Sexual Violence

Who to Call for Help

  1. Police 911
  2. National Domestic Violence Hotline
    1 (800) 799-SAFE (7233) or 1-800-787-3224 (TDD)
  3. National Sexual Assault Hotline
    1-800-656-HOPE (4673)
  4. Title IX and Sexual Misconduct

What is Sexual Violence?

Sexual violence is a serious public health problem that affects millions of people each year. Sexual activity when consent is not obtained or not freely given is sexual violence. Sexual violence impacts every community and affects people of all genders, sexual orientations, and ages—anyone can experience or perpetrate sexual violence. The perpetrator of sexual violence is usually someone known to the victim, such as a friend, current or former intimate partner, coworker, neighbor, or family member.

Sexual violence is associated with several risk and protective factors. It is connected to other forms of violence, and causes serious health and economic consequences. By using a public health approach that addresses risk and protective factors for multiple types of violence, sexual violence and other forms of violence can be prevented.

How Big is the Problem?

Sexual violence is a significant problem in the United States, but researchers know that the numbers underestimate the problem. Many cases go unreported—victims may be ashamed, embarrassed, or afraid to tell the police, friends, or family about the violence. Victims may also keep quiet because they have been threatened with further harm if they tell anyone or do not think that anyone will help them.

Still, we do have data that show:

  • Sexual violence is common.
    1 in 3 women and 1 in 6 men experienced sexual violence involving physical contact during their lifetimes. About 1 in 5 women have experienced completed or attempted rape and 1 in 17 men have been made to penetrate someone else in their lifetime.
  • Sexual violence starts early.
    1 in 3 female rape victims experienced it for the first time between 11-17 years old and 1 in 9 reported that it occurred before age 10.
  • Sexual violence is costly.
    Recent estimates put the cost of rape alone at $122,461 per victim, including medical costs, lost productivity, criminal justice activities, and other costs. Sexual violence also has a high emotional cost for victims.

graphic representation of above stats

Data from

Ways to Lower Your Risk of Sexual Violence

For Women & Men

  1. Be aware of your surroundings. There is a higher chance of avoiding sexual assault just by being aware of what and who is around you. Being cautious and alert can only be to your benefit.
  2. Know your sexual desires and limits. Believe in your right to set those limits. Be aware of social pressures.
  3. Communicate your limits as clearly as possible. If someone starts to offend you, tell him/her early and firmly. Being polite is OK as long as you are firm and assertive. Say "no" when you mean "no" and be prepared to repeat it.
  4. Dress comfortably. Dress as you please. However, non-restrictive clothing could be an advantage. Nobody asks to be sexually violated or raped. Be aware that if someone ignores your limits and assertiveness, you want to be able to run and fight back if needed. Tight clothing, high heels, or baggy pants could be a disadvantage if you need to move quickly.
  5. Avoid excessive use of alcohol and drugs. Alcohol and drugs interfere with clear thinking and effective communication.
  6. Being turned down when you ask for sex is not a rejection of you personally. Women or men who say "No" to sex are not rejecting the person; they are expressing their desire to not participate in a single act. Your desires may be beyond your control but your actions are within your control.
  7. Accept the person's decision. "No" means "No". Don't read other meanings into the answer. Don't continue after "NO!" Do not assume that just because a person dresses in a sexy manner and flirts that they want to have sexual intercourse. Do not assume that previous permission for sexual contact applies to the current situation.
  8. Protect Yourself. If you are walking alone, try to have a whistle with you. If you find yourself in danger, blow the whistle to attract attention for help. Another item that may help you if in danger is chemical mace, to spray in attackers eyes. Using items such as keys, pencils, pens, or books can also be used to defend yourself against an attacker.

Nine Ways to Lower Your Risk of Rape

Rape is not just an act committed in a dark alley by an unknown assailant. The truth is that most rapes occur in the victim's home. About 60% of victims who report their rape know their assailants.

It is possible, however, to be aware without being afraid. Thinking and talking about the different types of sexual assault, and what you might do if you ever find yourself in a bad situation, can increase your chances of avoiding rape.

  1. Always walk briskly; look alert and confident, avoid carrying objects requiring use of both arms.
  2. Stay away from isolated areas, day or night.
  3. Never walk alone when it is dark.
  4. If you are being followed, get away fast, change directions, and walk or run to a crowded area.
  5. Lock all doors to your car and residence at all times.
  6. Before you drive home, call your roommate, family or a friend so they will expect you and be aware if you are excessively late.
  7. Encourage group activities in early stages of a relationship.
  8. Take a self-defense class.
  9. Be aware of legislation that concerns your gender and contact legislators to express your views.

What To Do In A Risky Situation

  • Stay calm-consider your options and how safe it would be to resist.
  • Say "NO" strongly. Do not smile; do not act polite or friendly.
  • Say something like "Stop it. This is Rape!" This might shock the rapist into stopping.
  • If the rapist is unarmed, fight back physically, shout "NO!" and run away as soon as possible.
  • If the rapist is armed, try to talk him out of continuing the assault, or try passive resistance (pretend to faint/vomit/urinate).

What To Do In Case Of A Rape

  • Get to a safe place.
  • Call a friend or family member to be with you.
  • Breathe deeply and remind yourself that you are of value, and that what has happened is wrong and in no way your fault.
  • Call the police. A crime has been committed.
  • Do not bathe, douche or change clothes. You may be destroying legal evidence, regardless of whether you pursue legal action or not.
  • Go to a hospital emergency department for medical care. This can be done without police intervention, if that is your choice.
  • Write down as much as you can remember about the circumstance of the assault and the identity of your assailant.
  • Seek the counseling and legal assistance from a rape treatment center. The counselor there can help you deal with the consequences of an assault.

Reporting the assault is a way of regaining your sense of personal power and control. It enables you to actively protest the violent crime that has been committed against you.

Reporting and prosecuting the assailant are essential in establishing new norms that this behavior is NOT okay. Taking legal steps helps prevent rape and protect other potential victims.

How To Help A Friend

  • Believe your friend. A few people are going to act as if your friend has lied or done something wrong. She/he will need your support.
  • Listen carefully and do not laugh. People often laugh if they are embarrassed or nervous.
  • Help your friend to report the rape to someone who can help - a counselor, school nurse, parent, child protective service worker, teacher, or police officer.
  • Let your friend know it is not her/his fault. People who have been touched inappropriately often feel that they have done something wrong.
  • Be confidential and protect your friend's privacy. Talk to a trusted adult if this situation is bothering you.
  • Be verbal in letting your friend know that you care and that you support her/him.

Common Myths vs. Facts

Myth: Rape is just unwanted sex, and isn't really a violent crime.

Fact: Rape is more than just unwanted sex. Rape is an act of violence because the rapist uses force as a motive for power and control. One out of every eight adult women has been a victim of forcible rape.

Myth: Sexual assault is a crime of passion and lust.

Fact: Sexual assault is a crime of violence. Assailants seek to dominate, humiliate, and punish their victims.

Myth: A person who has really been sexually assaulted will be hysterical.

Fact: Survivors exhibit a spectrum of emotional responses to assault: calm, hysteria, laughter, anger, apathy, shock. Each survivor copes with the trauma of the assault in a different way.

Myth: Sexual assault is an impulsive act.

Fact: Seventy-five percent of all assaults are planned in advance.

Myth: Assailants are usually crazed psychopaths who do not know their victims.

Fact: As many as 80% of all assaults involve acquaintances. An assailant might be someone you know intimately, such as a coworker, a friend or a family member.

Myth: Persons who dress or acts in a "sexy" way are asking to be sexually assaulted.

Fact: Many convicted sexual assailants are unable to remember what their victims looked like or were wearing. Nothing a person does or does not do causes a brutal crime like sexual assault.

Myth: It is impossible to sexually assault a man.

Fact: Men fall victim for the same reasons as women: they are overwhelmed by threats or acts of physical and emotional violence. Also, most sexual assaults that involve an adult male victim are gang assaults.

Myth: As long as children remember to stay away from strangers, they are in no danger of being assaulted.

Fact: Sadly, children are usually assaulted by acquaintances; a family member or other caretaking adult. Children are usually coerced into sexual activity by their assailant, and are manipulated into silence by the assailant's threats and/or promises, as well as their own feelings of guilt.

Myth: A lot of times a rape could be prevented if the person had only fought harder.

Fact: The only person who can prevent a rape is the person who commits it. Sometimes, fighting can increase the chances of getting seriously hurt.