What is sexual assault?

Sexual assault is forced, manipulated, or coerced sexual activity. It is a crime in which the assailant uses sex to inflict humiliation on the victim or exert power and control over the victim.

The victim of sexual assault can be any age, race, gender, or social background, as can the perpetrator. Rapists can be anyone. Most are married or have ongoing relationships. The rapist is motivated by the need for power and the need to dominate someone. In more than half of all reported rapes, the victim and rapist know each other. Child victims know their rapist in more than 80 percent of all cases. Some rapists use drugs to disable their intended victim. For more information, see our section on Drug Facilitated Rape.

If You Have Been Sexually Assaulted

Effects of Sexual Violence

Sexual assault is an act of violence and a crime. Being sexually assaulted by someone you know does not make the crime any less serious or traumatic and may have a longer lasting negative effect. In fact, there may be additional trauma associated with sexual assault by an acquaintance due to the violation of trust, shared social space, and common friends.

Common fears among sexual assault survivors include worrying that the attacker will come back, fear of being alone or of crowds, and concern about family and friends finding out about the attack. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer victims may also fear seeking help after an assault out of concern that the report will be taken less seriously or ignored because of their sexual orientation. LGBTQ victims may also be concerned that their sexual orientation may be made public. Male victims of sexual assault may worry that they will be considered less "manly." Anger, frustration, and feelings of powerlessness and helplessness are common feeling among survivors of any age, gender or sexual orientation. Reactions to the assault can also include embarrassment, guilt, numbness, suspicion, denial, obsessions with the assault, aversion to touch, and the disruption or a normal sex life.

Healing from sexual assault begins when the survivor is able to deal with what happened and with his or her feelings about it. It is helpful to talk about the assault with someone you trust- a friend, family member, counselor, or an advocate from a crisis center.

Taking Care or Yourself


Drug Facilitated Rape

Picture this: You wake up groggy and disorientated. You may be in a strange place or in your own home. The last thing you remember is being at a party with friends. You think you may have been sexually assaulted. You are panicked because, no matter how hard you try, you can't remember the last several hours, how you got where you are, if you were sexually assaulted, or who assaulted you.

This may seem like something out of a made-for TV movie, but incidents like this have been happening throughout the United States. Situations such as the one described above can be the result of drugs sometimes called "date rape drugs." This name is misleading because the circumstances in which these drugs are used often do NOT involve a dating situation. The drugs are often used by strangers or casual acquaintances, but they may be used by someone you know and trust. They are increasingly used in child sexual assaults. These drugs are generally colorless, have an indistinct odor and taste, and can render you helpless within minutes.

The drugs have dozens of street names and these names change. The various drugs used in drug-facilitated sexual assaults are sometimes smuggled from other countries, stolen from veterinary clinics, purchased over the Internet, or are homemade. The most important thing you need to know is that there are ways to minimize your risk.

Names and features of the most commonly used rape drugs

Rohypnol generally appears in tablet form. Once dissolved in a drink it is odorless. It may cause a drink to appear cloudy or release small floating bits. These are steps the manufacturer has taken to make the drug more noticable in a drink. However, you may not notice this in a dark drink or a bottle. Rohypnol is known on the street as Roofies, Roche, R-Z, Rope, Stupify, Shays and R-2.

GHB is a clear liquid, slightly thicker than water. It generally has a mild, indistinct odor and a slightly salty taste. It also appears in powder or capsule form. GHB is known as Grievous Bodily Harm, Liquid Ecstacy, Liquid E, Liquid X, Easy Lay, Scoop, and Great Hormones at Bedtime.

Ketamine is a veterinary medicine produced in liquid and powder form. It is known on the street as Special K.

"Date Rape Drugs" are sold in many forms and are often used as recreational drugs. They are being used in an increasing number of sexual assaults across the country and around the world. They can be in liquid, powder, or pill form and hidden in small containers like eyedrop bottles and breath mint containers.

Just a few drops slipped into a drink can result in memory loss, vision problems, dizziness, confusion, unconsciousness, or death.

Alcohol can intensify the symptoms of these drugs. Their effects can last anywhere from 8 to 24 hours.

REMEMBER- Alcohol is the most commonly used rape drug of all.

Avoiding Date Rape Drugs

Signs you may have been drugged

If it happens to you

Drug facilitated rapes are often unreported. Victims of this type of assault may blame themselves because of where they were, whom they were with, or how much they had to drink. You may feel responsible for the assault because you lost control. You may feel embarassed that you know you were raped, but do not know who raped you.

If you think you may have been a victim of rape, IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT.

No one has the right to force you to engage in sexual contact against your will. If they do, it is a crime for which they are solely responsible.

Additional resources