Sexual trauma or sexual violence refers to sexual activity against somebody’s will (non-consensual). Anyone can experience sexual violence, but most victims are female. The person responsible for the violence is typically male and is usually someone known to the victim.
There are many types of sexual violence, not all of which involve physical contact (for example, sexual harassment, threats, and peeping). Other types of sexual violence include unwanted touching and rape, includes physical contact.
Sadly, sexual violence is a big problem in the United States:
- Among high school students surveyed nationwide, about 8% reported having been forced to have sex. The percentage of those having been forced to ever have sex was higher among female (11%) than male (5%) students.
- An estimated 20% to 25% of college women in the United States have experienced an attempted or complete rape during their college career.
- In the United States, one in six women and one in 33 men reported experiencing an attempted or completed rape at some time in their lives.
These numbers underestimate the problem. Many cases are not reported because victims are afraid to tell the police, friends or family about the abuse. Victims also think that their stories of abuse will not be believed and that police cannot help them. They may be ashamed or embarrassed. Victims may also keep quiet because they have been threatened with further harm if they tell anyone.
Sexual violence, in addition to the immediate harms of injury or unwanted pregnancy, can lead to long-term health problems. These include chronic pain, headaches, stomach problems, and sexually transmitted diseases. There are often emotional harms as well. Victims often are fearful and anxious. They may replay the attack over and over in their minds. They may have problems with trust and be wary of becoming involved with others. The anger and stress that victims feel may lead to eating disorders and depression. Some even think about or attempt suicide.
If you’ve been the victim of sexual violence or trauma, or if you are afraid you are in danger in any way, seek help immediately by calling 911 or one of several national hotlines, which are available through the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.