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What is Sexual Assault?

Sexual assault refers to a pattern of behavior that includes rape, but also any unwanted physical contact of a sexual nature. Anything from non-consensual kissing and fondling to forced oral, anal or vaginal sex is an act of sexual assault.

It is important to note that sexual assault is NOT about sex. It is about power and control over another person. Sexual assault leaves victims feeling hurt and humiliated. Here are some interesting facts about sexual assault:

What should I do if I am sexually assaulted?
What is “Rape Trauma Syndrome?”

Rape Trauma Syndrome is an acknowledged form of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD. Victims of rape can experience a wide range of psychological responses including shock, embarrassment, disbelief, shame, guilt, denial, depression, fear, powerlessness, anxiety, disorientation, anger, flashbacks and thoughts of suicide.

Other common concerns of victims include:

“Not everyone will react the same way, but the important thing to understand is that these feelings are normal and appropriate counseling can help you deal with them.”

What can I do to help a friend who has been sexually assaulted?

Understanding what sexual assault means for the survivor will help you be as sensitive as you can be.

Sexual assault is a violent act that strips away a person’s sense of dignity, autonomy, and control. It is violence against a person’s most inner and personal self. It is devastating, in every possible way. Before you help a friend, you must try to understand how awful the experience must have been for them.

If a friend confides in you that they have experienced a sexual assault, it is usually because you are someone they feel they can trust. There are no official “rules” as to the best way to respond, but being as sensitive and non-judgmental as possible is the best place to start.

Here are some tips that may help:

If you are sexually assaulted, know your rights!

You have the right to determine whether or not you want to report the assault to Law Enforcement.

You have the right to have an advocate present at the hospital exam (PC§264.2) and at any interview by Law Enforcement, the District Attorney or Defense Attorney (PC§679.04(a)).

You have the right to be treated in a considerate and sensitive manner by Law Enforcement, medical personnel, advocates, and prosecution personnel.

You have the right not to be subjected to any type of discrimination because of your gender, race, age, class, religion, occupation or sexual orientation.

Where can I get help?

Alliance 24-Hour Hotline Local 661-327-1091

Outside Bakersfield 800-273-7713

LGBTQ Hotline 661-322-2869

Rape Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN)
24-Hours -800-656-HOPE (800-656-4673)

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