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Sexual assault occurs any time a person is forced into a sexual act. However, force does not always include physical violence. Force can happen in different ways, such as: verbal threats, overpowering the person, using a weapon, manipulation, drugging someone, abusing authority or taking advantage of someone who is incapacitiated from drugs or alcohol or is under anesthesia and cannot consent to sex. Likewise, someone with a cognitive or developmental disability who cannot make an informed decision about sex cannot give consent.

Sexual assault can happen to anyone. It crosses all societal lines and can affect anyone's life. It can be perpetrated by friends, acquaintances, family members, co-workers, and intimate partners (including spouses and gay or lesbian couples). It can also happen between doctors and patients, students and teachers, clergy and parishioners, parents and their children, and it can happen between strangers. If you have been sexually assaulted, know that you are not alone.


If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, we encourage you to reach out to SAFV's advocates for support and services. Speaking with a SAFV advocate can assist you with the immediate crisis or with the aftermath of a sexual assault. We will assist and support you coping with your feelings and decision-making processes, in a way that is best for you. SAFV can connect victims with medical services or support victims through reporting to law enforcement. The advocates at SAFV are ready to help you whenever you need them, now or in the future.

SAFV advocates are trained as part of an informal community Sexual Assault Reponse Team (SART), an interdisciplinary team made up of law enforcement, healthcare professionals, and a victim's advocates. Each member of the team supports the victim in a different way following an assault and the response team aims to provide comprehensive services to help maintain a victim's physical and emotional safety following an assault.

SAFV advocates can help empower sexual assualt victims by supporting them through the process in the aftermath of sexual assault, while ensuring their medical and legal rights. These rights include: 

  • Receive a free sexual assault exam whether or not you choose to press charges.

  • Exclude unnecessary personnel and people from the room, including your spouse or partner. 

  • Receive free tests for sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy whether or not you choose to report it to law enforcement. 

  • Receive treatment for your injuries without saying who assaulted you.

  • Report or not report the assault to law enforcement. 

  • Have an advocate with you during a sexual assault exam. 

Nothing you have done has caused the assault. It is a frightening and disturbing event in someone's life. There are many fears, questions, and thoughts you may have because of the assault. You may experience the immediate reactions of shock, denial, anger, anxiety, and disorientation. Your emotions may go from one extreme to the other. You may blame yourself, have stomachaches, or feel exhausted or fearful of being alone. Whatever you are feeling is okay! Everyone handles their emotions differently. You might mask or hide them or become expressive with crying, restlessness, and so forth. The process of resolving your feelings will vary with your age, personality, and available support system.  

Understanding the facts about sexual assault and associated trauma can help you cope with your resulting feelings and thoughts and help you through the decision making process. For more information about sexual assault and for additional resources, visit SAFV's Sexual Assault resource page. 

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