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.

What is sexual assault?

Sexual assault is defined as any illegal sexual contact that involves forcing a person without their consent or inflicting such contact on someone who is unable to give consent due to their age or to physical or mental incapacities. Sexual assault may also involve sexual contact that is inflicted by someone who is trusted by or has authority over the victim. Incest is one example of childhood sexual abuse that is perpetrated by a trusted person who often has authority over the victim, as when a parent or sibling engages in such a violation on another family member.

Sexual harassment is defined as unwanted sexual behavior that interferes with the victim's work or school life. It does not include behaviors that are wanted or welcome, like desired flirting, kissing, or touching. Unfortunately, sexual assault and sexual harassment take place in a variety of settings. The most common site where young women report sexual harassment is at school, including on college campuses. The workplace is another site of sexual harassment. While the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunities Commission received 6,862 complaints of sexual harassment in the workplace in 2014, many more individuals feel they have been the victim of such unwanted behavior but have not reported it. More than 17.5% of workplace sexual harassment charges in 2014 were filed by men.

Sexual battery refers to contact with an intimate body part of another person that is unwanted by the victim and is done in order for the perpetrator to achieve sexual arousal, gratification, or abuse. It may occur whether or not the victim is wearing clothes or not. Any sexual assault that involves inflicting physical injury or maiming of the victim is described as being aggravated sexual assault.

In 2011, there were 8,763 allegations of sexual victimization of inmates in prison, jails, and other adult correctional facilities. Most sexual assaults that take place during incarceration are homosexual rapes, in that the perpetrator and the victim are of the same gender. Detention and other incarceration is often the setting for rape or other sexual assault for boys and men.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/23/2015

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