What is Sexual Assault?
Sexual assault is any form of sexual activity that is not wanted and can include:
- Inappropriate touch
- Unwanted sexual intercourse
- Rape or attempted rape
- Child molestation
- Anal, oral, or vaginal penetration
Sexual assault can also be verbal (sexual insults, sexual harassment) or visual (flashing, voyeurism, exhibitionism), or anything that causes a person to partake in unwanted sexual activity or attention. Sexual assault can occur anywhere and between anyone, regardless of relationship.
When people think about unwanted sexual contact, most people think of rape. Rape is a common form of sexual assault and can occur while on a date, when you are alone at your house, by a stranger, by a spouse or relationship partner, or by a friend or acquaintance. Rape can occur regardless of the victim’s behavior or attire, and with or without alcohol or drugs. Many times victims are drugged without their knowledge through the use of “date rape drugs” surreptitiously added to their drink or meal, which is why it is important to not accept drinks from strangers and to never leave your drink unattended while in a restaurant or bar. Not only do these drugs leave victims unable to defend themselves from sexual assault, they oftentimes cause the victim to experience memory loss to the extent that they may not even know the sexual assault happened at all.
No matter the circumstances, sexual assault is never the fault of the victim.
What to do if you have been sexually assaulted
If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, there are important steps you should take as soon as possible:
- Find a safe place away from your attacker
- Call 911 or the police
- Call someone you trust. If you do not have anyone available, call a crisis center, sexual assault advocate, sexual assault hotline, or a counselor. These resources may be useful, in addition to friends and family, as you will likely have to overcome severe emotional trauma that can persist for months and even years.
- Go to the hospital first before doing anything else. You do not want to destroy any evidence by taking a shower, changing clothes, combing your hair, or anything else that could alter evidence. You should also not touch or alter anything at the scene of the assault.
- At the hospital they will collect evidence, treat any injuries, and get treatment and screening for potential pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.
- If you decide to file a police report, the hospital staff can call the police for you. They will also have the number for local resources such as rape crisis centers.
- Contact your attorneys at Wilshire Law Firm.
What can I do to decrease my risk for sexual assault?
First, it is important to understand that a victim is never to blame for sexual assault, no matter what they dress like, act like, or do. However, there are some things you can do to try to reduce your risk for sexual assault:
- Always be aware of your surroundings, look around to know who is around you and what is going on.
- Avoid walking alone at night, and if you regularly walk alone, vary the route you take. Try to keep your walk confined to well-lit, busy areas.
- Walk confidently and keep your head up. Appearing confident helps you to look stronger.
- Be careful when in an isolated area such as a parking garage or office building after hours.
- Know your drug and alcohol limits.
- Be assertive and vocal when someone is in your space or behaving in a way that makes you uncomfortable.
- Listen to your gut – if you feel uncomfortable, leave.
- Do not prop open doors that automatically lock.
- Always lock your windows and doors, even if you are just leaving for a few minutes. Also, always check to see who is at the door before opening it.
- Before leaving your house, car, or office, have your keys in hand, ready to use.
- Do not hitchhike or give hitchhikers a ride.
- Make sure your car has plenty of gas.
- Do not lose track of your keys, and do not lend them to anyone. Also do not put your name and address on your key ring.
If someone you know has been sexually assaulted, the best way to help them is by being their support system. Listen and offer them comfort, accompany them to the hospital or police station, and make sure to reinforce that the assault was not their fault and that it is okay and natural to feel angry or ashamed.
The attorneys at Wilshire Law Firm offer a free initial consultation to sexual assault victims. Experts in the complexities of proving sexual assault and substantiating damages for pain and suffering, mental anguish, and other injuries, our attorneys will assess the particulars of your case and recommend the best course of action for you. If at all possible, we will secure the financial compensation from your attacker that can pay for the medical treatment and counseling necessary for your long term recovery.