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Sexual Assault


Sexual assault is a devastating crime that can happen to anyone -- regardless of race, age, gender, religion or sexuality. The critical element of sexual assault is that someone is being touched in a sexual way without his or her consent.  If you or someone you love needs help, please do not hesitate to call us at 1-888-832-2272.


"Sexual assault" refers to a wide variety of behavior including rape, incest, child sexual assault, date and acquaintance rape, statutory rape, marital or partner rape, sexual exploitation, sexual contact, sexual harassment, exposure, and voyeurism. The perpetrator can be a total stranger, an intimate partner, an acquaintance, or a family member.


Sexual violence can happen to anyone — regardless of gender, race, age, socio-economic status, or religion. Victims of sexual assault include infants, people in their eighties, people of color, lesbians/gays, disabled individuals, women, men, and children.  It is estimated that one in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually assaulted by the age of 18.  


Despite the vast amount of information that is available concerning sexual assault, myths surrounding rape and other forms of sexual violence continue to survive in our culture. Sometimes, these myths serve a special social purpose – belief that rape only happens to certain types of people or in certain types of situations may provide a sense of security. People want to believe that they live in a safe world and that they are not vulnerable to rape.  However, myths prevent a true understanding of the realities of rape and sexual assault and may increase vulnerability instead of safety.


Even people who are empathetic and sensitive toward the survivor may have difficulty distinguishing between consensual sex between two people and the criminal act of rape. Rape is a traumatic event. It is a crime of violence that deprives an individual of power, autonomy and control over one’s body — it occurs without consent. It humiliates, shatters self-esteem and leaves one to face the possibility of pregnancy, sexually transmissible diseases, physical injuries, loss of time from school or work, and rejection by family and friends.  The emotional effects suffered by a sexual assault survivor cover a broad spectrum, including intense fear, extreme confusion, guilt and a loss of identity.


Sexual violence is NEVER the victim's fault. It doesn't matter how the victim was dressed, if the victim was drinking or using drugs, out at night alone, homosexual, on a date with the perpetrator, etc. -- no one asks to be raped. The responsibility and blame lie with the perpetrator, never with the victim.


The absence of injuries often suggests to others that the victim failed to resist and, therefore, must have consented. Often, rapists only need the threat of violence to control their victims. They also sometimes use "date rape" drugs to incapacitate their victims.


Some victims submit to the assault for fear of greater harm. Submitting does not mean the victim gave consent. Each rape victim does whatever s/he needs to do at the time in order to survive.


Facts About Sexual Assault


    • Most rapists (accounting for about 80% of all assaults) choose to assault someone they know.


    • Sexual assault can happen to anyone, including men. The vast majority of victims, however, are female.


    • Men make up 7 to 9% percent of all adult rape victims, while boys account for about 25% of child victims.


    • Men who molest boys are not necessarily homosexuals. Pedophiles prefer children as sexual partners and may be attracted to one gender or the other, or their preference may be based on age rather than gender. Male pedophiles often prey on boys simply because boys are more available to them.


    • Rapists choose their victims based on opportunity, accessibility, and the victim's vulnerability.


    • Rape is a crime of violence, control, and domination. Sex is the weapon.


    • Rapists can't be picked out of a crowd by their looks, occupation, ethnic group, or social background.


    • Every rape is a potential murder. Fighting back might keep a victim from being raped, but on the other hand, fighting back might get the victim killed. Whatever the victim does to survive is OK.


    • Anyone can be sexually assaulted but if you are a young woman between 18 and 24, you are at a higher risk than other people because:

            •  you are female.

            •  you date. (Date rape is the most common form of adult sexual assault.)

            •  you go out a lot (to work, to the mall, to school, to church, to concerts, to baseball games).

            •  you have a lot of friends, acquaintances, and colleagues.

            •  your age makes it easier for the rapist to claim that you "wanted it.”


Types of Sexual Assault


Male Victims

Most sexual assaults of males are perpetrated by other males. However, male rape has nothing to do with the sexual orientation of either the victim or the offender. Rape is not an expression of sexuality; it is a crime that is motivated by a need to control, humiliate, and harm.


Sexual identity becomes an important issue for males after a sexual assault. A heterosexual survivor may believe the assault means he is gay because of the way his body reacted during the assault. It is important to remember that sexual response is automatic and not within your control – just because a man's body reacted sexually does not mean he enjoyed the abuse. A homosexual or bisexual man may feel that he is to blame for the assault because of his sexual orientation. This is not the case. No one asks to be raped!


Sexual assaults of men are frequently violent and involve weapons. Often, men reporting muggings or robberies have also been sexually assaulted. Emergency room doctors and police, however, do not typically look for physical signs or evidence of sexual assault in men.


Male survivors may experience fear and anger over the loss of control over their bodies and themselves. This is especially difficult if you have been raised to believe that showing emotion is wrong or weak. You may also feel dirty, ashamed, and guilty that you weren't "strong enough" to protect yourself.  But remember: rape is NEVER the victim's fault.



Adult Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse

Like other victims, abused children may experience significant psychological distress. Unlike adults, however, they are traumatized during the most critical period of their lives: when assumptions about self, others, and the world are being formed; when their relations to their own internal states are being established; and when coping and social skills are first acquired. This can result in long-term issues for an adult survivor of child sexual abuse.


Sexual abuse affects a survivor's life in many ways. Living day-to-day under traumatic conditions can be physically, emotionally, and psychologically debilitating. Adults may re-experience the childhood trauma by having nightmares or recurrent recollections of the event, and by associating the event with something that is currently happening. Many victims of incest/child sexual abuse may not have memories of it ever happening. In some cases, this is because the abuse occurred while the victim was very young. Others may have literally pushed the memories from their conscious minds in order to survive the abuse. Whether they remember the abuse or not, survivors may still experience the aftereffects. Many abuse victims report that the actual physical sexual abuse was not the worst aspect of the experience; rather, it was carrying such a powerful secret that must be protected.


Adult survivors of child sexual assault may experience periods of grief and loss as a result of the abuse. Many survivors of sexual abuse have experienced the betrayal of a parent, family member, or another significant adult in their lives. In addition, adults that they turned to for help as children may not have believed them. This can intensify and complicate feelings of loss.  For more information on children and abuse, please click here.


Date Rape Drugs

Do you know what the most frequently used date rape drug is? Alcohol. But several other drugs may be used as well. The most common are:

            • GHB (Liquid Ecstasy)

            • Rohypnol (Roofies)

            • Ketamine (Special K)

            • Methamphetamines (Speed/ Ice/ Chalk/ Meth)

            • Ecstasy (X/ The Love Drug)

            • Prescription drugs


The drug is usually dropped into a drink and is odorless and colorless. When mixed with alcohol or other drugs, date rape drugs can be deadly. Signs that a drug has been used include:

            • Feeling more intoxicated than usual with the same amount of alcohol.

            • Confusion, loss of memory/memory gaps

            • Slurred speech, loss of coordination, temporary paralysis (can't move arms or legs)

            • Chills, sweating

            • Dizziness, fainting, drowsiness

            • Nausea, headache, vomiting


How can you protect yourself from drug-related rape?


Open and pour your own drink, even water. Protect it like your purse or your wallet - never let it out of your hand or your sight. If you set your drink down and lose sight of it, open and pour a fresh one. Don't let your date get your drink.

Avoid drinks served from punch bowls or pitchers.

Never accept a pill or medicine from anyone except medical personnel, even if it is just an aspirin.

Using alcohol or other drugs to get sex is a felony crime in Pennsylvania.



Sexual Assault Law


In Pennsylvania :

It is illegal to force someone into sexual contact.

It is illegal to threaten or coerce someone in order to get that person to engage in sexual contact.

It is illegal to force one's spouse to have sexual contact.

It is illegal to have sexual contact with someone who is unconscious or otherwise unaware that sexual contact is occurring.

It is illegal to have sexual contact with someone who does not have the power to give reasoned consent, or to control his or her own conduct. This includes someone who has a mental disability or is under the influence of alcohol or other drugs.

It is illegal to have sexual contact with a person under 13 years of age. By law, a person under 13 cannot give consent. Any sexual contact involving penetration with a person less than 13 years old is a rape charge.

It is illegal for a person to have sex with someone under 16 if there is an age difference of four or more years between the two people, even if both parties consent to the sexual activity.

It is illegal to photograph, to distribute, or to possess photographs or visual images of persons under 18 engaged in sexual acts or simulated sexual acts.

It is illegal to have sexual contact with a close blood or adoptive relative.



For more resources on sexual assault, please click here.


To learn more about rape culture, read our Blackburn 101 series here.


To learn more about affirmative consent, read our Blackburn 101 series here.


More about Types of Abuse:

Domestic Violence

Sexual Assault

Children and Abuse

Teen Issues

Elder Abuse

LGBTQ Issues


Sexual Harrasment





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