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What to Do If You Experience Sexual Misconduct

What is Sexual Assault?

Sexual assault is any sexual activity that you did not consent to.

More formally speaking, sexual assault is any form of nonconsensual sexual activity, representing a continuum of conduct from forcible rape to nonphysical forms of pressure designed to compel individuals to engage in sexual activity against their will.

These are some forms that sexual assault can take:

  • Rape or attempted rape
  • Use of manipulation or force to make another person engage in sexual touching
  • Unwanted sexual touching
  • Knowingly transmitting a sexually transmitted infection to another person
  • Sexual activity with a person who is unable to consent
  • Unwanted penetration by a body part or object 

Immediate Steps After a Sexual Assault

1. If you are in immediate danger, call 911.

2. Go somewhere you feel safe.

3. Do not clean up. *

4. Call someone you trust for emotional support.

*Though it may feel very uncomfortable, cleaning up right away destroys potential evidence that could be used during an investigation (if you choose to take that step).

Make a note of important details:

  • Approximately what time the assault happened
  • How you tried to resist the assault
  • Any injuries that you received
  • Where it happened
  • Any details about the appearance of the attacker
  • Any injuries that the attacker received
  • The sequence of events that happened before the assault
  • Any threats that were used against you
  • Any conversations that could be relevant
  • Any weapons that were mentioned or seen during the assault

Common Feelings of Survivors of Sexual Assault

Being sexually assaulted can be an extremely distressing experience. Emotional responses of survivors vary from individual to individual. Remember that your responses are not irrational; they are normal reactions to a traumatic situation.

  • Shock and numbness
  • Sexual concerns
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Disruption of daily life or a loss of control
  • Isolation
  • Anxiety, shaking, nightmares
  • Guilt, shame, self-blame
  • Fear and anger
  • Concern for the assailant

You are not to blame, even if:

  • Your attacker was a friend, date, girlfriend or boyfriend, spouse, parent, sibling, guardian, other relative, professor, coach or employer.
  • You have been sexually active with that person or with others before.
  • You were drinking or using drugs.
  • You froze and did not or could not say no, or were unable to fight back physically.
  • You were wearing clothes that others may see as suggestive.
  • You said yes but later said no and were not listened to.

How to help a friend or family member who has been sexually assaulted

  • Believe them; do not blame them
  • Be patient
  • Listen
  • Validate the survivor’s feelings; listen
  • Stay friends, don’t treat them as broken
  • Offer shelter, comfort and compassion
  • Respect their privacy
  • Educate yourself about sexual assault and the healing process
  • Resist seeing the survivor as a victim