Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention for Students

Updated November 8, 2022

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Consent Education, Types of Assault and How to Get Help for Students of All Ages

Every 98 seconds another person is sexually assaulted, but according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, only 28 percent of those who are will report it to the police. Of those cases, only 6 in every 1,000 perpetrators actually spends time in prison. This is why it's so important to understand what sexual assault looks like. This guide helps raise awareness and educate students, parents and educators on how to change the culture surrounding sexual assault, in order prevent further violence and to better support survivors as they heal and recover. Adopting a zero-tolerance attitude towards violence starts with everyone.

Talk to someone now.National Sexual Assault Telephone Helpline:800-656-HOPE (4673)

Online Chat for Help:

Text HELLO to 741741 to reach the Crisis Text Line QUICK ESCAPE Close This Page Immediately

You're Not Alone: Student Sexual Assault

Many sexual assault survivors are afraid to come forward for fear of not being believed, or being blamed for what happened to them. If you've experienced an assault or feel confused about a questionable sexual situation, know that you are not alone. Resources are available to you. Here are some statistics on the demographics of students facing sexual violence.

Children & Teens

  • The perpetrator is not always an adult

    As many of 40 percent of children who are sexually abused are taken advantage of by older or more powerful children. 23 percent of teens 10 to 17 say they've been shown unwanted pornography, which is a form of sexual assault. - “Trends in Youth Victimization”, Jones L, Mitchell K, Finkelhor D, 2012

  • Academic problems are a big red flag

    Not only do grades suffer after a sexual assault, a history of sexual abuse makes a person more likely to drop out of school. - Darkness to Light, 2017

  • Survivors have more creative recovery options than ever before

    Therapy programs that focus on activities like art have been shown to reduce trauma levels for survivors by 20 to 25 percent. - “Letting the Future In”, Carpenter J, Jessiman T, Patsios D, Hackett S, Phillips J., 2016

College Students & Young Adults

  • Women are often victims, but college men are at higher risk

    20 to 25 percent of college-aged women will experience an attempted or completed sexual assault by the time they graduate, but young men in college are 78 percent more likely to experience a sexual assault than other young men, age 18 to 24, who are not in school. - Department of Justice Bureau of Statistics, 2014

  • Student academic life suffers

    Students who are victims of sexual assault often withdraw socially, have high absence rates, enroll in fewer classes, and/or dropping out completely for fear of running into their perpetrator. - American Association of University Professors, 2012

  • Campus law enforcement is working towards providing better support

    As of 2014, around 70 percent of campus law enforcement agencies had a dedicated staff member to handle sexual assault response and assistance. - Department of Justice Bureau of Statistics, 2014

LGBTQ Students

  • Sexual harassment is rampant

    75 percent of LGBTQ students report experiencing sexual harassment in college, and up to 45 percent of the LGBTQ community experiences sexual assault in their lifetime. - Association of American Universities, 2016 and Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, 2010

  • Dating violence is a serious problem

    23 percent of LGBTQ students reported experiencing sexual dating violence in a national Youth Risk Behavior Survey in 2015, while 18 percent reported experiencing physical dating violence. - Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, 2015

  • Allies are helping

    Studies show schools with queer-straight alliances, teacher training and classroom curriculum that includes LGBTQ-inclusive lessons improve LGBTQ student well-being. - Snapp SD, 2015

Students With Disabilities

  • A disability more than doubles the chances for abuse

    Children with disabilities are almost three times as likely to be sexually abused as children without disabilities. - Vera Institute of Justice, 2013

  • Deaf students are also victims

    48 percent of students with hearing loss at Gallaudet University, a school for the Deaf and hard of hearing, said they had experienced unwanted sexual contact during their time in school. - Francavillo GSR, 2009

  • Federal Grants are increasing education programs

    The U.S. Department of Justice's Office on Violence Against Women funds campus training programs and campus Sexual Assault Resource Teams. - United States Department of Justice, 2012

Notes For Parents

  • Children tell the truth

    A study by the New South Wales Child Protection Council showed 98 percent of children who tell an adult about abuse are telling the truth. However, only one in three adults would believe a child who disclosed their abuse. - Australian Childhood Foundation, 2010

  • Trauma has lasting effects

    Posttraumatic stress, anxiety, depression, suicide attempts and substance abuse are common consequences of sexual abuse in children. The estimated average financial burden for survivors' loss of productivity and healthcare costs stemming from abuse as a child was over $210,000 in 2010. - Centers for Disease Control, 2010

  • Teach your kids to help their friends

    40 percent of children who are sexually abused report it to a close friend rather than an adult or the authorities. Parents who educate themselves can also empower their children to help a friend. - National Survey of Adolescents, 2007

Types of Sexual Assault Students Face

In very broad terms, sexual assault is an unwanted sexual advance. It ranges from harassment in the form of a comment or joke, an unwanted physical touch, a sexually explicit photograph or other material shared without consent, to something more violent like rape. These are just a few examples of sexual violence. Here are the legal definitions of harassment, sexual assault and sexual misconduct, as well as a few examples.

Legal Definitions

  • Unwelcome Behavior Any behavior that is deemed offensive or unwelcome, and is detrimental to the physical, emotional and psychological health of the recipient or witnesses.
  • Sexual Harassment Unwelcome sexual behavior or requests for sexual favors that make a person feel uncomfortable. Sexual harassment can be verbal, physical or visual.
  • Sexual Misconduct Any unwelcome behavior of a sexual nature that is committed without consent. Overriding consent might be accomplished through manipulation, intimidation, coercion or physical force.
  • Sexual Assault Sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the consent of the victim. This can include fondling, touching, penetration, or forcing the victim to perform sexual acts.
  • Rape A form of sexual assault that includes penetration without consent. The FBI defines rape specifically as “penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.”
  • Date-Rape Forcible sexual assault during a voluntary social engagement, where the victim did not intend to engage in specific sexual activity and verbally and/or physically resisted. Even if both parties knew each other or the victim willingly accompanied the perpetrator on a date, these are not legal defenses.
  • Intimate Partner Violence Not always sexual in nature, the Center for Disease Control defines intimate partner violence as “physical violence, sexual violence, stalking and psychological aggression (including coercive acts) by a current or former intimate partner”.
  • Sexual Abuse Any type of sexual activity or sexual contact with a minor.
  • Drug-Facilitated Sexual Assault When alcohol and drugs are used to compromise a person's ability to consent to the sexual activity or behavior.

The Spectrum Of Unwanted Sexual Behaviors

Physical Behavior

A physical act that some might find inappropriate or unwelcome, but others might not feel is wrong. NOTE: This is still legally considered harassment.

Example 1

Snapping a bra in an effort to “tease” or “flirt” or “intimidate”.

Example 2

Massaging someone's shoulders, hugging or putting an arm around someone without their consent.

Example 3

Puckering lips, blowing kisses or making flirty or suggestive gestures at someone you think is attractive.

Example 4

Slapping someone on the butt to congratulate them after scoring a point in a game.

Sexual Harassment

A sexual advance or other behavior that makes a person uncomfortable.

Example 1

A teacher mentioning they'd date a student if they were younger or the student's age.

Example 2

Asking someone a question about their sex life, gender identity or sexual orientation without their openly offering to answer.

Example 3

Telling sexual jokes or sending sexually-charged messages to someone who has not explicitly asked to participate.

Example 4

Rating fellow students on their appearance, sexual prowess or the like.

Sexual Misconduct

Inappropriate conduct without consent, or using inappropriate or devious methods of getting “consent”.

Example 1

A teacher or other person of influence developing a sexual relationship or exchanging sexual messages with a student.

date Example 2

Threatening a partner or acquaintance with embarrassment or other harm if they do not engage in a sexual act or relationship.

Example 3

Insisting that a person perform a sexual act that they aren't ready for or are unsure about.

Example 4

Manipulating someone's emotions or mental state, or making untrue statements or promises to try to get consent. (i.e. saying “I love you” to have sex)

Sexual Assault

Sexual conduct or behavior performed without explicit, enthusiastic consent.

Example 1

Having sex with someone who isn't legally old enough to consent, even if they seemed enthusiastic about it.

Example 2

Making someone feel guilty or tricking someone into having sex.

Example 3

“Flashing” or exposing genitals to someone who has not enthusiastically agreed to view them (yes, this includes unsolicited pictures of genitalia sent electronically).

Example 4

Demanding a person stay in the room or watch while a sexual act is performed with others, either in person or in pictures / video.


Sexual assault that includes penetration.

Example 1

Being tricked into or forced to perform oral sex on someone.

Example 2

Someone using their fingers or another object to penetrate the vagina or anus.

Example 3

Any type of sex without enthusiastic consent, even if your partner didn't physically resist or explicitly say no.

Example 4

Using toys or other objects during sex without enthusiastic consent.

Drug-Facilitated Sexual Assault

Any sexual act that takes place under the influence of drugs or alcohol. A person cannot legally consent if they are intoxicated or high.

Example 1

Being sexual with a person who is incapacitated by drugs or alcohol

Example 2

Performing sexual acts with or on someone who is incoherent from their use alcohol or drugs.

Example 3

Using drugs, alcohol or other substances to make a person less likely to protest.

Example 4

Using drugs or alcohol to the point that a person is unable to remember what happened to them.

Students Rights & Resources

It's important for college students, teens and parents to understand what their rights are when dealing with unwanted sexual behavior at school and beyond. Get to know the facts about what you're entitled to using these resources:

  • American Civil Liberties Union The ACLU has a section on Title IX and sexual violence in schools that can help parents and students begin to explore their legal options.
  • Equal Rights Advocates This organization fights for women's equality and provides extensive information on sexual harassment.
  • Find Law This website is a great place to begin for all things legal, including sexual harassment, assault and related court cases concerning higher education.
  • Know Your IX This website focuses on Title IX rights of students in K-12 and college, possible legal options and more.
  • NCAA Inclusion of Transgender Student-Athletes This guide focuses on the legal rights of transgender people in NCAA sports.
  • Title IX Resource Guide This official guide from the Department of Education provides a wealth of information on the law.

Student Questions on Consent

Any sexual advance or act should happen only after clear, enthusiastic consent is given. But what does that mean? When it comes to something as important as sex, there are a lot of questions with fuzzy advice. To get some solid answers, take a look below.

Can consent be given if someone never speaks?

Yes. Consent can be given or denied without ever saying a word. For instance, a person can reject consent by pushing someone away, pulling away, not responding to their advances or touches, looking away or simply disengaging from whatever is happening. Someone who is scared may not say “no” or resist, which doesn't mean they're giving consent.

There may be many non-verbal signs of consent as well, such as taking someone's hand to lead them to the bedroom or placing your hand on their body, but you should always try to get a verbal, enthusiastic “yes” to make sure consent is clear. You can always try saying something like, “Do you want me to take your shirt off for you?” or “What would make you feel good right now?”

Can a person give consent when under the influence of alcohol?

Not legally. However, it isn't unusual for a person to have one or two drinks prior to a consensual encounter. But if a person is inebriated to the point of incapacitation, even what seems to be a clear consent for something might not be so clear in the eyes of the law. If a person is incoherent, can't communicate clearly, can't stand up straight on their own, and seems to be so drunk that they don't know what is going on or might not have any memory of it, it's best to assume you do not have consent. Generally speaking: if there's a chance this person might not remember anything the next morning, err on the side of caution, stop and help make sure they are safe.

What if I give consent at first but then change my mind?

Just as you have the freedom to give consent, you always have the freedom to not give it. This includes consent in the middle of a sexual act. For instance, you might say you want to have sex with a person, but halfway through you change your mind. Telling that person “I'm not comfortable” or “I changed my mind” is perfectly okay. They don't have to like your change of heart, but they must accept it! You can also try saying, “Can we pause?” or “Hey can we do something else right now?”

What if I want to consent to one thing but not another?

All forms of sexual activity are entirely your choice. Consent is a very personal decision, and should include only things you are comfortable with. For instance, a person can consent to kissing and “making out” but that doesn't mean they consent to anything else. Or a person might consent to sex, but that doesn't mean they consent to oral sex. Make sure you are asking your partner explicitly what they are and are not comfortable with doing before doing it. Additionally, consenting to sex one weekend does not mean you consent to sex the following weekend.

What if someone says “no” while sober but says “yes” while drinking or high?

Though people change their minds all the time, it's suspicious when alcohol or drugs may be influencing that change. Is the person saying “yes” stumbling around, slurring their words, or unable to remember where they live? Are they “floppy” when you're trying to dance with them? Then that “yes” is most likely not true consent. Get that person home, safe and sound, and check in on them the next morning.

Can I say “no” if I'm in a relationship with someone?

Absolutely. Your body belongs to you, no matter what your relationship status might be. Even if you've happily consented to encounters in the past, you are always entitled to say “no” at any time. Remember that just because you are in a relationship with someone, you're still the one who has ultimate control over your own body, mind and actions. If you hear “no”, even to something you've done before, pushing and pressuring your partner to do it again is not okay.

What Consent Does (and Doesn't) Looks Like

It's important to understand what consent looks like and just as importantly, what doesn't constitute consent. Here are some real-life situations to help you spot consent, as well as recognize when it's not actually consent at all.

You really want to kiss someone. You ask, “May I kiss you?”The other person says yes, smiles and leans in to give you a kiss first.The other person doesn't say no, but looks away or seems nervous or uncomfortable.
You put your hand on someone's thigh.The person smiles and moves closer.The person smiles but tries to move your hand away or angles their body away from you.
You're in the middle of a passionate encounter and ask, “Should we keep going?”Your partner gives an enthusiastic “Yes!”There is no response or a “maybe”, but the person isn't participating as enthusiastically as you.
You're making out with someone who has obviously had too much to drink.Wait until they're sober. If you get an enthusiastic “yes” you can pick up where you left off.Any person who is inebriated is not legally able to give consent.
You're looking for a casual hookup. You start having a conversation about the possibility with a potential partner.The person says that's what they want, too. They continue by moving the conversation forward enthusiastically.The person says they are more of a “relationship type” of person. They don't seem too keen on a hookup without the promise of something more.

For helpful tips on how to ask for consent, check out Consent is Sexy, a campaign on educating and encouraging students to talk about consent.

Helpful Tools And Resources On Consent

  • Break the Cycle: Consent This simple, straightforward list of what consent is and is not can be very helpful for those considering how to consent appropriately (or how to spot the signs that consent is not given).
  • Good2Go App This on-the-go app allows the tech-savvy to use technology to express their consent or lack thereof. The app is free on iTunes or Google Play.
  • Love is Respect This website focuses on not only consent, but many other issues concerning love, respect, sexuality and the finer points of creating better relationships.
  • Planned Parenthood Offers information on what consent looks like, what it is not, and other information for those who are sexually active.
  • Teen Vogue This teen's version of the classic magazine offers in-depth information on all things sex, including a long-form guide on consent.
  • The Good Men Project Offers a great deal of information on sexual respect and consent, including a chart to help individuals figure out what they feel is okay and what is not.

Date Rape: Date Rape Drugs and Intimate Partner Violence

You've met before. Maybe even gone out a few times. Or they're someone you've known for years. You trust the person you're with, until you find yourself dealing with a sexual experience you don't want to have. 70 percent of rape victims know their attackers, and date rape perpetrators aren't the typical back-alley creeps you've been taught to avoid. Even though you've likely heard the standard tips to watch out for, here are some realities about date rape to keep in mind.

Rape can happen between partners

It is known as “Intimate Partner Violence” when a current or former partner physically, sexually or psychologically harms you. The Centers for Disease Control provides a technical package of Programs, Policies and Practices for preventing Intimate Partner Violence.

Date rape can often catch you off guard

While protecting your drink and watching out for your friends are good risk-reduction techniques, neither truly prevent assault. Prevention can only happen on the side of the potential perpetrator. It is important to feel safe at all times, but it is also important to know that many date rape survivors report they were in an environment they considered safe when they were attacked.

Date rape drugs can make it hard to tell if something happened.

If the perpetrator used a drug on you, it can be hard to remember being assaulted. You might not be aware until well after the assault occurred, and even then, you might not be sure. Look at some of the signs you've been drugged and raped from the U.S. Government's Office of Women's Health.

Common Date Rape Drugs And What They Look Like


A pill that dissolves in liquids. Small, round and white or oval and grayish-green. Pills can also be ground up into powder form.

How to tell if it's in your drink

Some new versions of the pills make clear liquid turn bright blue and turn darker liquids cloudy, thanks to a dye additive. But pills without this dye are undetectable to the eye, and do not have a distinct taste.

: (Roofies, Forget Pills, Lunch Money, Rib, Rope, Whiteys)


A clear liquid or a white to off-white colored powder. Ketamine is a hallucinogen and is not always used as a date rape drug exclusively.

How to tell if it's in your drink

Ketamine is undetectable to the eye and doesn't have a distinct taste.

: (Black Hole, Green, Jet, K, Special K, Kit Kat, K-Hole, Super Acid)

Gamma Hydroxybutyric Acid or GHB

A clear, odorless liquid or a white powder or pill.

How to tell if it's in your drink

GHB has a slight salty taste that can be easily masked by sweet, sugary drinks. It is undetectable to the eye.

: (G, Liquid Ecstasy, Easy Lay, Energy Drink, Vita-G)

Testing Your Drink

It should never be your job to prevent yourself from being assaulted—only a potential perpetrator can control or stop their actions. But students who are worried about drug-facilitated assaults can choose to use new drug detection technology for peace of mind while out having fun. From special nail polish to cups, coasters and straws that set off a chemical reaction if contacted by one of the drugs above, here are some drink testing options to look into:

  • Check Your Drink Tests from Check Your Drink include test patches that you can dab a drop of your drink on to check for GHB and ketamine.
  • The Drink Detective Testing for GHB, Ketamine, Rohypnol and other benzodiazepines, these test kits are the size of a credit card and require a swab of liquid to test.
  • Drink Safe Technologies These test kits and coasters check for the presence of GHB and Ketamine in your drink.
  • Undercover Colors A nail polish that, when dipped into a drink, can help detect the presence of date rape drugs.

College Prep: The Red Zone & Bystander Intervention

The first six weeks of a college for an incoming freshman is known as the “red zone.” It's the time when new students are most vulnerable to rape, attempted rape or sexual assault. In fact, the U.S. Department of Justice finds more than 50 percent of all college sexual assaults take place during August, September, October and November – which correspond with the first semester for most incoming freshmen.

What To Do If You See A Crime In Progress

If you see a crime in progress, whether it's rape, sexual assault or other forms of violence, call 911 immediately. If you are in a place where many people can hear, make as much noise as possible. Scream, or yell “STOP” or “we see you” to get attention and bring people rushing to the scene.

But beyond just knowing about the “red zone”, it's important to know what to do if you find yourself or see someone else in a potentially dangerous situation. Being an active bystander can help save a life, and anyone can intervene. Here are some ideas on what to do, and what not to do, to keep fellow students safe.


  • Do grab a friend to help you act when you see something happening that might be wrong. (i.e. if you're at a party and someone is taking a very drunk/high person upstairs or away from the party)
  • Do make a scene if something bad is happening. Get loud! Draw attention. The more people are aware of what's going on, the more likely it will end quickly.
  • Do trust your gut instinct. If something feels “off” then it probably is.
  • Do check in and buddy up. Create a plan, check in at a set time or have a designated sober person with your group.
  • Do create a distraction. If someone is in a bad situation, they might not realize it. Stepping up with some food or loudly proclaiming it's time to go somewhere else can give the person the excuse they need to extract themselves gracefully.
  • Do call 911 if you are concerned for someone's safety.


  • Don't go it alone unless you have to, it is easier to stand up for someone else with backup.
  • Don't assume someone else will step in. They might be assuming the same thing about you.
  • Don't ignore that little voice in your head. Even if you're under the influence, find someone sober to help you.
  • Don't leave a friend alone, sober or otherwise. A person alone is an easier target for trouble than a person in a crowd or group.
  • Don't assume someone can get out of a bad situation on their own. They might worry about embarrassing themselves or others, might want to avoid hurting feelings, or any other number of reasons. They might need some backup!
  • Don't wait to intervene. Call 911, a resident assistant or a trusted friend immediately, and stay on the phone. They can help you determine what to do and coordinate help to arrive.

Helpful Tools Empowering Students To Act

  • Haven Project This important initiative at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania prepares students to spot, stop and report sexual assaults and other violence against students.
  • National Sexual Violence Resource Center Provides a wealth of information on sexual assault and violence, including information for bystanders.
  • NCAA Student Athlete Bystander Intervention Guide With tools and training materials for mentors, coaches and teachers, this NCAA guide material is geared specifically towards student-athletes.
  • Safer Campus A student-led organization that focuses on empowering college students to build safer campus communities to help combat sexual and interpersonal violence.
  • Safe Helpline: Active Bystander Intervention This provides information to help bystanders know how to prevent sexual assault from occurring.
  • Show You C.A.R.E By remembering the acronym “CARE,” students can figure out how to best approach a situation that involves potential sexual assault.
  • SOAR: Reducing the Risk of Sexual Assault This website focuses on Speaking Out About Rape, including numerous resources that can help individuals and bystanders prevent sexual assault.
  • Step UP! Program This initiative prepares bystanders to step up and prevent or stop various crimes, including sexual assault.

Guys Can Experience Sexual Violence, Too

Sexual assault isn't reserved for any one gender group, identity or orientation. We most often hear about women who are victims because they make up the vast majority of those who experience sexual violence. However, it is also extremely important to know that men can be victims, too. In 2013 the National Crime Victimization Survey found 38 percent of reported sexual assaults in the nation were men. There are a lot of myths and misconceptions about male survivors of sexual assault. Get some of the facts below.


“If a guy gets aroused during a sexual assault, it means he liked it.”

Fact or Fiction?

Fiction. This is simply the body's response to stimulation, even negative stimulation. Arousal does not mean consent, nor does orgasm or ejaculation. These biological reactions should not be exploited and do not excuse unwanted sexual advances.


“Guys who are sexually assaulted by another male usually are or will become gay.”

Fact or Fiction?

Fiction. This is simply the body's response to stimulation, even negative stimulation. Arousal does not mean consent, nor does orgasm or ejaculation. These biological reactions should not be exploited and do not excuse unwanted sexual advances.


“It's more traumatic for a girl to be sexually assaulted than it is for a guy.”

Fact or Fiction?

Fiction. Trauma from sexual assault is felt differently by every survivor, but the effects are just as damaging for guys as they are girls. People choose to cope in many ways. Some may act like everything is all right, regardless of what they are feeling. This doesn't mean those feelings should be discounted or unsupported.


“Guys who are sexually assaulted are more likely to become an abuser themselves.”

Fact or Fiction?

Fiction. Trauma from sexual assault is felt differently by every survivor, but the effects are just as damaging for guys as they are girls. People choose to cope in many ways. Some may act like everything is all right, regardless of what they are feeling. This doesn't mean those feelings should be discounted or unsupported.


“The weak, vulnerable guys are the ones who get sexually assaulted.”

Fact or Fiction?

Fiction. Trauma from sexual assault is felt differently by every survivor, but the effects are just as damaging for guys as they are girls. People choose to cope in many ways. Some may act like everything is all right, regardless of what they are feeling. This doesn't mean those feelings should be discounted or unsupported.


“Guys can't be sexually assaulted by a woman.”

Fact or Fiction?

Fiction. While a guy getting sexual attention from a woman might seem like a dream to some, men can be assaulted by women just as easily as women are assaulted by men. Any sexual activity done without the man's explicit consent is sexual violence, and can cause severe physical harm and emotional damage.

Resources For Male-Identified Survivors

It is often difficult for male-identified sexual assault survivors to find support, and there are significantly fewer men who are publicly known survivors. . From reporting sources to support groups to therapy and advocacy groups, take a look at the following resources geared specifically for male-identified people who have faced sexual assault.

  • 1 in 6 One in six men are sexually assaulted or abused before the age of 18. Connect with someone specially trained to support male-identified survivors of sexual assault, join a support group, read about common questions and more here.
  • Duke Men's Project Exploring multiple topics from sexuality, masculinity, patriarchy, gender oppression and more, the Men's Project at Duke University is just one example of college chapter-based programs that support men and promote allyship for violence prevention.
  • For Male Survivors of Sexual Assault This University of Texas at Austin Counseling Center covers some of the unique issues male-identified survivors face after sexual assault.
  • HelpGuide “Help for Men Who Are Being Abused” For men-specific tips, support articles and helplines in both the U.S. and around the globe visit this non-profit page.
  • Men Can Stop Rape Though the primary function of this group is to empower men to stop violence against women, this group offers teachings, campus events, youth development and general public awareness in creating a culture of positive masculinity and prevent men's violence against other men.
  • Male Survivor A national organization against male sexual victimization, Male Survivor offers moderated discussion boards available 24-7 for men in 150 countries around the globe to connect and support one another.
  • Pandora's Project for Male Survivors Providing support and resources for sexual assault survivors, men can find support and contribute on message boards and in chat rooms for peer to peer help and healing.
  • Podcast – Understanding and Healing: Sexually Betrayed Boys and Men A renown expert in male sexual abuse talks about some of the myths surrounding male sexual abuse and gives listeners resources and tips for healing and moving forward.

I'm Not Sure if What Happened to Me is Sexual Assault


Assault Recovery: Help for Student Survivors

Sexual assault is never the victim's fault – but unfortunately, the person who has been victimized will often feel as though they are to blame. It's vitally important to remember that the victim/survivor needs all the support possible. If you or someone you know has been the victim of sexual assault, there are steps you can take to get the help and support you need.

Take Action, Get Help

Step 1 – Get to a safe place.

If you aren't safe where you are, get to a place where you do feel safe and secure as soon as you can. This might be your home, a car, a friend's room, a police station or hospital, or even a crowded area, such as the mall. The most important aspect is to get away from danger.

Step 2 – Contact someone who can help.

As soon as you are safe, call a close friend, the campus police, a local hospital, or 911. Tell them where you are and request their help. You can also call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.656.HOPE (4673) or text HELLO to 741741 (the Crisis Text Line) to speak to someone who can provide you with local information to get help as soon as possible.

Step 3 – Get medical attention.

It's important to remember that getting medical attention does not mean you are choosing to report the crime. You have some time before you make that decision. Getting medical attention is about taking care of yourself, including screenings for pregnancy and potential sexually transmitted diseases. You might also have injuries that need to be treated in a professional hospital setting. Local service providers can help you get the attention you need.

Step 4 – Preserve all evidence.

If you eventually decide to prosecute the person who assaulted you, physical evident will be vitally important. You might feel the urge to change clothes, shower, brush your teeth, etc. Going to a hospital for a forensic rape exam is the best way to preserve evidence, and you may do so anonymously without reporting to police. If you do not go to the police or hospital immediately and you must change clothes, put everything you were wearing in a paper bag (using a plastic bag can destroy valuable evidence). These tips on preserving evidence from Northwestern University can help.

Step 5 – Write down everything you can remember.

Every detail, no matter how slight, matters. Write down everything you can remember as soon as you possibly can. Over time, the facts can become jumbled up in your head; writing them down immediately after the assault can help preserve them for later use if you choose to move forward with prosecuting your attacker.

Step 6 – Seek ongoing help.

Medical assistance immediately after the assault is vital, but what matters just as much is your health moving forward. Even if there are no physical ramifications from the assault, there may be some emotional ones. Ongoing counseling, whether through your school or a private practice, can be an enormous help in recovery. Learning how therapy can help, finding a good therapist and seeking out support groups for the victims of sexual violence are all good ways to take care of yourself long-term.

Step 7 – Decide whether to report the crime.

Making the decision to report sexual violence takes a great deal of courage. You might feel embarrassed, or that nobody will believe you or that there's nothing anyone can do. Some victims say reporting helped them take back a part of their confidence and heal, but ultimately reporting is a personal decision one that only you can make.

Step 8 – Find a support system.

Whether you report or not, support and understanding is a crucial part of recovery. Support for a sexual assault survivor can mean the difference between suffering in silence and dealing with the mental and emotional consequences alone, or feeling empowered to move forward with the strong network of those who care helping you through the worst of it. Even if it is difficult, it can be helpful to talk about an assault with those you trust.

Recovery And Healing

When it comes to healing, there is no “right way” or “wrong way” to move forward. Sometimes the repercussions of sexual assault can last for a very long time. Even if you feel like you have healed, something could trigger a memory and could make you feel like you're right back where you started. The following are some of the normal feelings survivors of sexual assault might face.

  • It's okay if healing takes a long time. The journey of recovery from sexual assault is different for every person. Never hold yourself to any certain standard of time or believe someone who says you “should” be “over it” by now. Healing is a personal thing, and you'll know when you're coming out on the other side of the process.
  • It's okay to have good days and bad days. Sometimes, you might feel as though everything is going great. But then there can be one day that brings it all roaring back, and you feel as though you're drowning in negativity and fear. At these times, it's important to believe that over time, the good days will become more frequent, and the bad days will become rare.
  • It's okay to not want sex. Many people who are sexually assaulted want to take their lives back, but they have trouble taking back the intimacy they used to enjoy, even with someone they trust. After an assault, it's perfectly normal to feel as though your sexuality is not your own, or to feel as though sexual thoughts and acts are dirty, taboo or wrong. The good news is that eventually, healthy, consensual sex can become an important part of healing.
  • It's okay to trust people again. Sexual assault can decimate trust, especially if the assault came from someone you knew. At first, it might seem as though trusting anyone is very difficult. It's okay to reach out and explain how you're feeling. This is especially true in the context of a new relationship, where an understanding partner can help you take back your sexuality and remind you that trust isn't there simply to be broken.
  • It's okay to feel depressed and/or anxious. Something terrible happened to you, and your mind and emotions may be overwhelmed with trying to cope with it and can make you feel depressed or anxious. What matters most is getting help for anxiety and depression so you can start to feel better.
  • It's normal to wonder if it was your fault. Even though the sexual violence against you is never your fault, you might wonder if it was. You might blame yourself for something you did or didn't do. Understanding why it's not your fault can help you eventually believe it.

What Friends And Significant Others Can Do

Being assaulted is a terrible thing that can cause major upheaval in a person's life. Friends and significant others might want desperately to help, but feel hopeless and overwhelmed. However, simply being there for your loved one and believing them is a huge help. Supporters of assault survivors will have to work through their own feelings of fear, anger, worry and so much more. Here are some ways to begin the journey toward healing as a caregiver or supporter.

  • Tip 1: Learn as much as you can about sexual assault.

    Understanding the nuances of consent, the different types of assault and the reasons why someone might choose not to report sexual violence can help you figure out how to best respond to your loved one. One note: make sure you aren't asking a survivor to educate you on the topic—it shouldn't be on a survivor to share their trauma in order for you to know more about the topic.

  • Tip 2: Be a good listener.

    Your friend or family member has opened up to you about what happened; now they might need to vent all the emotions they have been holding in since the assault occurred. Being a good friend or significant other means learning to listen well, asking occasional questions for clarification, and never making them feel like a burden.

  • Tip 3: Remind them that it's not their fault.

    Many survivors will try to find a “reason” for what happened to them, and that might lead them to think they were somehow to blame. Remind them, repeatedly, that they did not ask for this and that no one deserves to be assaulted.

  • Tip 4: Help them feel safe.

    If they are worried about safety in the future, you can help them create a safety plan. This plan will help them take back some control over their life and feel more confident in going about their day-to-day activities.

  • Tip 5: Offer solid resources for them.

    A survivor of sexual assault might not know where to turn to find the resources they need; they might be paralyzed by the possibility of dredging up bad memories, or they might be overwhelmed by the number of resources out there. Ask if they are interested in learning about resources, and if they say yes, provide a short list of high-quality resources, including The National Domestic Violence Hotline, The Rape Incest and Abuse National Network (RAINN), The National Sexual Violence Resource Center and End Rape on Campus. (Note: avoid using the word “should”: i.e. “You should call RAINN!” Instead, you can say, “Do you want me to share some resources I know of with you?”)

  • Tip 6: Understand that healing is different for everyone.

    Know that healing is different for every person. They might have good days and bad days; or a day might appear to be a good one, but then they have a panic attack or sink into a deep depression without warning. These ups and downs are part of the healing process. Be patient.

  • Tip 7: Don't forget to take care of yourself.

    As someone who loves a person who has been assaulted, you've got a lot to process. Self-care for significant others or friends of sexual violence survivors is vitally important to help ensure you stay strong, capable, and able to support your loved one.

  • Tip 8: Don't make decisions for them.

    If you're a problem-solver, it can be easy to start making plans for your friend (i.e. setting up therapy for them, pushing them to go to a hospital, making appointments for them at a clinic). While the intention is to take care of the survivor, the effect is to continue to take control away from them. Help them make their own decisions, and provide extra resources or information when prompted.

  • Tip 9: Don't insist that they report if they don't want to.

    It is easy for someone supporting a survivor to demand justice. However, remember that there are many reasons why a survivor may not want to go to the police. They may know conviction rates are small, they may be intimidated by police officers, they may belong to a community that has a historically challenging relationship with law enforcement officials, and/or they may just not want to go. Respect their decision to not report. Ask them what would feel most helpful instead.

What Parents Can Do

When a parent learns their child has been sexually assaulted, harassed or otherwise faced sexual violence, a tidal wave of emotion may follow. The support, understanding and love of a parent can help a child cope with what they have endured and find hope that they will come out on the other side happy and healthy. For parents who are feeling at a loss for what to do, here are some ideas to get you started.

  • Tip 1: Believe them.

    Some survivors' greatest fear is that their family or parents won't think they're telling the truth. Tell them you believe them when they share with you.

  • Tip 2: Ensure there is no judgment or blame.

    There are three things your child will need to hear: I love you, this was not your fault, and I will take care of you. You can be the most steadfast supporter your child has—they will rely on you to know how to feel about themselves and the situation.

  • Tip 3: Don't be surprised by your emotions.

    Something bad happening to your child can trigger waves of emotions that are so strong they threaten to knock you off your feet. Let the emotions come; fighting them will only make them worse. But don't let your child see the extent of them, as that might make them feel guilty or worried about you.

  • Tip 4: Help your child report the assault.

    If your child is a minor, they will look to you to report the crime. Don't hesitate to do so. Start with the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline. If your child is an adult and they wish to report, they will need to do so themselves, but you can provide them with a great deal of support as they do so. Start with the National Sexual Assault Hotline.

  • Tip 5: Care for yourself, too.

    Your child will need you to be strong for them, so you'll have to pay attention to your own well-being. Support groups for parents of sexual assault survivors are available online and in many local communities; take advantage of them.

What Schools And Educators Can Do

School educators and administrators can serve as the front line of defense against sexual assault and harassment. Unfortunately, this is a problem for all students, from those in K-12 to those in college or graduate school. Knowing how to be supportive of assault survivors, as well as how to fight the problem before any more individuals are victimized, is a vitally important part of keeping schools safe. Here's what schools and educators can do.

  • Tip 1: Go beyond the basics.

    Title IX provides certain protections, but most colleges can do much better than that. Plan to go beyond the basic protections and provide students with even more peace of mind. Work closely with administration, teachers, advocates and the students themselves to figure out what makes them feel safe, then incorporate that into the school's policies. The Blueprint for Campus Police: Responding to Sexual Assault is a good place to begin.

  • Tip 2: Make reporting easier.

    Many students might not come forward because they are concerned they won't be taken seriously or that there will be social implications. Helping ensure that a student's privacy is protected can help them feel more comfortable with talking about what happened to them. The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network shows that 44 percent of reported sexual assaults happen before a student enrolls in college, making this a serious problem for K-12 students. At the college level, there should be easy access to the Title IX Coordinator/Investigator on campus.

  • Tip 3: Start teaching them early.

    Students need to know what constitutes sexual abuse, assault and violence, as well as sexual harassment. The more they know from an early age, the more likely they will be to make a note of when they see it happening.

  • Tip 4: Watch for the signs.

    Most children who suffer sexual assault might not report it, but they do reveal it in a number of subtle ways. Look for grades suddenly dropping, avoidance of previously loved activities or groups, skipped classes, troubles with friendships, depression and anxiety, drug and alcohol use, anger issues and more. Put a solid counseling team in place ready to help these students and perhaps ease them into talking about what has happened to them.


Parents and Educators Guide: Empowering Children Through Awareness

Awareness and advocacy starts early; that's why teachers, parents and coaches are a vitally important first line of defense against sexual harassment, assault and violence. Stay alert for opportunities to talk to children about sexual violence, and take care to keep the discussions age-appropriate. The following examples and resources can help.

Young Children

  • #1 Opportunity to Educate

    A young child begins to show interest in their genitals. This normal curiosity provides parents with an opportunity to teach children the proper names of their body parts, as well as remind them that those parts are private. If anyone asks to see or touches them there, they should tell their parents immediately.

    American Academy of Pediatrics

    The gold standard for pediatric medicine in the United States, the AAP suggests teaching children the proper names of their genitals at an early age.

  • #2 Opportunity to Educate

    A child hints that maybe something happened that wasn't right. They don't want to tell you details, because they don't want you to worry or are too embarrassed. Create a “body safety circle” that includes not only parents, but other trusted adults as well, such as a favorite teacher, coach, day care provider, school nurse and the like. It's very important to ask your child who they want to include in their safety circle, and who they do not want to include—someone you mind consider “safe” may not actually be safe to your child. Remind your child that they can go to anyone in the safety circle to say what's on their mind.

    Mama Bear Effect

    A website that offers a wealth of ideas for keeping children safe at all ages.

  • #3 Opportunity to Educate

    Your teenager sends a sexy text message to her boyfriend. A few days later, she is horrified to find that the picture she included is now on the phones of dozens of other students at school. Of course, your first step should be to contact the school and the authorities.


    Provides information on numerous subjects of importance to young children, including what is a good secret and what is a bad secret.


  • Telling Isn't Tattling by Kathryn M. Hammerseng – Encourages children to tell the difference between an annoying situation and a dangerous one.

  • My Body is Private by Linda W. Girard – Discusses sexual abuse in age-appropriate terms and helps children understand that their body is theirs; they are the only ones who can touch certain places.

  • No Means No! by Jayneen Sanders – A book meant to empower children concerning personal boundaries, consent, respect and the right to say no.


  • #1 Opportunity to Educate

    A college student is eager to have a real-life meeting with someone they know only from online. Now is a great time to sit them down and have a talk about risk reduction, including having a buddy-call system, meeting only in a public place and never going to a private area with someone new.

    Teach Consent

    Provides parents with ways to discuss consent and dating with their children.

  • #2 Opportunity to Educate

    Your child has met someone over the internet. You set limits on internet use, but they download apps to their phone, try to use the school's computers and otherwise seem desperate to talk to their new friend. Then you discover that their ‘friend' is trying to talk them into sending inappropriate pictures or do webcam chats naked. Now is the time to sit down with your teen and explain that any images they put out there are there forever, and that no one who respects them would ask them to do that.


    Easily digestible information for kids, including teenagers, on several topics of interest, including internet safety.

  • #3 Opportunity to Educate

    Your teenager sends a sexy text message to her boyfriend. A few days later, she is horrified to find that the picture she included is now on the phones of dozens of other students at school. Of course, your first step should be to contact the school and the authorities. But you can also explain to your daughter that sexting comes with many dangers, and she always has to safeguard her intimate pictures and words.

    National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children

    This UK-based website offers a wealth of information on child safety, including comprehensive information on sexting.


  • Can I Kiss You? by Michael J. Domitrz – A book about consent and respectful relationships.

  • What Does Consent Really Mean? by Pete Wallis and Thalia Wallis – This book on consent covers many of the sticky questions teenagers might have about relationships.

  • How Long Does It Hurt? by Cynthia L. Mather – A book for those teenagers who have suffered sexual violence or abuse.

College Students & Young Adults

  • #1 Opportunity to Educate

    A college student is eager to have a real-life meeting with someone they know only from online. Now is a great time to sit them down and have a talk about staying safe, including having a buddy-call system, meeting only in a public place and never going to a private area with someone new.

    Offers plenty of information on staying safe while in the online dating game.

  • #2 Opportunity to Educate

    Your child is off at college, and they are worried about a person they rejected for a date. That person is following them around, calling them at all hours, and showing up at events to casually bump into them. Encourage your child to keep a written record of all that is occurring and talk to the campus police, school administrators and teachers. Help them learn more about stalking.

    Stalking Resource Center

    Helps students understand what stalking is and how to stay safe.

  • #3 Opportunity to Educate

    Your child is in their first job, and though they love the work, they hate their boss. You hear stories that this boss gives your child and co-workers the creeps, watching them with a lecherous expression, sometimes touching their back or arms inappropriately or making obnoxious jokes that make them uncomfortable. Sexual harassment happens everywhere, and it appears to be happening to your child. Provide them with support and the information they need to fight back.

    American Association of University Women

    Provides information on political and social issues, including harassment on college campuses and in the workplace.


Expert Advice: In-Depth Information on Sexual Violence

Melissa Hamilton is a Senior Lecturer of Law & Criminal Justice at the University of Surrey School of Law. She holds a J.D. and a PhD in criminology/criminal justice from The University of Texas at Austin. Dr. Hamilton is a member of the American Psychological Association and an affiliate of the Institute on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault.

Let's assume someone gives consent for a sexual act, but halfway through the situation, they change their mind. What are some ways they can get out of that situation?

Legally, consent may be withdrawn at any time. Pursing sexual relations after consent is withdrawn is a crime. Still, if consent was initially given, the victim should be clear and unequivocal by indicating withdrawal of consent verbally and, to the extent practical and can be done safely, physically. The victim might state that she is hurting or she is uncomfortable and to stop. She may repeat her withdrawal of consent to help ensure it is understood as meaning she is no longer consenting.

It is also the case that consent is not dichotomous in the sense of consent to one sexual act necessarily means consent to all sexual acts. One can, for instance, consent to vaginal intercourse which does not automatically mean consent to oral sex or to anal sex. Moreover, consent with the proviso of using a condom can be vitiated if the male surreptitiously removes the condom during intercourse, a practice known as stealthing.

What do you want college students to know about sexual assault?

Sexual assault is not just a male-on-female crime. Men on campus may also be victims of sexual assault. Males are even less likely to report because of additional impediments. Social responses to male victimization can be de-masculating. Homosexual males who are not yet “out” may also fail to report as it may otherwise be revealing their status.

The crime of sexual assault can occur even if the victim on a previous occasion consented to sex with the other person. Consent is required before each sexual encounter. Thus, a boyfriend can commit sexual assault if the girlfriend did not give legal consent on that occasion.

The victim of a sexual assault is likely to have experienced a traumatic response. This is a physiological and cognitive response to a threat. The trauma response can explain why the victim might have frozen during the attack, finding herself unable to move or to otherwise fight back. This is called the freeze response, which she may not be able to control. The trauma response may also explain why the victim may not have a complete memory of the events, as in gaps in the memory. The importance is to explain why the victim may have acted (or not) in a way that does not otherwise seem reasonable and/or why she cannot retrieve a full memory of the events. It could also be why she reports some “facts” that do not align with the objective evidence. The trauma response can mean her brain has played tricks on her in order to allow her to survive.

Expert Advice: What to Expect After Reporting Sexual Assault

Paul Grattan Jr. is a sergeant and 16-year veteran of the New York City Police Department.  Assigned to the NYPD's Transit Bureau, he writes, researches, and analyzes policy as part of a dynamic team that comprises the Office of the Chief of Transit. He is responsible for executive and strategic communications, media relations, the bureau's digital media platforms, and plays an integral part in the NYPD's sexual offense strategy to combat sex crimes on public transportation.  Visit his blog

Many victims of sexual assault don't report it to the police. What are some ways we can empower students to come forward with their story? 

Sadly, some research suggests that most women who are victims of sexual offenses do not come forward. Victims of sexual assault and other sexually motivated crimes should understand that the only way the trend will change in favor of a full understanding of the impact of these crimes is if they come forward to report them.  If the police don't know a crime occurred, they can't investigate or prosecute it, and perhaps more importantly, they may not be able to prevent it from happening again.  I encourage victims to overcome self-doubt and embarrassment in many ways, not the least of which is empowering them by encouraging them to play the key role in saving someone else from also becoming a victim.

One of the biggest contributors to under-reporting we see is self-doubt.  If you think, even for a second, that what happened to you wasn't right – it's probably a crime and should be reported.

When someone does report a sexual assault, what can they expect to happen? What will be the next steps? 

Sex crimes investigations are serious and complex.  Though not all types of sex crimes require it, if you've been sexually assaulted you can expect a visit to the hospital to be among the first steps to take care of yourself and provide the police with the best chance to hold the assailant accountable.  This is understandably a difficult part of the process, but you'll be ensuring your health and providing key evidence to ensure a successful prosecution.  You'll also be connected with various victim services at this time.  You don't have to avail yourself of these services yet, or at all – but take the information, as you may want to later on.

Victims can also be expected to fully articulate the details of what happened.  This is important, as these are horrific crimes, and conveying them in intimate detail is an essential part of defining the impact on the victim for the police, prosecutor, and judge.   The more detail you provide, the harder it is for a defendant to refute your claims. 

Women victims can also expect to be paired with female investigators.  If they are not, they should feel free to ask for one.  This is an indescribably difficult time for a victim, but that doesn't mean small steps to make the process a bit more bearable aren't worthwhile.

Likewise, you can expect investigators to protect your identity from the public.  There are practices in place that fiercely protect the identity of sexual assault victims in virtually all jurisdictions.

Victims should also know it is unlikely they will go to court and publicly testify.  What we see on television and in movies is very far from reality, and almost all cases are adjudicated without public testimony – an understandable fear for victims.  In fact, in most jurisdictions, courtrooms can be cleared of the public to protect the privacy of sex crime victims in the rare event testimony is required. 

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