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 are the symptoms and signs of someone who has been sexually assaulted or raped?

Signs and symptoms of someone who has been sexually assaulted or raped tend to include depression, guilt, anger, and anxiety. Behaviorally, the victim of sexual violence might become aggressive, abuse substances, or break rules, like not attending work or school. The victim might also have sleeping or eating problems, withdraw from relationships, and have sexual problems.

What can I do to prevent sexual assault and rape?

Some ways to prevent sexual assault and rape are to lessen the life risk factors for being the victim or perpetrator of these crimes. While risk factors like being less than 15 years old and being in a married or cohabitating relationship are not amenable to change, refraining from the use of drugs or alcohol and decreasing the number of sexual partners may help decrease the vulnerability to sexual victimization. That perpetrators of rape or other sexual assault are often drunk or intoxicated with another substance at the time of the assault indicates that such offenses are frequently drug facilitated. While increased female empowerment sometimes places women at increased risk for spousal sexual violence, helping women improve their socioeconomic status out of poverty or to achieve careers outside of sex work (for example, in prostitution, adult entertainment, or what many interpret to be other forms of sexual exploitation) may decrease their risk for rape or other forms of sexual assault.

Factors that tend to decrease the likelihood that men will engage in committing a rape include individual factors like refraining from the use of drugs or alcohol, exercising good impulse control, and having good perceptions of women; family factors like having a supportive family and absence of domestic violence; and community factors like low crime rates in general and having strong laws and policies about sexual violence.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/23/2015

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