alone, especially at night.
  • Never hitchhike or pick up a hitchhiker.
  • If possible, stay in areas where there are other people, and park your car in well-lighted areas. Always lock your car and have your key ready to use before you reach the car.
  • If you think you are being followed, run towards a lighted house, restaurants, stores or other public places.
  • If possible, always carry a cellular phone.
  • If your car breaks down, turn on your flashers, lock the doors, stay in your car, and call for help on the cellular phone. If you don’t have a phone, put on the flashers, lift your hood, use flares if possible, get back in the car, and lock the doors. If someone stops to help you, roll the window down enough so he or she can hear you, and ask them to call the police or a tow service.
  • At home, never open your door to strangers. Always check the identification of salespersons or service people before opening the door. It also is a good idea to have another adult at home with you when service people come, if you can arrange it.
  • Make sure all windows and doors are locked.
  • Have a peephole in the door and well-lighted entrances.
  • Know a neighbor you can call or rely on if something happens.

How do I handle a sexual assaulter?

The National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC) explains that there are no hard and fast, right or wrong answers to handle an attacker. It depends on your emotional state and physical state, the situation, and the attacker’s personality. Surviving is the goal, but NCPC recommends the following:

  • Try to escape. Scream. Be rude. Make noise to discourage your attacker from following.
  • Talk, stall for time, and assess your options.
  • If the attacker has a weapon, you may have no choice but to submit. Do whatever it takes to survive.
  • If you decide to fight back, you must be quick, determined, and effective. Target the eyes or groin.

I know someone that has been sexually assaulted. What can I do to help them?

  • Listen. Be supportive and nonjudgmental.
  • Accept what you hear. Don’t minimize the experience.
  • Make it clear that the sexual assault was not the victim’s fault. Avoid ” Why? ” questions-they may sound blaming.
  • Offer options. Encourage action. Suggest seeking medical attention, calling the police, calling a rape crisis center for emotional support, or calling the Sexual Assault Services coordinator.
  • Let the victim decide what actions to take.
  • Get help yourself. You may need to talk to someone about your feelings. Use support services.

What are some common myths about sexual assault?

  • Sex crimes are crimes of passion or desire. False. Every sex crime is a crime of violence, anger and power.
  • Sexual offenders commit these crimes in order to get sex. False. Sex offenders get gratification from intimidating, humiliating, and degrading their victims. Many sex offenders are married or already involved in relationships where they can freely engage in intimate relations.
  • People provoke sexual assaults by dressing “sexy.” Only certain types of people are sexually assaulted. False. People of both sexes, all ages, professions and styles of dress have become victims of sexual assaults.
  • It’s easy to tell who is a sex offender. False. Sex offenders come from all walks of life and ethnic backgrounds. A sex offender can be anyone: male, female, married, a friend, relative, acquaintance or stranger. Sex offenders may even look “wholesome” or possess “movie star” good looks, which they use to make their approach to victims easier.
  • Women claim rape to get even with men. False. Nationwide surveys of police departments indicate rape is one of the least falsely reported crimes.
  • No person can be sexually assaulted against his or her will. False. Fear and threats of violence or disfigurement to oneself or a loved one can immobilize anyone.