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Sexual Abuse-Adult  




What is the sexual abuse of adults?

Sexual abuse of adults includes both sexual harassment and rape.

What behaviors occur with sexual abuse of adults?

Sexual harassment includes any unwelcomed sexual advances or unwanted sexual contact by another adult. People involved in sexual harassment may also tell sexual jokes, ask for sexual favors, and/or use crude or abusive language in the presence of someone else who is not inviting the behavior. Victims of harassment may wrongly blame themselves for having somehow contributed to the harassment.

Rape is the forceful act of sexual intercourse against a person's will or consent. The focus of rape is power or anger and not sex. Rape is frequently carried out by someone known to the victim and can even occur within a marriage. Anal intercourse, which may accompany rape, is called sodomy. Fellatio, oral sex, may also be a forced act that accompanies a rape. Threats of serious bodily harm or death are often connected to a rape. Following an assault, victims of sexual abuse will often feel like they have been ruined by the horrible, painful event. Victims of rape may also wrongly blame themselves for somehow getting into a situation where the assault occurred.

What are some of the statistics of sexual abuse of adults?

  1. Most rapes are committed by men between the ages of 20 and 50.
  2. Victims of rape range from under 2 years of age to more than 80 years of age.
  3. More than 50 percent of all rapes reported in the United States occur against females under 18 years of age.
  4. Strangers commit only about one-half of all rapes; the other half are caused by men who are known to their victims.
  5. Relatives of the victim commit about 5 percent of all rapes.
  6. In more than one-third of all cases of rape, the male, the female, or both were using alcohol.

Do males or females commit sexual abuse?

Males are almost always the perpetrators of sexual abuse in the United States.

At what age does sexual abuse of adults occur?

Sexual abuse of adults occurs during any age of adulthood even into the geriatric population.

How often are adults sexually abused in our society?

Many, maybe most, rapes go unreported to authorities. However, more than 100,000 rapes (which is about 300 episodes every day) are reported in the United States every year.

How is sexual abuse of adults treated?

Treatment for the rape victim focuses on helping that person heal from the psychological and physical trauma caused by the event. It is important to give immediate support to the rape victim. Individual, group, family, and/or couples therapy are recommended. The victim should be encouraged to talk about her feelings about the trauma. It is often very helpful and healing for a victim to know that the rapist has been arrested and convicted of the rape.

What can people do if they need help?

If you, a friend, or a family member would like more information and you have a therapist or a physician, please discuss your concerns with that person.

International Resources

International Domestic Violence and Abuse Agencies List
International inventory of hotlines, shelters, refuges, crisis centers and women's organizations, searchable by country, plus index of domestic violence resources in over 70 languages .

International Crime Victim Compensation Program Directory

International Justice Statistics

The World Factbook of Criminal Justice Systems

International Centers



South Eastern Centre Against Sexual Assault (SECASA), Australia



Defensor del Pueblo
Advice Center
Heriberto Gutierrez 2374
La Paz Bolivia
00591-2 33269 (p)
08113538 (f)


Young Women Christian Association of Belarus
Krupskaya 2-70
220118 Minsk
Belaru375-17 2 4637 45 (p/f)


Metlhaetsile Women's Centre, MWIC
Private Bag 42
Mochudi Botswana267-377239 (p)267-377195 (f)


Canadian Association of Sexual Assault Centres
Vancouver, British Columbia
604-876-2622 (p)
604-876-8450 (f)

Victoria Women's Sexual Assault Centre
Victoria, British Columbia
250-383-5545 (p)
250-383-6112 (f)
250-383-3232 (hotline)

Sexual Assault /Domestic Violence Care Centre
Hamilton, Ontario
905-525-4573 (p)
905-525-4162 (hotline)

The Sexual Assault/Rape Crisis Centre of Peel
Mississauga, Ontario
905-273-9442 (24/7 Crisis Line)
1-800-810-0180 (Only for Caledon residents)

Regional Sexual and Domestic Assault Program, Simcoe
Orillia Soldiers' Memorial Hospital
Orillia, Ontario
705-325-2201, ext. 3284 (p)
705-327-9155 (hotline)
1-877-377-7438 (toll free from 705 area code only)

Ottawa Rape Crisis Center
Ottawa, Ontario
613-562-2334 (p)
613-562-2333 (hotline)

Toronto Rape Crisis Centre
Toronto, Ontario
(416) 597-1171 (hotline)

Montreal Rape Crisis Centre
Montreal, Quebec
514-934-0354 (p)
514-934-4504 (hotline)


Tartu Counseling Center
Postimaja p.k. 196
51003 Tartu
(3727) 441052 (p)
(3727) 438000 (f)


The Rape Crisis Centre Tukinainen
PL 243
00121 Helsinki
+358 9 50 363 7872 (p)
+358 9 685 19 79 (f)
0800-97899 (hotline)


Rifka Annisa Women's Crisis Center
62-0274-518720 (p)
Phone and Internet counseling


Rape Crisis Center-Haifa
POB 44628
04-853-0531 (p)

Tel Aviv Rape Crisis Center (Hebrew site)


Tokyo Rape Crisis Center
P.O. Box 7
Koto-ku, Tokyo 136-8691
81-3-3209-3692 (p) (Japanese site) (English site)


Casa Amiga-Centro de Crisis A.C.
Peru Norte 878
Cd. Juarez, Chih.
615 3850 (p)


Women's Solidarity Support Work/Counseling Service

New Zealand

Auckland Rape Crisis
09-3667214 (p)
09-3666887 (f)
09-3667213 (hotline)

Victim Support
To reach your local Victim Support Group, call: 0800 VICTIM


#3, Street No. 32, Sector F-8/1,
Islamabad, Pakistan
92-51-260636, 252534 (p)
92-51-254678 (f)
(Deals specifically with child sexual abuse)


GABRIELA--National Alliance of Women's Organizations in the Philippines
P.O. Box 4386
Manila 2800
632-371-2302 (p)
632-374-3451 (p)
632-374-3452 (p)
632-374-4423 (f)


Crisis Centre for Women
Lermontova 315, 10
Irkutsk 664082
+395 2 465869 (p)
+395 2 465509 (f)

South Africa

Rape Crisis--Cape Town
Includes links to other centers around South Africa

Rape Outcry


National Center for Battered and Raped Women
Akademiska Sjukhuset
S-751 85 Uppsala
+46-18-611 27 93 (p)
+46-18-50 7394 (f)
18-611 40 00 (hotline)

United Kingdom

Rape Crisis Federation-Wales and England

0115 934 8474 (p)
0115 934 8470 (f)

For a map of UK rape crisis centers:

Scottish Rape Crisis Network

Victim Support Scotland
Edinburgh 0131 668 4486 (p)
0131 662 5400 (f)

Victim Support National Office
0845 303 0900 (hotline)

Drug Rape Trust
+44 (0) 1702 317695 (p)


Different forms of rape and sexual abuse

Stranger rape is defined as nonconsensual, or forced sex, on a woman who does not know her attacker.  The occurrence of stranger rape, in this society, is more widely accepted than acquaintance rape. This acceptance that stranger rape receives does not limit the shame attached to rape or the trauma felt by the survivor, however, stranger rape is usually seen as "real rape". The image of the psychotic stranger attacking the woman is real and does occur. The purpose  is not to devalue and belittle the experience of stranger rape. Rather for the purpose of legitimizing all experiences of rape. It is the hope that survivors of rape will encounter understanding and awareness and that therapists of survivors will recognize the possible differences in the experience of stranger and acquaintance rape.



In this society, rape is usually lumped into one category. The image that comes to mind is that of a psychotic stranger grabbing a woman and raping her in a dark alley. Although this is the tragic reality for some women, most women are raped by "normal" acquaintances. It is important to note that rape is not only a problem for women. It is estimated that 10% of survivors that seek help from crisis centers are men, however, this may not be an accurate figure, because men are less likely to report a rape or seek help after an assault than women (Warshaw, 1988). This discussion of rape and the survivors of rape will only include adult women, because the experiences of male survivors and children may be very different.

Survivors of acquaintance rape tend to not report the rape or ask for help after the rape. These facts are probably due to the fact that many survivors of acquaintance rape do not view their experience as rape.

Therapists need to be aware of the differences that may be present in survivors of stranger rape and acquaintance rape. The experiences are likely to be different, but also hold an integral part that is very much the same. It is an injustice to survivors, to not become aware of the societal and experiential determinants that shape the reactions of a survivor.

 Although women who experience rape are victims of violence, they are also active parties in the experience of survival. The implications for using the term survivor is to bring awareness to the passivity of the term victim, and replace the helplessness brought about through victimization with the active role of survivor.

Things Not to Say to a Survivor of a Sexual Crime

 Please don't...

1. Ask if we liked it.
No one likes being physically overpowered.

2. Tell us "it's just sex".
Rape is a crime of power, control, and extreme violence where sex is used
as a weapon against someone weaker. It is not sex.

3. Tell us how we could have avoided it.
Believe me, if we could have prevented it we would have.

4. Make fun of us.
We have faced an attacker who sometimes is willing to kill and have
survived. What's there to make fun of?

5. Tell us it would never happen to you and why.
We didn't think we would become statistics either.

6. There's no need to avoid us.
We're still the same person you've come to care about or learned to care
about. We've just been unspeakably hurt. We're not contagious.

7. Please don't treat us like we have the plague.
Chances are we don't. Do you?

8. God isn't punishing us for some misdeed by allowing this to happen.
God helps us heal. He doesn't send someone to hurt His people.

9. Don't tell us it was God's will we were raped.
Do tell us it was God's will that we survived!

10. Don't disbelieve us.
According to survey respondents being disbelieved is a survivor's greatest

11. Don't tell us that survivors make up tales for attention.
According to The National Coalition Against Sexual Assault false rape
reports only happen 2% of the time. That's a 98% chance that no matter how
strange it sounds to you the rape isn't being fabricated.

12. Don't tell me not to talk about it.
Yes it upsets me to talk about it but that is the only way
that I can sort through it.

13. Don't say, 'it happened on a date, that's common".
When you say that it belittles me and my feelings about the assault.
It's not common because it happened to me and I'm not a statistic.

14. Don't say "other people have it worse off than you".
I'm not "other people". I'm me.

Some other suggestions for Partners of Survivors that may help:

12. Don't feel you need to retaliate against our attacker.
We know the perpetrator is capable of violence. Please don't make us worry
about you being hurt. We'll feel more secure knowing you'll remain in one

13. Don't blame us for what happened.
It's not our fault.

14. Don't tell us to "get over it".
We would if we could and we are trying our best. Support us as we struggle
to find our way again.

15. Don't tell us to to put what happened out of our minds.
It's not that simple.

16. Don't tell us "it's no big deal".
Rape is an enormous challenge to heal from. It haunts even our dreams.

17. Try to understand our need to feel safe.
If we disagree about safety issues in the future please realize that
what may sounds strange to you may help us feel safe.

18. Don't say something like, "Well, it's been six months (a year, 5 years
etc.) and ask if we're "over it" yet.
Chances are that we may not be ready to go back to life as it was. We may
never be ready and may have to create a new life for ourselves as we learn
to be safe again.

19. Don't tell us we are weak because it impacts our life.
We are stronger than words can describe.

20. Don't ask us what you are supposed to do to get past what happened to
We aren't sure what we're going to do.

21. Don't ask us if we did anything on purpose that led to the rape.
We didn't do anything except survive.

22. Don't ask us if we couldn't have done something differently during the
We made the best choices we could to survive. We got away without being
killed didn't we? That's proof our instincts were right. Please help us
learn to realize that ourselves.

23. Don't tell us that it's not rape because we knew the attacker.
Numerous studies tell us that our perpetrators are more likely to be known
to us than unknown.

24. If you give us a hug and we pull away please know that chances are
we're not rejecting you, we're just uncomfortable.
We may have a hard time being able to respond right now.

25. If we do pull away from you please don't get mad. Tell us you care.
Chances are you'll get that hug after all!

26. If you're together and the survivor has a flashback try not to be mad
at the survivor.
We hate the darned things too! Flashbacks are always rough. It's difficult
to know what to do. It's got to be difficult to watch. Any anger should go
the one who caused the rape and not the survivor who has to put her life

27. Don't be afraid to talk to us if we're upset.
Knowing you are there may be just what we need.

28. If we become suicidal please don't take that as a sign of weakness.
Take that as a sign we're overwhelmed, trying to cope, and need help.

29. Don't pretend rape doesn't happen to people you know.
It does. Thank you for reading this to learn about it.

30. Don't get the idea rape just happens to "those" kinds of people.
This crime happens to as many as 1 woman in 4. It crosses ethinc, racial,
economic and social boundaries.

31. Don't be afraid of a person who was raped.
I promise as a survivor, the rape will effect you but won't rub off on
you. The person you love is still the same person as before.

32. Don't deny your feelings after finding out a friend was raped.
Call a rape crisis center's hotline and find out what support is available
for you.

33. Do not tell us we should take it as a compliment.
Rape isnt about lust or attractiveness, its an act of
power and force.

34. Do not tell us "Oh yeah, I know a bunch of girls who've
been raped".
We realize we arent the only ones but by saying that
it belittles how it hurts by making it just another

35. Do not tell a survior "Its no big deal."
We know otherwise.

36. Please don't tell us "Oh well, you'll have other dates that will go better."
What happened wasn't a bad date, it was a crime.