FAQ about Sexual Assault

 What is sexual assault?

Sexual Assault is a crime.  Sexual assault is defined as  intentional sexual contact, characterized by use of force,  threats, intimidation or abuse of authority, or when the victim does  not or cannot consent.

Sexual assault includes rape, forcible sodomy (oral or  anal sex),and other unwanted sexual contact that is aggravated,   abusive, or wrongful (including unwanted and inappropriate sexual lcontact)  or attempts to commits these acts.

What is the difference between sexual assault and sexual  harassment?

Sexual assault and sexual harassment are not the same, although they are related to each other.

  • Sexual harassment is a form of gender discrimination that involves unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature.     There are two types of sexual harassment:
    • Quid Pro Quo sexual harassment refers to conditions placed on a person’s career or terms of employment in return for sexual favors.  It involves threats of adverse actions if the victim does not submit or promises of favorable actions if the person does submit.
    • Hostile Environment sexual harassment occurs when a person is subjected to offensive, unwanted, and unsolicited comments and behavior of a sexual nature that have the interferes with that person’s work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive working environment.
  •  Sexual assault refers specifically to rape, forcible  sodomy (oral or anal sex),and other unwanted sexual contact that is aggravated, abusive, or wrongful (including unwanted and inappropriate sexual lcontact)  or attempts to commits these acts.
  • Sexual assault must involve physical contact. While sexual harassment can involve physical contact, it can also refer to verbal or other forms of gender discrimination of a sexual nature.

Are most sexual crimes committed by strangers?

Despite the over-representation of stranger rapes in the media, the vast majority of sexual assaults occur between people who know each other. Research reports that about 62% to 92% of rapes are committed by known assailants (U.S. Department of Justice-National Crime Victimization Survey 1993-2000). Sex offenders are often partners, spouses, friends, or acquaintances of the victim.

Are sex crimes crimes of passion or desire?

Every sex crime is a crime of violence, power and control. Rapists often use objects for penetration, affording them little sexual gratification.

Do people provoke sexual assaults by dressing “sexy”?

People of both sexes, all ages, professions and styles of dress have become victims of sexual assaults.

Is it easy to tell who is a sex offender?

Sex offenders come from all walks of life and ethnic backgrounds. A sex offender can be anyone: male, female, married, a friend, relative, acquaintance or stranger. Sex offenders may even look “wholesome” or possess “movie star” good looks, which they use to make their approach to victims easier.

Do perpetrators of sexual assault come largely from certain races or backgrounds?

Men and women of all races, ethnicities, ages, sexual orientations, economic and social classes are represented among assailants.

If both people were drunk when the assault occurred, is the victim partially to blame for the assault? 

Sexual assault survivors are never responsible for the attack, no matter what, no matter how much alcohol was consumed. Responsibility lies with the perpetrator; the survivor is never responsible for the assailant’s behavior. Alcohol may increase the risk of sexual assault, and may make someone incapable of giving consent or protecting themselves, but it is not the cause of the assault.

 If I used to date the person who assaulted me, does this mean it is not rape?

-Rape can occur when the offender and the victim have a pre-existing relationship (sometimes called “date rape” or “acquaintance rape”), or even when the offender is the victim’s spouse. It does not matter whether the other person is an ex-boyfriend or a complete stranger, and it doesn’t matter if you’ve had sex in the past. If it is nonconsensual this time, it is rape. (But be aware that a few states still have limitations on when spousal rape is a crime.)

Do women falsely claim rape to get even with men?

-Nationwide surveys of police departments indicate rape is one of the least falsely reported crimes, reporting rate of 2%. Rape is also one of the most underreported crimes, with only 1 in every 10 assaults being reported to the police. Women who do report rape face a long and difficult process of continuous disclosure and questioning of their character.

If the victim doesn’t fight back, is it considered rape?

-When someone is being forced to have sex, s/he may believe that the rapist is capable of other types of violence. S/he may be frozen with fear and shock of what is happening. S/he may also decide that fighting now will only anger the person further to commit violence that could be fatal. In other cases, the victim may have been coerced into having sex, or may have been forced to have sex while intoxicated or otherwise impaired. Ultimately, it does not matter if the victim fought back or not, if consent was not given freely, then it was rape.

Can men and boys be raped or be victims of a sexual assault?

-Anyone is vulnerable to sexual victimization. The U.S. Dept. of Justice-National Crime Victimization Survey 2000 found that 5.6% of all rape victims are male.

If I have been sexually assaulted, where can I go for help?

– Please call the police and go to the emergency room.



  1. I thought you might have use for this:

    “There is, in fact, an existing survey that has many of the attributes the NCVS currently lacks. It’s administered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and it’s called the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey. (NISVS is the acronym. Apologies for the alphabet soup.) NISVS “represents the public health perspective,” as Tuesday’s report puts it, and it asks questions about specific behavior, including whether the survey-taker was unable to consent to sex because he or she had been drinking or taking drugs. NISVS was first conducted in 2010, so it doesn’t go back in time the way the NCVS numbers do. But here’s the startling direct comparison between the two measures: NISVS counted 1.27 million total sexual acts of forced penetration for women over the past year (including completed, attempted, and alcohol or drug facilitated). NCVS counted only 188,380 for rape and sexual assault. And the FBI, which collects its data from local law enforcement, and so only counts rapes and attempted rapes that have been reported as crimes, totaled only 85,593 for 2010.”



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