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Understanding Sexual Assault

Sexual assault is a profound violation of a person's body, sexuality, and sense of self and safety. The effects of sexual assault can last a lifetime, rippling out to family members, school and work, communities and down through generations.

Sexual assault is an umbrella term that includes a wide range of victimizations. It occurs when a person is forced, coerced, and/or manipulated into unwanted sexual activity. It can include completed or attempted attacks, may or may not involve force and threats, and it may or may not be illegal under state or federal law.

Sexual assault is part of a range of behaviors that offenders use to take power from their victims. It can begin with words, gestures, jokes and intimidation. It can progress to coercion, threats and actions that involve sexual touching or intercourse, and may involve other forms of violence.

Survivors of sexual assault can be of any age, any gender and any background. Sexual assault is also used as a tool of intimidation or war against entire communities. While we know that offenders may target people from some communities, anyone can be a victim, and everyone is affected - directly or indirectly - by sexual assault.

Survivors of sexual assault may never forget their victimization, but they can heal with support from family, friends and their communities. Today sexual assault programs across Washington State and the U.S. offer free crisis hotlines, support, advocacy, information and resources to survivors from all walks of life.

Reviewed: December 10th, 2014