Please note: This information was current at the time of publication but now may be out of date. This handout provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. 

brand logo

Am Fam Physician. 2010;81(4):496

See related article on sexual assault

What is sexual assault?

It is when you are forced to have sexual contact that you do not want. You can be hurt or killed during a sexual assault. Many people get cuts, bruises, or broken bones.

Who is at risk?

Anyone can be sexually assaulted, but it is more likely in people who are small or weak. Teenagers and people with disabilities are also more likely to be assaulted. More women are assaulted than men.

What should I do if I have been sexually assaulted?

You should go to a safe place and get help. For example, go to the emergency room, call your doctor, or talk to the police. A doctor or nurse will collect evidence from your body that can be used in court against the person who assaulted you (for example, hair, saliva, semen). A doctor or nurse will also treat your injuries, and give you medicine to prevent pregnancy and infection.

Many people who have been assaulted are scared afterward, and can have nightmares or trouble trusting people. They also may have pain every day. It is important to see your family doctor after an assault, because he or she knows your medical history and will help you watch for long-term effects of the assault. It also can be helpful to see a counselor or go to a support group for people who have been assaulted.

How can I prevent it?

Sexual assault is not your fault. It doesn't matter what you wear, say, or have done in the past, you do not deserve to be sexually assaulted. You can be safer by making good choices about what you do and where you go. Be aware of your surroundings and do not drink more than two or three alcoholic drinks at a time or use drugs. If you don't feel safe in a certain place or with certain people, you should leave.

Where can I get more information?

American Academy of Family Physicians

National Women's Health Information Center

The National Center for Victims of Crime

U.S. Army Sexual Harassment and Assault Response and Prevention Program (a resource for women in the military)

Continue Reading

More in AFP

More in PubMed

Copyright © 2010 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.

This content is owned by the AAFP. A person viewing it online may make one printout of the material and may use that printout only for his or her personal, non-commercial reference. This material may not otherwise be downloaded, copied, printed, stored, transmitted or reproduced in any medium, whether now known or later invented, except as authorized in writing by the AAFP.  See permissions for copyright questions and/or permission requests.