Sexual Assault

Legally defined as “any physical act of a sexual nature that is accomplished toward another person without their consent.”

Lack of Consent

Includes, but is not limited to, the use of a weapon, physical violence or restraint, verbal threats, intimidation, and threats of retaliation or harm.


Defined as “positive cooperation, it must be freely and voluntarily given, and all participants must have knowledge and understanding of the act.

Consent Cannot Be Given Where...

  • Force, threat of force, coercion or fraud is used to gain compliance;
  • Someone is incapacitated due to alcohol or drug use;
  • Someone is asleep or unconscious;
  • Someone is under the legal age of consent.
Consent can also be revoked, even in the middle of a sex act.

What is “Enthusiastic Consent”?

  • Sex is never an obligation and only YES means YES;
  • “Wait” means NO;
  • “Maybe later” means NO;
  • “Not Now” means NO;
  • “Let’s just go to sleep” means NO;
  • And most importantly, silence means NO.

What to Know

It’s important to evaluate what you believe about sexual assault. First, look at this list and think about what myths you might have believed…

Rape Myths

  • Rapists are strangers who hide in alleys and dark places
  • I wouldn’t be raped by someone I know
  • A woman who is assault could probably fight off her attacker if she tried hard enough
  • Rape is a rare crime
  • Rape happens to certain types of women who are different from me
  • Rape happens because men lose control of their emotions
  • Rape happens because women entice men
  • Most rape reports are false
  • Only women are raped. If men are raped, it’s a form of homosexuality.
  • Rapists are usually psychotic or perverted men with no other stable relationships or access to sex
  • Women report rape because they want attention and sympathy
  • Women report rape so they can win money from men in court
  • You can tell a rapist by how they look
  • Rape is just a form of aggressive sex
  • Rape victims usually return to normal in a few weeks
  • Family members never commit rape
  • A wife cannot be raped by her husband
  • Only “bad” women get raped
  • Rape happens to women who are weak
  • Rape only occurs outside and at night
  • Rapes are “spur of the moment” incidents that weren’t planned by the rapist
  • If a woman doesn’t “fight back” then she wasn’t really rape

Were you surprised to see any of these statements described as untrue myths? Did you ever believe any of them were true? How many of these myths do you think are commonly believed by people today? Where do these myths come from, and why do some people believe them?

Although our social attitudes are slowly changing for the better, it continues to be important to challenge these old beliefs – not just in courtrooms, but in classrooms, hospitals, churches, police departments, and media. (Atkinson, M., Resurrection After Rape, pg 78)

What Now?

There is no such thing as a typical “Sexual Assault.” There is no such thing as a typical “reaction” to such a horrific event.

You May Feel All or Some of the Following Things:

  • Alone – “I can’t tell anyone.”
  • Angry – “How could this happen? They had no right!”
  • Anxious – “I can’t eat or sleep.”
  • Confused – “How could this have happened?”
  • Depressed – “I just don’t care anymore.”
  • Dirty – “I need another shower to scrub them off me.”
  • Fearful – “I can’t sleep; they might come after me.”
  • Guilt – “This is my fault. I deserved it.”
  • Helpless – “I can’t even make a simple decision.”
  • Numb – “I haven’t even cried yet.”
  • Panicked – “My heart is constantly racing.”
  • Singled out – “Why me?”
  • Weak – “They made me feel so insignificant.”
  • Vindictive – “I want them to pay for what they did.”

Other Feelings:

  • Self-Blame
  • Putting yourself in harm’s way
  • Shock or numbness – you feel nothing
  • Feeling out of control
  • Nightmares / Not being able to sleep
  • Angry with yourself and/or others
  • Restless sleep / Fear of the dark
  • Dependency on familiar friends
  • Depression / Disorganization
  • Wondering what you did to deserve the attack
  • Feeling jumpy
  • Being worried that you will never be normal again
  • Denial that the rape happened
  • Eating problems / Upset stomach
  • Denial that the rape was serious
  • Increased use of drugs or alcohol
  • Fear of public places
  • Cynicism
  • Fear of being alone
  • Fear of new relationships
  • Unable to make love

Sexual Assault Victims’ Advocacy

Victims’ Advocacy is free, confidential and open to anyone who has experienced sexual assault.

Services for Individuals

  • Access 24/7 for a confidential Sexual Assault Nurse Exam (SANE). Compassionate care and advocacy are given during the exam. Law Enforcement DOES NOT have to be involved with an adult victim.
  • Our Advocate accompanies survivors to court proceedings and can be present during any additional contact with law enforcement if needed.
  • Access to trauma-informed advocacy services as well as support sessions for individuals by appointment. Reaching out for help can alleviate feelings of isolation, loneliness, shame, and guilt associated with the trauma of sexual assault and abuse.

Services for Victims of Secondary Trauma

  • Many times, family members suffer the effects of secondary trauma related to the incident. Symptoms may appear as anxiety, anger, fear, helplessness, etc. Project: SAFE offers trauma-informed individual and group support services and other referrals and resources to assist the survivor’s family.
  • Supporting as a friend or family member

Services for Groups

  • Support groups are extremely helpful to survivors and family members suffering with the effects of secondary trauma. Group meetings empower survivors by offering a safe, confidential environment to share their personal truth. The bond that forms between survivors in a group setting can become a springboard for the courage to heal.