What Is Sexual Assault?

"Sexual assault" is a general term that includes rape, incest, child molestation, marital rape, sexual harassment, sodomy, sexual abuse, voyeurism and indecent exposure. Sexual assault takes away a person's control over her/his own body. It takes away a person's most basic freedom -- freedom of choice. The level of violence varies from case to case, but the effects are similar on people who have been victimized. Sexual assault is a crime, an act of violence where sex is used as a weapon. Sexual assault is not limited to just stranger rape. Statistics state that sexual assault is more likely to be acted out by someone the victim knows. Sexual assault often occurs on a "date." If you said "no" and the person you are with continues to force you to have sex, you have been sexually assaulted. Sexual assault is never the victim's fault. The first step in recovery is to know the facts and the truth about sexual assault.

Download the Sexual Assault Information sheet.

Facts and Myths

FACT: One out of every six American women is the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime.

FACT: 17.7 million American women have been victims of an attempted or completed rape.

FACT: Approximately 66% of rapes are committed by someone known to the victim.

FACT: Females ages 12 to 24 are at the greatest risk for experiencing a rape or sexual assault.

FACT: The FBI estimates that only 37% of all rapes are reported to the police.

MYTH: Women incite men to rape.
FACT: Research has found that the vast majority of rapes are planned. Rape is the responsibility of the rapist alone. Opportunity is the most important factor in determining when a given rapist will rape.

MYTH: Victims should be discouraged from dwelling on the rape. They should "forget it."
FACT: Victims who are not allowed to talk about the rape have a much more difficult time .

MYTH: Sexual assaults are rare and effect a few people.
FACT: Sexual assault are very common. Most likely, someone close to you has been profoundly affected by sexual assault.

Checklist for Survivors

Rape and sexual assault can cause significant trauma and disrupt your physical and emotional health. Your recovery path will take many stages, but the important thing is to take care of yourself.
Seek medical attention. Do not shower, bathe, douche or change clothes. It is important to preserve all physical evidence. Medical attention will help your immediate physical health and may prevent further damage to your health. Concerns for sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV, are very important. The State of Indiana Sex Crimes Compensation Fund typically covers the emergency room expenses.
File police report. By reporting, you may be eligible for crime victim compensation funds to cover medical costs and counseling.
Contact a rape crisis counselor who can help you through this physical and emotional assault. You may not feel the way you did before the assault--physically, emotional, socially or sexually. Get help.
Emotional Recovery:

Sexual assault is a crisis, and we all handle crisis in different ways. The emotional reaction to sexual assault can be complex and often confusing. You may have several different reactions to and feelings about the assault. Some of the effects of the sexual assault on victims may be: guilt and self-blame, shame and embarrassment, powerlessness, helplessness, out-of-control feeling, fear, anger, betrayal and denial, or wanting to forget. You might experience trouble breathing, anxiety attacks, trouble sleeping, depression and anxiety. It is important to remember that it was not your fault. No one asks to be sexually assaulted. Recovery takes time, but it is greatly enhanced by support and knowledgeable sources.

Resources for Sexual Assault

  • Elkhart General Hospital: (574)-294-2621
  • IU Health Goshen Hospital: (574)-533-2141
  • United Way 211 Info-Helpline: (574)-293-8671
  • Elkhart County Health Department: (574)-523-2283
  • Fort Wayne Sexual Assault Treatment Center: (260)-423-2222
  • Victim Assistance: (574)-523-2237

If you have been sexually assaulted:

  • Call the police to report the crime.
  • Remember as much as you can about the assault, the location and the person who attacked you.
  • Preserve all physical evidence: Do not bathe, douche or change clothes.
  • Get medical attention for your injuries and to secure evidence. Take a change of clothes with you.
  • Have tests for sexually transmitted diseases, including AIDS.
  • Talk to a trusted individual about your feelings.