Young people, aged 12 to 34 years old, are at the highest risk for rape and sexual assault than any other age group¹; you may be a survivor of sexual assault, or you may have a friend, peer or loved one who is a survivor. Learn about sexual assault and how it affects mental health and wellness below.
If you are a survivor of sexual assault and need help now, call the 24/7 National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-HOPE.
What is sexual assault?
Sexual assault is any sexual contact or behavior that occurs without explicit consent of the survivor. This includes situations where the person is unable to give consent. Sexual assault is never the survivor’s fault. It can have both short and long term effects on a survivor’s mental health and wellness. The Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network (RAINN) defines sexual assault further here.
How does Sexual Assault affect Mental Health and Wellness?
Sexual assault can have a tremendous influence on a survivor’s wellness and daily life. Survivors may experience both short and long term effects to their mental health following a sexual assault. If you or a loved one is a survivor of sexual assault and experiencing the following mental health challenges, the resources below may help.
Short term effects
Survivors of sexual assault often report experiencing flashbacks of their assault (reliving the experience) and feelings of severe distress, shock, guilt or shame. They may also experience a change in appetite, sleep patterns and social behavior after the assault.
Long term effects
Survivors of sexual assault are at an increased risk for developing one or more of the following mental health challenges:
Questions & Answers
Q&A: Provided below are guides to answer some of the questions you may have.
Q: Who is affected by sexual assault?
A: Anyone can be affected by sexual assault. However, it is important to recognize that certain populations are at a greater risk; young people between the ages of 12-34, women, transgender folks, college students and Native Americans. For more information on who is affected by sexual assault, visit https://www.rainn.org/statistics.
For information on specific populations, click the links below:
Q: How to respond if someone wants to do something that you do not want to do?
Q: What to do if you witness a situation that may lead to sexual assault or violence? How to step-in?
Q: I feel unsure about a sexual experience I had, what should I do?
A: Call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-HOPE, they can help answer your questions and give you support. Talk to a friend, counselor or family member if you feel comfortable doing so. Or visit https://www.rainn.org/ for helpful information.
Q: I am a survivor of sexual assault, what should I do? Where can I get support?
A: We believe you and it is not your fault. Call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-HOPE for support and direction. Talk to a friend, counselor or family member if you feel comfortable doing so. Practice Self Care and wellness activities when you can. See after sexual assault below for more guidance.
Q: After sexual assault – If you are a survivor of sexual assault and are unsure what to do next.
A: Learn more here. If you have a friend, family member or caring person that you trust, ask them to accompany you through this process.
Q: How can I participate in preventing sexual assault from happening on my campus or in my community?
A: If accessible, get involved with advocacy groups on your campus or in your community. Visit https://www.rainn.org/articles/your-role-preventing-sexual-assault for more direction on how you can help.