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What is Sexual Assault?

Sexual assault is a crime of power and control.  The term sexual assault refers to sexual contact or behavior that occurs without explicit consent of the victim.  Sexual assaults are not about sex, but power and control over the victim. 


Some forms of sexual assault include:

  • Penetration of the victim’s body, also known as rape

  • Attempted rape

  • Forcing a victim to perform sexual acts, such as oral sex or penetrating the perpetrator’s body

  • Fondling or unwanted sexual touching

Sexual Assault Statistics
  • 44% of victims are under age 18.

  • 80% of victims are under age 30.

  • Every 107 seconds, another American is sexually assaulted.

  • 68% of assaults are not reported to the police.

  • 98% of rapists will never spend a day in jail or prison.

  • 47% of rapists are a friend or acquaintance.

Statistics courtesy of

Effects of Sexual Assault

Common Reactions

  • Anger – mad at themselves for letting it happen, others for not protecting them

  • Guilt – somehow causing the rape

  • Shame/Embarrassment

  • Fear – of being attacked again, fear of being alone, in crowds, all men

  • Lack of Trust – lose their ability to trust own judgments and decisions, people

  • Betrayal

  • Powerlessness/Depression – lost control of body, suicidal, never get better

  • Panic – jumpy, feels vulnerable

  • Cleansing – attempting to wash away the dirtiness of the crime

  • Sexual Problems – decrease in sexual interest, fear and avoidance of sexual activity

  • Nightmares – disturbed sleep patterns, reliving the event

  • Social Problems – to anxious or depressed to engage in social activities

  • Alcohol and Drug Use – turning to substances to kill the pain

  • Denial – minimize the seriousness of the assault, it wasn’t that bad

  • Rape Trauma Syndrome – a form of PTSD, includes the physical, emotional, and behavioral stress reactions that are common among sexual assault survivors

Other Reactions

  • Self-Harm

  • Flashbacks

  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases

  • Depression

  • Substance Use

  • Dissociation

  • Eating Disorders

  • Pregnancy

  • Sleep Disorders

  • Suicide


Post-traumatic stress disorder is an anxiety disorder that can result from a traumatic event.  You may have heard the term used in relation to the military, but it can apply to survivors of any type of trauma, including sexual violence.  Survivors might experience uncharacteristic feelings of stress, fear, anxiety, and nervousness—and this is perfectly normal.  With PTSD, these feelings are extreme, can cause you to feel constantly in danger, and make it difficult to function in everyday life.

While all survivors react differently, there are three main symptoms of PTSD:

  • Re-experiencing: feeling like you are reliving the event through flashbacks, dreams, or intrusive thoughts

  • Avoidance: intentionally or subconsciously changing your behavior to avoid scenarios associated with the event or losing interest in activities you used to enjoy

  • Hyper-arousal: feeling “on edge” all of the time, having difficulty sleeping, being easily startled, or prone to sudden outbursts

Recovering from Sexual Assault

Sexual violence can have psychological, emotional, and physical effects on a survivor. These effects aren’t always easy to deal with, but with the right help and support they can be managed. Learning more can help you find the best form of care to begin the healing process.

It’s hard to know what to do, how to feel, or what your options are after a sexual assault. Please know that you’re not alone and what happened to you is NOT your fault. Below are some things to keep in mind.

  1. If you are in immediate danger or seriously injured, call 911.

  2. Your safety is important. Are you in a safe place? If you’re not feeling safe, consider reaching out to someone you trust for support. You don’t have to go through this alone.

  3. What happened was not your fault. Something happened to you that you didn’t want to happen—and that’s not OK.

  4. Call a local or national hotline (ASPEN – 406-222-8154) or (The National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673).

  5. You can also visit to chat anonymously.


We understand how difficult it can be to report your assault to law enforcement, and that’s why we are here to provide support no matter what choice you make. Please note that receiving medical attention is vital for your self-care and safety, and doing so does not require the victim to seek legal action. ASPEN is standing by to comfort you through this process. Your recovery is important to us. There are both short-term and long-term steps to take to help your physical, psychological, and emotional healing.

Short Term Care

Being sexually assaulted is traumatic in more ways than one. That’s why it is imperative that you are surrounded with a strong support system that you feel comfortable expressing your strengths and weaknesses to. Consider the following tips when recuperating from a traumatic event:

  • Try to get back into a sleeping routine or nap pattern you had when you felt healthy.

  • Attend support groups or counseling specifically for victims of assault. This will help you connect with people who have gone through similar experiences.

  • Write down what you’re feeling in a journal.

  • You may find yourself distanced from the people and things you love. Ask your loved ones for encouragement. Sometimes everyone needs help just getting out of bed in the morning.

Long Term Care

Immediately after the crime occurs, you may be faced with reliving the event. When you are at the point when these recollections start to decline, it’s important to work towards a full recovery. There are many ways to foster that process:

  • If you have stopped doing hobbies and leisure activities that you enjoy, ask a friend or family member to help you get back into the swing of things.

  • Get into an exercising routine that helps you feel energized. Physical activity releases endorphins that can help you feel happier.

  • Incorporate meditation or relaxation activities into your schedule.

  • Think back to when you were happiest. There were many people and things in your life that made it worth living. Get back in touch with those people and things, and discover new hobbies and interests you might have developed.

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