Sexual assault is a widespread problem in the U.S. that affects people of all genders, sexual orientations, and ages. Understanding what it looks like and what to do should you or someone you know ever encounter it is key to responding effectively and preventing future assaults. For Sexual Assault Awareness Month this April, we’ve put together some facts everyone should know.

What Is Sexual Assault?

Sexual assault can come in many forms. It entails any behavior or sexual contact that occurs without the victim giving explicit consent. It could involve rape or attempted rape, unwanted sexual touching, or forcing the victim to perform sexual acts.

When it comes to force, the victim doesn’t have to be physically coerced into performing an act. “Force” could also involve verbal, emotional, or circumstantial manipulation. For example, a perpetrator might threaten to harm a victim’s loved ones or blackmail them by releasing private information.

In the majority of cases, sexual assault is committed by someone the victim knows, such as a friend, neighbor, current or former partner, or family member. Sexual assault can be perpetrated through digital technology, like sending or sharing sexual pictures without someone’s consent. Drug-facilitated sexual assault is another form that occurs when substance use impairs the victim’s ability to consent.

The physical wounds left by sexual assault are often obvious, but it can also have lasting emotional and psychological consequences. Victims may experience depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and suicidal thoughts, among other damages. Trauma can even impair a victim’s ability to work and maintain personal relationships.

What Can You Do to Help Prevent It?

Perpetrators are the sole individuals responsible for sexual assault, but bystanders also play an important role in prevention. Bystander intervention occurs when those who aren’t directly involved in an act step in to alter the outcome. Intervening can often give the potential victim a chance to get away, but should always be done in a way that doesn’t put you at risk of harm, either.

For example, if you’re worried about a friend who has had too much to drink, you could find them a trusted ride home. If you spot someone acting inappropriately or in a threatening manner at an event, alerting security could also deescalate the situation.

Many people don’t get involved in concerning situations for fear they are overreacting, involving themselves in someone else’s business when it isn’t appropriate, or that they will upset other people. While it’s natural to have those temporary concerns, the long-term implications of sexual assault are devastating. And in many cases, this crime can be prevented with the help of bystanders.

What Can Victims Do?

While our medical team is ready to help victims of sexual assault navigate physical and emotional effects, you can also contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 for immediate assistance and counsel.

Whether you need treatment for a serious issue, or just some light-hearted community around all things gyno, turn to Peachtree Obstetrics and Gynecology. Our caring providers are available to help, and our team is committed to maintaining the utmost level of patient privacy. Contact our office at 770-487-9604, or schedule an appointment online.