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Sexual Assault and Abuse

What are rape and sexual assault?

Rape is sex you don't agree to, including forcing a body part or an object into your vagina, rectum (bottom), or mouth. In the United States, 1 in 6 women reported experiencing rape or attempted rape at some time in their lives.

Sexual assault or abuse is any type of sexual activity that a person does not agree to, including:

  • Rape or attempted rape
  • Touching your body or making you touch someone else's
  • Incest or sexual contact with a child
  • Someone watching or photographing you in sexual situations
  • Someone exposing his or her body to you

Sometimes, sexual violence is committed by a stranger. Most often, though, it is committed by someone you know, including a date or an intimate partner like a husband, ex-husband, or boyfriend. Sexual violence is always wrong, and a person who is sexually abused does not ever "cause" the attack.

Keep in mind that there are times when a person is not able to agree to sex, such as if they are drunk or have been drugged with a date rape drug, or if they are underage.

Women who are sexually abused may suffer serious health problems, such as sexually transmitted infections, stomach problems, and ongoing pain. They also are at risk for emotional problems, like depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. If you or someone you know has been sexually abused, it is important to get help as soon as possible.

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What is military sexual trauma?

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) defines military sexual trauma (MST) as sexual harassment that is threatening or physical assault of a sexual nature.1 These traumas occur when a person is in the military.1 The location, the genders of the people involved, and their relationship do not matter.1

Sexual harassment may include:

  • A put-down of your gender.
  • Flirting when you've made clear it's not welcome.
  • Sexual comments or gestures about your body or lifestyle.
  • Pressure for sexual favors.

Sexual assault can be any sort of activity that you don't want. It doesn't have to be physical. Sexual threats or bullying are sexual assault. Rape is not the only type of sexual assault. Sexual assault is any unwanted sexual act, including touching or grabbing.



Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Sexual Assault »

Patients who come to the ED after sexual assault presentseveral challenges to the physician.

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