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Coping With Sexual Assault

Updated on September 12, 2020

Sexual assault

"Sexual assault is an act in which a person intentionally sexually touches another person without that person's consent, or coerces or physically forces a person to engage in a sexual act against their will. It is a form of sexual violence, which includes child sexual abuse, groping

As you can see, sexual assault is not only rape, even though the two are often automatically connected in people's minds. It is also defined as unwanted sexual contact. Now this means, that even something as 'little' as a touch, or a kiss can be a violent act against someone, if there is no consent. Therefore belittling someone's experience is not the way about this, and everyone should be given the chance to speak up about their incident, or let's call it on it's name: sexual assault story.

Types of sexual abuse(because believe me, there are many)

1. Child sexual abuse

Child sexual abuse is a form of child abuse in which an adult or older adolescent abuses a child for sexual stimulation. Forms of child sexual abuse include asking or pressuring a child to engage in sexual activities, indecent exposure of the genitals to a child, displaying pornography to a child, actual sexual contact against a child, physical contact with the child's genitals, viewing of the child's genitalia without physical contact, or using a child to produce child pornography, including live streaming sexual abuse."

And now, the horrifying facts, and statistics:

Approximately 15 to 25 percent of women and 5 to 15 percent of men were sexually abused when they were children. Most sexual abuse offenders are acquainted with their victims. Approximately 30 percent of the perpetrators are relatives of the child - most often brothers, fathers, mothers, sisters and uncles or cousins. Around 60 percent are other acquaintances such as friends of the family, babysitters, or neighbors. Strangers are the offenders in approximately 10 percent of child sexual abuse cases.

The 'devil' in most cases is inside then huh? Who would think, that sweet uncle John(my apologies to any Johns) is abusing his little niece? That's right. No one, or at least not until there is a solid evidence of the crime. No one would actually think that a person from their family would do such a thing.


2. Domestic violence

" Domestic violence (also named family violence or intimate partner violence) is violence or other abuse in a domestic setting, such as in marriage or cohabitation. It is committed by a spouse or partner in an intimaterelationship against the other spouse or partner, and can take place in heterosexual or same-sex relationships, or between former spouses or partners. It takes a number of forms including physical , verbal, emotional, economic, religious, reproductive, and sexual abuse, which can range from subtle, coercive forms to maritalrape and to violent physical abuse such as choking, beating, femalegenitalmutilation, and acidthrowing that results in disfigurement or death. "

According to the CDC, 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men will experience physical violence by their intimate partner at some point during their lifetimes. At least 5 million acts of domestic violence occur annually to women aged 18 years and older, with over 3 million involving men. Approximately 1.5 million intimate partner female rapes and physical assaults are perpetrated annually, and approximately 800,000 male assaults occur. About 1 in 5 women have experienced completed or attempted rape at some point in their lives. About 1% to 2% of men have experienced completed or attempted rape.


3. Elder abuse

" Elder abuse (also called "elder mistreatment", "senior abuse", "abuse in later life", "abuse of older adults", "abuse of older women", and "abuse of older men") is "a single, or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust, which causes harm or distress to an older person."

Work undertaken in Canada suggests that approximately 70% of elder abuse is perpetrated against women and this is supported by evidence from the Action On Elder Abuse (AEA) helpline in the UK, which identifies women as victims in 67% of calls. Certainly, abuse increases with age, with 78% of victims being over 70 years of age.


4. Groping

" In a sexual context, groping or fondling is touching another person in an unwelcome sexual way.Gropers might use their hands, but pressing any part of their body against another person can be considered groping."

Research shows, that in 2018, 51% of women, and 17% of men have experienced unwelcome sexual touching, without consent, permission.


5. Rape

"Rape is a type of sexualassault usually involving sexual intercourse or other forms of sexual penetration carried out against a person without that person's consent. The act may be carried out by physical force, coercion, abuse of authority, or against a person who is incapable of giving valid consent, such as one who is unconscious, incapacitated, has an intellectualdisability or is below the legal age of consent."

Statistics reported by the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) indicate that 7 out of 10 cases of sexual assault involved a perpetrator known to the victim. 500,000 rapes are committed annually in South Africa once called 'the world's rape capital.'

  • one in four women and one in nine men have experienced sexual violence, stalking or rape
  • one in three women and one in six men experienced violent sexual contact in their life
  • nearly 23 million women and 1.7 million men have been victims of rape or attempted rape at some point in their lives
  • 8.5 million women experienced rape before age 18
  • 1.5 million men were made to penetrate before age 18
  • one in four women and one in seven men have experienced severe physical violence by an intimate partner


6. Sexual harassment

" Sexual harassment is intimidation, bullying or coercion of a sexual nature. It may also be defined as the unwelcome or inappropriate promise of rewards in exchange for sexual favors."

79% of victims are women, 21% are men

  • 51% are harassed by a supervisor
  • 12% received threats of termination if they did not comply with their requests

26,000 people in the armed forces were assaulted in 2012

  • 302 of the 2,558 cases pursued by victims were prosecuted
  • 38% of the cases were committed by someone of a higher rank


The effects of sexual abuse

I'm gonna be honest, it was really hard reading, and writing down all these statistics, because let's be real: it's not pretty. Sexual assault is everywhere, it can happen to literally anyone, any age, race, gender etc. It is hard to actually understand these facts, and think about all the effects these acts can have on a person.

When we think about the effects on that one specific person (the survivor of sexual abuse) there are two different types of effects:

1. Emotional

2. Physical

Let's talk about them for a little bit.

Emotional effects can often be long-term, meaning the survivors can deal with these for years, decades, or even until the end of their lives.

"These can include, but are not limited to: denial, learned helplessness, genophobia, anger, self-blame, anxiety, shame, nightmares, fear, depression, flashbacks, guilt, rationalization, moodswings, numbness, promiscuity, loneliness, social anxiety, difficulty trusting oneself or others, difficulty concentrating. Being the victim of sexual assault may lead to the development of posttraumatic stress disorder, addiction, major depressive disorder or other psychopathologies."

Sexual abuse is associated with suicidality, both directly and indirectly through hopelessness and depressive symptoms. I am not going to bore you with all the statistics here, but I am going to link a page, where you can look at them.

While sexual assault, including rape, can result in physical trauma, many people who experience sexual assault will not suffer any physical injury. Physical force resulting in visible physical injury is not always seen. Women who experienced rape or physical violence by a partner were more likely than people who had not experienced this violence to report frequent headaches, chronic pain, difficulty sleeping, activity limitation, poor physical health, and poor mental health.

How to cope with sexual assault

First and foremost: give yourself as much time as needed. It is not going to happen in a matter of minutes, hours, or even days, months. Getting over being sexually assaulted, is a big deal, and a huge trauma, both mentally and physically. TIME IS ESSENTIAL. Think about it. When someone breaks a bone, there is a reason why that needs to be in plaster, it is essential for the bone to heal as it should heal, and it also needs a certain amount of time to heal properly. Obviously, trauma is a completely different thing, but the one thing in common is that they both need time to heal decently. You don't need to rush anything, the main goal is that you get through this without deadlines, and in your own time.

Actually understanding, and accepting that what happened to you was sexual assault. Denying can seem like the easy way about this, but it's only a short-term 'solution'. Believe me, everything is going to come to the surface, one way or another, one day or another, and it is so much easier to start the journey of healing as soon as possible. No one says that it's not gonna be hard, but let me tell you: You can do anything you set your mind to, and you're so much stronger than you think! You survived an assault, you are amazing, and you can go through with this.

Don't ever(!) blame yourself. Often times, the first thing survivors think about is: "I could've surely done something differently.", " I could've stopped it.", "Why didn't I try to stop it?", "It was surely my fault, I didn't say no." The lack of consent can be expressed in many ways, and when someone respects you, and pays attention, they are going to notice any of these signs.


I know that the thought of talking about the assault you've experienced can be terrifying, but it can be so helpful. You can take your time on this one, and of course, you should only share as much detail as you feel comfortable with, and only share it with people you feel a 100% comfortable with. Bottling up your feelings, and your thoughts can make it harder for you to cope with them, and even though it is the hardest, if you feel even slightly better afterwards, it was worth it. Another advantage of telling someone about the abuse, is that they can help you report it, if you want to go along with that. Surrounding yourself with people who support, and love you, in these times can be crucial.

Don't turn to drugs and alcohol for help. They might make you numb for those few hours, but in the long run, they are not gonna do any good. They aren't worth it, believe me on that one.

Stick to your usual routines. Don't let this ruin your life. Maybe add a few extra minutes in your day for self-care(this is important), but other than that, avoid changes.

Don't skip meals, and don't over-eat. Ask yourself before doing any of these: Does that person really worth so much, that I don't nourish my body the way it deserves to be nourished, or eat more than I need because of them? Your body, and mind have both gone through enough, you should take care of them. TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF.

Lastly, but most importantly: know that you're going to get through this, and it is going to get better. You won't even notice, that in a month, or a year, you've improved so much, and you got so much better. You should be proud of yourself at the end of every day, 'cause you got through it! You survived!

I am proud of all of you out there, who have experienced sexual assault in any shape or form. Keep doing what you're doing. I love you all.

© 2020 Lili Zoltai


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    • lilianazoltai profile imageAUTHOR

      Lili Zoltai 

      5 days ago from Hungary

      Thank you everyone, for reading, and giving your feedbacks! Means a lot!

    • OGUNDARE OLUSEGUN profile image


      7 days ago from NIGERIA

      This is educational. Thanks for sharing. Good work.

    • blessedp profile image


      10 days ago

      The biggest drawback is fear why most people stay in sexual abusive relationship. It is happening to many people in our society today. But we can't see the hurt and the pain behind the mask they wear to hide the open wounds and the scars. Wounds that leads to emotional and mental break down. Good article thanks for sharing.

    • Lorna Lamon profile image

      Lorna Lamon 

      10 days ago

      During lockdown restrictions there were twice as many cases of assault on woman living with violent partners. Sadly some of them ended in death. Unfortunately many people feel helpless or frightened when it comes to reporting sexual abuse as they fear they will not be believed. This appears to be a growing trend across the world and more needs to be done by governments to respond to these alarming figures. Thank you for sharing this article and drawing awareness to the severity of the situation.


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