Sexual Assault

Which groups of people are most impacted?

Gender: [1]

  • Women and girls are more than 4 times as likely to experience an attempted or completed sexual assault as men.
  • More than 80% of sexual assault survivors are women.

Individuals with disabilities: [2]

  • Who is disabled? National Criminal Justice Reference Service defines disabled individuals as having “limited interaction between their bodies and their physical, emotional, and mental health, and the physical and social environment in which they live.”
  • What does that mean? Individuals with disabilities are victims of violent activities (including sexual assault) three times as often as individuals without disabilities.
  • Type of disability matters. Individuals with cognitive disabilities are more than twice as likely to be assaulted as individuals with disabilities related to movement, vision or hearing.

What kinds of symptoms are unique to surviving sexual assault?

Rape Trauma Syndrome:

  • Acute Stage:
    • Emotional symptoms: shock, numbness, inappropriate response like laughing, upset, crying
    • Cognitive symptoms: disorganized thought, memory lapses
    • Physical symptoms: suppressed pain of physical injuries, shaking, trembling, hyperarousal, “frozen” state
  • Reorganization Stage:
    • Traumatic stress symptoms: avoidance, flashbacks/nightmares, hyper-vigilance
    • Environmental concerns: legal investigation, moving or changing classes to avoid perpetrator
  • Integration Stage:
    • Survivor identity without the preoccupation
    • Making meaning of the event
    • Moving on

Sexual assault trauma resources:

Helplines:

National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-HOPE

Safe Helpline.org (for military-related trauma)

Books:

Recovering from Rape [3] by Linda Ledray

  • Covers both adult rape and childhood sexual assault.
  • Each chapter addresses both the survivor and significant support.

Speak [4] by Laurie Halse Anderson

  • Novel about a teenage survivor of acquaintance rape.

Telling: A Memoir of Rape and Recovery [5] by Patricia Weaver Francisco

  • Stories told by men and women who have survived rape.

Helpful websites:

RAINN.org: Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network

MaleSurvivor.org: Website for male survivors of sexual abuse and sexual assault.

LoveisRespect.org: Website about teen dating violence, including sexual abuse.


[1] Rand, M., & Robinson, J. E. (2011). Criminal victimization in the United States. Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics.

[2] Harrell, E. (2014). Crime against persons with disabilities, 2009-2012. U.S. Department of Justice.

[3] Ledray, L. E. (1994). Recovering from rape. Macmillan.

[4] Anderson, L. H. (2011). Speak. Macmillan.

[5] Francisco, P. W. (1999). Telling: A memoir of rape and recovery. Cliff Street Books.