Sexual assault can happen to anyone, anywhere.

Every 68 seconds, someone in the U.S. is sexually assaulted.

What is Sexual Assault? Sexual assault is any unwanted, non-consensual sexual contact against any individual by another using manipulation, pressure, tricks, coercion or physical force. It is any act a person is forced to perform or receive that includes touching of the genitals, breasts or buttocks. This includes rape, sodomy, touching or oral sex where the victim is unwilling or unable to give verbal consent, including being under 17 years old, intoxicated, drugged or unconscious. Sexual violence can be committed by someone known to the survivor, as well as a stranger.

Sexual assault can be sexual violence, rape, date rape, marital rape, incest, sexual abuse and molestation.

The decision to reach out is the first step in seeking help.

Contact Us

LiveChat with a HAWC Advocate.

Reaching out for help is not always easy, especially if you have never talked about your abuse before. LiveChat instantly connects you with us. It is a real-time, one-on-one connection. All chats are free and confidential.

Common Feelings for Sexual Assault Survivors

Surviving sexual assault can be extremely traumatic and can generate a range of emotions. Common reactions include emotional detachment, numbness, feeling drained, disbelief, acting like everything is “fine”, laughing or crying uncontrollably or feeling overwhelmed.

You may also be asking questions or telling yourself things like:

    • “Why did this happen to me?”
    • “How do I get over this?
    • “No one understands.”
    • “It wasn’t that big of a deal.”
    • “I’m just imagining this. This really didn’t happen.”

It’s important to remember any of the above reactions and questions you might be experiencing or asking yourself are normal and temporary reactions to trauma, though it may disrupt your life for days, months, even years. People, places and things connected to your sexual assault may trigger a reaction, while other reactions can come “out of the blue.”

Why might sexual assault survivors blame themselves?

A person is sexually assaulted because – and only because – someone decides to sexually assault them. It is never the victim’s fault. However, survivors of sexual assault may blame themselves for the actions of their perpetrators.

Blame the Victim Mentality

We live in a culture that often blames the victim, particularly women — “Well, what was she wearing? Was she drinking? Why did she put herself in that situation?” — with the implication being that a woman who is not constantly on alert for potential predators is asking for an assault to happen. Victim blaming is devastating to women, and as they continue to be marginalized in society, they may start believing in it as well. This may also make it harder for some to come forward and share their abuse, because they feel judged or don’t feel safe. The traumatic effect of this can be devastating and can last for years, even a lifetime.

Overcoming Self-Blame

If you are a survivor of sexual assault, remember, it is never your fault. There is no excuse for abuse. The perpetrator is always to blame and should be held accountable. Instead of asking, “Why didn’t I just go home?” ask “Why did the perpetrator assault me?”

Survivors are their own best experts, the champion of their stories. In your healing journey, you may develop strengths, insights and abilities you did know now you possess. At HAWC, help and support are available 24/7, free and confidential.

The best thing you can do with your feelings of shame and thoughts of self blame is share them with someone you trust. The most effective antidote to shame is empathy, which is not something you can get from within yourself. Talk to someone — a friend, family member or one of our trained counselors — about what happened. Over time, you may find that you don’t need to blame yourself anymore.

Survivors are encouraged to call our Sexual Assault Hotline or LiveChat with us for assistance. If you are in immediate danger or need emergency assistance, call 911 first.

Sexual Assault Hotline: (713)528-RAPE (7273)
TTY: 346-295-8994

To learn more about Sexual Assault on Children, click here.

Frequently Asked Questions

    • Completed act of penetration of the vagina, anus, or other body orifice by any object
    • Attempted act of penetration
    • Abusive sexual contact and intentional touching
    • Non-contact sexual abuse, voyeurism, exhibitionism, verbal or behavioral sexual harassment, threats or sexual violence, taking or posting sexual photos

There are many resources about the impact of sexual assault on survivors. Here are a few helpful places to begin:

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