Teen Sexual Assault

No matter what your age or gender, it's never okay to be forced into a sexual act. If you have been, you are a victim of sexual assault or rape. Protect yourself by getting the facts. What constitutes sexual assault? How can you protect yourself? What should you do if you or someone you know is the victim of sexual assault? Here are some answers that may help.

What is Sexual Assault?
For sexual activity to be okay, it must be consensual. This means that both people want it to happen. If a person forces you to engage in any sexual act when you don't want to, it is sexual assault. This act doesn't have to be penetration -- touching without consent can also be sexual assault, and the touching can be done with any part of the body or any object.

Most Victims are Assaulted by Someone They Know
Adolescent women are at a higher risk for sexual assault than any other age group. The reason for this is the large number of date/acquaintance rapes that occur at this age, along with the fact that many adolescents are victims of sexual abuse and incest. Sexual assault is never your fault.

If you are dating or in a relationship with someone, it doesn't mean that you must have sex with them or that they have a right to force you to have sex if you don't want to. Even if you've had consensual sex with them before, you have the right to say "no" at any time.

Psychological Tactics
Sexual assault does not always have to be forceful. Sometime attackers use threats or intimidation to make a victim feel afraid or unable to say "no." They might say things like, "If you really loved me, you'd do it," or "I'm going to tell everyone we did it anyway, so you might as well." Such tactics are powerful and hurtful and are signs of a controlling or emotionally abusive partner. Know how to "read the signs" and consider getting help.

Psychological Effects of Sexual Abuse
If you've been sexually assaulted, you may feel afraid, ashamed, angry, sad, lonely, betrayed, or depressed. Feelings of guilt or confusion are common in victims who knew their attacker ("How could he do this to me?"). You may feel like you are all alone or that no one will believe you. Or you may feel like you want to get back in some way by taking steps to defend yourself. Feelings of helplessness, anxiety, and fear are also common. Being sexually assaulted can tarnish your self-image and self-esteem.

Getting Help
Remember sexual assault is not your fault and you're not alone. There's nothing in the way you look, what you say, or who you are that gives anyone else the right to hurt you. If you or your friend are sexually assaulted, it's important to get help right away.

* If you plan to report the crime, do not shower, change clothes, or clean up in any way before medical personnel have had a chance to perform a "rape kit" exam where they gather evidence to help police find and prosecute the assailant.
* Take a friend with you for assistance and support.
* If you don't want to report the crime to the police right now, it's still a good idea to have a medical exam to make sure you're ok. Medical personnel can give you drugs to reduce your chances of getting pregnant or a sexually transmitted disease (STD).
* Call your local rape crisis center or 1-800-FYI-CALL for more help.
* If you want to report the assault, call the police.

-- Beth Adamo

External Links:
Handling a Sexual Harassment OSHA Training

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