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Sexual Assault

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:

  • Most rapes are not committed by strangers; anywhere between 87% and 92% of rapists are known to the victim and include current and former partners.
  • Women do not “cry rape” to falsely accuse men they are angry with any more often than people falsely report other felony crimes. Only 2% to 10% of rape reports are found to be false; the same number as for other crimes.
  • Almost 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men experience rape during their lifetime.

What should I do if I am sexually assaulted?

  • Get to a safe place as quickly as possible and call 9-1-1 or the 24-Hour Alliance Hotline.
  • Don’t bathe or shower, change your clothes, brush your teeth, eat or drink, as evidence of the assault may be lost.
  • Get to a hospital. A medical exam is necessary to collect evidence and to determine the extent of any injuries. Even if you do not want to report the assault, it is still a good idea to be examined for injuries.
  • Seek counseling.
  • Sometimes a sexual assault can result in the victim contracting a sexually transmitted infection, but not have symptoms until months later. Any contact with the bodily fluids of an HIV-positive person puts you at risk of contracting HIV. Although repeated contact with HIV is usually necessary for infection, always consult a physician if you think you may have been exposed to any sexually transmitted disease.

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:

  • That everyone knows what happened.
  • That people will blame them.
  • Fear of becoming pregnant.
  • Fear of sexually transmitted diseases.
  • Fear of it happening again.
  • Fear of retaliation by the offender, their family and friends.
  • How they might be treated by the legal system.

“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:

  • Be a good listener.
  • Be a friend first, actively listening and being supportive.
  • Resist the urge to offer unsolicited “solutions.”
  • Leave choices up to the victim.
  • Let them regain control, particularly as to if and when they want to talk about the assault.
  • Don’t rush them into anything or pressure them.
  • Be patient.
  • Healing takes a long time. Memories of the trauma will always be with them.
  • Don’t keep your feelings inside. Let them know they have your support.
  • Get support for yourself. You may find that you need to talk to a rape counselor yourself.
  • Be careful about resentment and withdrawal from the victim.
  • Believe them!

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)