Sexual violence is an abuse of power and control through sexual means. Attacking a person in this way means attacking a private part of someone. When a person is violated sexually, it can have emotional and physical ramifications. Any time this happens, it is a violent act.
According to the National Intimate Partner Violence Survey (NISVS) of 2010, approximately 1 in 5 women (19.3%) and 1 in 59 men (1.7%) reported having been raped in their lifetime. NISVS also reports that “nearly 1 in 2 women and 1 in 5 men have experienced sexual violence victimization other than rape at some point in their lives.”
Any sexual contact or exposure that is unwanted is illegal and can often feel traumatic because it violates an intimate part of one’s body and breaks one’s sense of trust and safety. Survivors of sexual assault might use their own language to define their experience of unwanted sexual contact or exposure, whether that is rape, sexual violence, sexual assault, or another term.
Sexual assault may include coercion, manipulation, or threats. Someone who was sexually assaulted might have physical injuries as a result of the assault, but that is not always the case. Just because someone does not have physical injuries from their assault does not mean that the assault was less traumatizing or invalid.
The vast majority of sexual assaults occur between people who know each other. It is far more likely that a person will be sexually assaulted by a current/former partner or an acquaintance than by a stranger.
A person who has been sexually assaulted may experience a variety of physical and emotional responses, including guilt, shame, anger, and embarrassment. A person who has been sexually assaulted may also experience nausea, headaches, eating disruptions, sleep disturbances, and other somatic responses to trauma. Oftentimes, a person’s worldview is altered after a sexual assault; a survivor’s sense of safety and trust in others can be hugely impacted.
Survivors of sexual assault are never to blame for what was done to them. If you know someone who has been sexually assaulted, it is important to tell them it wasn’t their fault. You can read about other ways to help someone who has been sexually assaulted.
The Center’s advocates are here to support those impacted by sexual assault through our 24/7 crisis line, hospital accompaniment, legal advocacy, emergency shelter, counseling, therapy, and information and referrals. Sexual assault also impacts the loved ones of a victim. The Center is here to support those people too.
- Sexual Assault: Survivor’s Handbook Download Handbook
- Infographic on Sexual Violence from the CDC
- Learn more about Sexual Assault: Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network
- Information for teens: Sex and Healthy Relationships
- To prevent sexual assault, it’s important that we learn and talk about consent. Read more about consent here.
- Learn more about Kentucky and Indiana state laws related to sexual assault and consent: Indiana Sex Crimes (scroll to Chapter 4/page 18) and Kentucky Revised Statutes KRS Chapter 510.