About Rape and Sexual Assault
No matter what the circumstances of these crimes are, sexual assault and rape are not motivated by sexual desire. Perpetrators commit sexual assault and rape to dominate, exert power over, and hurt victims. It is never a survivor’s fault.
What is rape?
Rape is forced sexual intercourse, including any completed or attempted unwanted vaginal, oral, or anal penetration through the use of physical force (such as being pinned or held down, or by the use of violence) or threats to physically harm (such as killing the victim).
Rape implies that a person isn’t capable of consenting to the activity. For example, a person may be impaired by physical, mental, emotional circumstances, including under the influence of alcohol or drugs. A person’s status, such as their age, role, or relationship to the perpetrator, may also make the victim unable to give consent.
What is sexual assault?
Sexual assault is a term that refers to unwanted sexual act against or without a person’s consent. It includes any sexual, physical, verbal, or visual act that forces a person to engage in sexual contact against their will or without their consent.
What is consent?
Consent is the approval or agreement given without force or coercion. Consent also means a person is capable of consciously agreeing to sexual acts. A person cannot give consent if they are impaired by physical, mental, or emotional reasons, as well as their status by age, role, or relationship to the perpetrator.
If a victim does not fight the acts, it does not mean consent. A person may not fight as protection from being hurt even more.
Effects of Rape and Sexual Assault
In the aftermath of a sexual assault or rape, survivors can face extremely difficult and painful emotions and experiences. Every survivor responds to traumatic events in their own way. The effects of the trauma can be short-term or last long after the sexual assault or rape.
While this page describes effects survivors often experience, it is not exhaustive. If a survivor’s reactions do not match common responses—such as no physical injury—it does not mean what happened was not sexual abuse or assault. No one is alone in their healing process. There are resources to help along the restorative pathway to healing.
What are common physical effects of sexual assault and rape?
- Bleeding (vaginal or anal)
- Difficulty walking
- Broken or dislocated bones
- Sexually transmitted infections and diseases
What are common mental effects of sexual assault and rape?
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), including flashbacks, nightmares, severe anxiety, and uncontrollable thoughts
- Depression, including prolonged sadness, feelings of hopelessness, unexplained crying, weight loss or gain, loss of energy or interest in activities previously enjoyed
- Suicidal thoughts or attempts. If you or someone you know is feeling suicidal, contact the us today.
- Dissociation, including not being able to focus on work or on schoolwork, as well as not feeling present in everyday situations
What are common emotional effects of sexual assault and rape?
- Changes in trusting others
- Anger and blame
- Loss of control
- Sense of vulnerability
- Self-blame/guilt for “allowing” the crime to happen
- Feeling that these reactions are a sign of weakness
What else could someone experience after a sexual assault or rape?
Other circumstances can develop for a survivor after being sexual assaulted or raped. A survivor may develop a negative outlook and feel “damaged” or unworthy of a better life. Drug or alcohol abuse may also become an issue as a way to cope with the overwhelming feelings. Women may also have trouble with their menstrual cycle and fertility. In addition, survivors may experience:
- Chronic fatigue
- Shortness of breath
- Muscle tension
- Involuntary shaking
- Changes in eating and sleeping patterns
- Sexual dysfunction