Rape and Sexual Assault

  • Medical Author:
    Roxanne Dryden-Edwards, MD

    Dr. Roxanne Dryden-Edwards is an adult, child, and adolescent psychiatrist. She is a former Chair of the Committee on Developmental Disabilities for the American Psychiatric Association, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, and Medical Director of the National Center for Children and Families in Bethesda, Maryland.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

Rape (sexual assault) facts

  • Sexual assault is any illegal sexual contact that involves forcing a person without their consent or inflicting such contact with someone who is unable to give consent due to age or physical or mental capabilities.
  • Sexual assault may also involve sexual contact that is inflicted by someone who is trusted by or has authority over the victim.
  • Sexual harassment is defined as unwanted sexual behavior that interferes with the victim's work or school life.
  • Sexual battery refers to contact with an intimate body part of another person that is unwantedby the victim and is done in order for the perpetrator to achieve sexual arousal, gratification, or abuse.
  • Any sexual assault that involves inflicting physical injury or maiming of the victim is described as being aggravated sexual assault.
  • Rape is unlawful sexual activity involving sexual intercourse that happens by force or under the threat of some form of harm.
  • Rape occurs in a variety of contexts, as in childhood marriage, as a form of torture and is sometimes perpetrated by members of the military on their own colleagues.
  • States tend to legally define first-, second-, and third-degree rape and sexual assault based on the age of the victim and the perpetrator, and/or the amount of force, brutality, and threat inflicted on the victim.
  • Unfortunately, rape is grossly underreported to law enforcement.
  • A majority of victims of sexual victimization indicate that the perpetrator is known to them, like an acquaintance as in date rape, or by a family member or friend.
  • Signs and symptoms of someone who has been sexually assaulted or raped tend to include a variety of emotional, behavioral, social, and work-related problems.
  • Some ways to prevent sexual assault and rape are to lessen the life risk factors for being the victim or perpetrator of these crimes.
  • If left untreated, the physical and psychological effects of sexual assault and rape can be devastating, sometimes even deadly.
  • The primary consideration for caring for victims of rape or other sexual assault is to focus on the needs of the victim during this crisis, providing timely, appropriate medical, mental-health, and legal assessment and care by specially trained and experienced professionals in a timely manner.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/23/2015

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