The legal definition of sexual assault depends upon the state in which you live, but generally, it is any sexual act (genital, anal, or oral penetration) that is performed without mutual consent. Consent cannot be granted by someone under the influence of alcohol or other drugs. In some states, there are specific laws about allowable age differences between parties in a sexual encounter. Sexual assault occurs in all age, race, and socioeconomic groups. It can occur in a marriage or a dating relationship, or be perpetrated by an unknown assailant.
A person who has been sexually assaulted experiences many physical and psychological changes. Three main factors need to be addresses:
- Medical evaluation and treatment
- Psychological counseling
- Legal action
Visit the emergency room or your medical care provider as soon as possible after the assault. Bring a friend or support person if possible. If the assault was very recent, usually less than 48 hours ago, you may wish to delay washing and collect clothes worn at the time of the assault. These steps allow collection of evidence for forensic evaluation. All steps are voluntary. The medical exam involves specific tests, and you also may be offered medications to prevent infection and/or unwanted pregnancy. While you are at the hospital, notify the police of the assault. Follow recommendations regarding ongoing treatment with health personnel trained in working with sexual-assault victims.