Sexual assault is an assault of a sexual nature on another person, or any sexual act committed without consent. Although sexual assaults most frequently are by a man on a woman, it may be by a man on a man, woman on a man or woman on a woman, adult on a child, adult on an adult, child on a child or child on an adult.
While sexual assaults are associated with the crime of rape, it may cover assaults which would not be considered rape. What constitutes a sexual assault is determined by the laws of the jurisdiction where the assault takes place, which vary considerably and are influenced by local social and cultural attitudes.
Every year, an estimated 300,000 women are raped and 3.7 million are confronted with unwanted sexual activity. In addition, of the approximately 900,000 children who are maltreated each year, 9% are sexually abused. It has been estimated that one in six American women have or will be sexually assaulted during their lives. Largely because of child and prison rape, approximately ten percent of reported rape victims are male.
Sexual assault may include rape, forced vaginal, anal or oral penetration, forced sexual intercourse, inappropriate touching, forced kissing, child sexual abuse, or the torture of the victim in a sexual manner.
Unwanted sexual contact that stops short of rape or attempted rape. This includes sexual touching and fondling.
Outside of law, the term rape ("an assault by a person involving sexual intercourse with another person without that person's consent") is often used interchangeably with sexual assault, a closely related (but in most jurisdictions technically distinct) form of assault typically including rape and other forms of non-consensual sexual activity.
Abbey et al. state that female victims are much more likely to be assaulted by an acquaintance (such as a friend or co-worker), a dating partner, an ex-boyfriend or an intimate partner than by a complete stranger. In a study of hospital emergency room treatments for rape, Kaufman et al. state that the male victims as a group sustained more physical trauma, were more likely to have been a victim of multiple assaults from multiple assailants, and were more likely to have been held captive longer.
Domestic violence is a crime of power and intimidation. It relates highly to sexual assault. Not only can the abuse be emotional, physical, psychological, and financial, but it can be sexual. Some of the signs of sexual abuse are very similar to those of domestic violence. They are forced sex, adultery, humiliation, withholding, and kinky sexual behaviors.
Attempted rape is a failed attempt to force sexual intercourse with someone without their consent. Sexual Harassment is also closely related. This may include leering, pressure for dates, pressing or rubbing against a person, obscene phone calls, bra snapping, wolf-whistles, lip-smacking, indecent exposure, sexual discrimination, displaying explicit materials, sexist jokes, unwanted grabbing, comments about person's body, soliciting sexual services.
Traumatic events such as rape and sexual assault have, aside from obvious physical traumas, profound long-term psychological effects on all victims including but not limited to children who are assault victims. These include: denial, helplessness, dislike of sex, anger, self-blame, anxiety, shame, nightmares, fear, depression, flashbacks, guilt, rationalization, mood-swings, numbness, promiscuity, loneliness, social anxiety, and difficulty trusting oneself or others, difficulty concentrating. Family and friends experience emotional scarring including a strong desire for revenge, a desire to "fix' the problem and/or move on, and a rationalization that "it wasn't that bad".
A United Nations report compiled from government sources showed that more than 250,000 cases of rape or attempted rape were recorded by police annually. The reported data covered 65 countries.
Child sexual abuse
Sexual assaults on children are normally viewed far more seriously than those on an adult. This is because of the innocence of the child victim, and also because of the long-term psychological impact that such assaults have on the child.
Child sexual abuse is a form of child abuse in which an adult or older adolescent abuses a child for sexual stimulation. Forms of CSA include asking or pressuring a child to engage in sexual activities (regardless of the outcome), 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.
The effects of child sexual abuse include depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, propensity to re-victimization in adulthood, and physical injury to the child, among other problems. Sexual abuse by a family member is a form of incest, is more common than other forms of sexual assault on a child, and can result in more serious and long-term psychological trauma, especially in the case of parental incest.
Approximately 15% to 25% of women and 5% to 15% of men were sexually abused when they were children. Most sexual abuse offenders are acquainted with their victims; approximately 30% are relatives of the child, most often brothers, fathers, mothers, sisters and uncles or cousins; around 60% are other acquaintances such as friends of the family, babysitters, or neighbors; strangers are the offenders in approximately 10% of child sexual abuse cases.
Studies have shown that the psychological damage is often particularly severe when sexual assault is committed by parents against children due to the incestuous nature of the assault. Incest between a child or adolescent and a related adult has been identified as the most widespread form of child sexual abuse with a huge capacity for damage to a child. Often, sexual assault on a child is not reported by the child for several reasons:
children are too young to recognize their victimization or put it into words
they were threatened or bribed by the abuser
they feel confused by fearing the abuser but liking the attention
they are afraid no one will believe them
they blame themselves or believe the abuse is a punishment
they feel guilty for consequences to the perpetrator
Elderly sexual assault
Elderly sexual assault is victimization of persons over the age of 60, most of whom suffer from decreased functionality, frailty, and weakness and therefore are reliant on caretakers. Only 30% of people age 65 or older who are victimized report it to the police. The most common assailants are caretakers, adult children, spouses and fellow facility residents. Signs that an elder is being assaulted include increased vaginal tearing, bleeding, bruising, infection, pelvic injury, soft tissue or bone injury. Also, an altered mood might be an indication of sexual assault. These symptoms include extreme agitation, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, withdrawal, panic attacks, STDs, exacerbation of existing illness, sleep disturbances, longer recovery times.