Sexual assault awareness and prevention

GEHA | April 17, 2019

everyday health
Sexual violence or abuse is a serious public health problem. Find out the steps you can take to stay safe.

Sexual assault is any sexual activity where consent is not obtained or freely given. It includes completed or attempted sex acts that are against the victim’s will. It can happen through physical force or threats of force or if the attacker gave the victim drugs or alcohol as part of the assault.

We think of rape as sexual assault, but it also includes non-contact activities such as indecent exposure, forcing you to look at sexual images, fondling or unwanted touching, sexual contact with a child, sexual harassment or threats, or unwanted texts or “sexts” (texting sexual photos or messages).

Sexual assault is most often committed by someone the victim knows, such as a friend, current or former partner, coworker, neighbor or relative.

Also called sexual violence or abuse, it is a serious public health problem, impacting every community and affecting people of all genders, sexual orientations and ages. It can lead to long-term physical and mental health problems, including chronic pain, headaches, trouble sleeping, eating disorders, depression, asthma, sexually transmitted diseases, and self-injury or suicide.

Steps you can take

Here are steps you can take to be safer around others:

  • Go to parties or gatherings with friends.
  • Meet first dates or new people in a public place.
  • Listen to your instincts or "gut feelings."
  • Look out for your friends and ask them to look out for you.
  • Have a code word with your family and friends to let them know if you need help.
  • If you drink, be aware of how much you consume and keep control of your own drink.
  • Be aware of your surroundings.
  • Have a plan to get home. 

Sources:
“Preventing Sexual Violence.” cdc.gov, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 12 March 2019.
“Sexual Violence Prevention.” cdc.gov, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 5 April 2018.
“Sexual Assault.” womenshealth.gov, Office on Women’s Health, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, 14 March 2019.