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Sexual Violence

If you are a victim of sexual violence, call our hotline at (800) 688-6157.
Our advocates are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Your call is confidential. 

What is
Sexual Violence? 

Sexual violence is any unwanted sexual contact - when consent is not obtained, or not freely given.


Sexual Violence Encompasses a
Range of Offenses

Sexual violence encompasses a range of offenses, including a completed nonconsensual sex act also known as rape, an attempted nonconsensual sex act, abusive sexual contact or unwanted touching, and non-contact sexual abuse such as threatened sexual violence, exhibitionism, or verbal sexual harassment. 

All types of sexual violence involve victims who do not consent, or who are unable to consent or refuse to allow the act. Sexual violence impacts every community and people of all genders, sexual orientations, and ages.

What is
Sexual Assault?

Sexual assault involves sexual intercourse or sexual intrusion without consent and is the most underreported crime in the United States.

Some types of sexual acts which fall under the category of sexual assault include forced sexual intercourse (rape), sodomy (oral or anal sexual acts), incest, and attempted rape.

Sexual Assault is a Crime

Sexual assault in any form is often a devastating crime. Sex without consent is rape. Rape can happen to anyone at any age, at any place, at any time. Offenders can be strangers, acquaintances, friends, or family members. Offenders commit sexual assault through violence, threats, coercion, manipulation, and pressure.

Crime of Violence and Power

Rape is a crime of violence and power. It is caused by an urge to control another human being in the most personal way. It is not caused by uncontrollable sexual desire. Most rapes are planned in advance. Rapists surprise victims by catching them off guard, by manipulating or drugging them, by taking advantage of their daily activities or by lying. What a person is wearing or doing does not cause rape. Few convicted rapists even remember how the victim was dressed or what the victim looked like.

Sexual Assault and
Sexual Abuse


Sexual violence can have psychological and physical effects on a survivor. Talking to an advocate can help victims make informed decisions, determine their next steps, and begin the healing process.

  • Fact: Sexual assault and abuse includes the following:
    Rape—sexual intercourse against a person's will Forcible sodomy—anal or oral sex against a person's will Forcible object penetration—penetrating someone's vagina or anus, or causing that person to penetrate her or himself, against that person's will Marital rape Unwanted sexual touching Sexual contact with minors, whether consensual or not Incest (sexual intercourse or sexual intrusion between family members) Any unwanted or coerced sexual contact Other sexual crimes include: Sexual harassment Solicitation of minors through the Internet Possession of child pornography
  • Myth: "It can't happen to me.""
    Fact: Yes, it can. Sexual violence can happen to anyone – regardless of gender, race, age, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, or religion. Victims of sexual assault include infants, adults in later life, people of color, LGBT individuals, individuals with disabilities, women and men. In West Virginia, it is estimated that 1 in 6 adult women and 1 in 21 adult men will be a victim of an attempted or completed sexual assault in her/his lifetime. According to a National Crime Victimization Survey in 2000, teens 16 to 19 are 4 times more likely to be victims of rape than the general population. Ages 12-24 are the highest risk years. According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), 15% of victims are under the age of 12.
  • Myth: "Sexual violence can sometimes be the victim's fault.""
    Fact: Sexual violence is NEVER the victim's fault. It doesn't matter if someone was dressed seductively, drinking or using drugs, out at night alone, on a date with the perpetrator. No one asks to be raped. The responsibility and blame lie with the perpetrator, never with the victim. The absence of injuries often suggests to others that the victim failed to resist and, therefore, must have consented. Often, rapists only need the threat of violence to control their victims. They also sometimes use drugs to incapacitate their victims. Some victims submit to the assault for fear of greater harm. Submitting does not mean the victim gave consent. Each rape victim does whatever she/he needs to do at the time in order to survive.
  • Myth: "If a child I know was being sexually abused, she/he would tell me right away.""
    Fact: Because they are confused by the abuse, feel responsible, or are being threatened by the abuser, children don't automatically tell a parent. Be sure to talk frequently and openly about sexual abuse with your child. The more they know and the more comfortable they feel talking to you, the more willing they may be to report sexual abuse.
  • Myth: "Males should be able to prevent their rape.""
    Fact: Many people mistakenly believe that men should be able to prevent the assault by putting up a fight. A common belief is that if a man failed to fight off an attack, he is weak. No rape victim – male or female, gay or straight – should be judged for failure to stop an assault. Some people also believe that if the victim is homosexual or had an erection during the assault, he enjoyed it. A sexual response is physiological and not within the victim's control – just because his body reacted sexually does not mean he enjoyed the abuse.
  • Myth: "Rape can't happen in a dating relationship.""
    Fact: Rape is rape, no matter what the relationship is between the victim and perpetrator. Rape is not just committed by strangers. In 2009, 46.6% of assaults were committed by an acquaintance, 7.4% of those were by an intimate partner. Everyone has the right to change their mind – including about sex. One form of sexual contact does not necessarily open the door to other sexual activity. Even if two people have had sex before, one does not have the right to force sex on the other. There are many ways a person can be forced into sexual activity. Sometimes perpetrators use physical force or a weapon, but more often they use coercion, manipulation, or psychological pressure.
  • Myth: "Most rapes are committed by strangers.""
    Fact: It is a common misconception that most sexual assaults are committed by strangers. You are more likely to be sexually assaulted by someone you know – a friend, date, classmate, neighbor, or relative – than by a stranger. Familiar people and places are often more dangerous. More than 50% of all rape/sexual assault incidents were reported by victims to have occurred within 1 mile of their home or at their home (RAINN). 4 in 10 take place at the victim's home. 2 in 10 take place at the home of a friend, neighbor, or relative. 1 in 12 take place in a parking garage. In West Virginia (WV-IBRS, 2009): 70% of reported sex offenses occurred at a residence or in a home. Nearly 82% of all sexual assaults were committed by someone known to the victim. 46.6% of assaults were committed by an acquaintance, 7.4% by an intimate partner, and 27.6% by 'other' family (e.g., in-law, sibling).
  • Myth: "Most rapes are false reports or 'regretted sex'.""
    Fact: According to studies, false accusations of rape only account for 2%-8% of all reported sexual assaults – no higher than false reports for any other crimes.
  • Myth: "When an individual commits rape it's because she/he is 'turned on' and has uncontrollable sexual urges.""
    Fact: Forcing someone to engage in a sexual act against her/his will is an act of violence and aggression. The perpetrator is using sex as a weapon to gain power and control over the other person. Most sexual assaults are planned in advance, making the excuse implausible that what a victim was wearing seduced the offender, therefore causing the rape.

​​​Source Data:  |, 2020

WV Bureau for Public Health, Health Statistics, (2008) |, 2020

Sexual Assault is never the victim's fault. It is a crime, no matter who commits it or where it happens.


What To Do if You Are a Victim of Sexual Violence

  • Go to a safe place. Call 911. 

  • Talk to someone you trust. 

  • Preserve any evidence. DO NOT shower, bathe, wash, douche, change clothes, or go to the bathroom until you have been examined medically. Doing so may alter valuable evidence that could be used if the case is prosecuted. 

  • Got to the nearest hospital emergency room for assistance and treatment. Ask for an advocate from S.A.F.E. who can provide support and information. 

  • Have a forensic medical exam to preserve evidence. If you are 18 years of age or older, you may choose NOT to report the crime and involve law enforcement. 

  • If you choose not to report the crime, the evidence can be collected and stored as a non-reported case at Marshall University Forensic Science Center. A rape crisis center advocate can explain your options and how to initiate an investigation at a later time. 

  • Whether or not you report the sexual assault to law enforcement, seek medical attention as soon as possible, if needed. Medical staff can provide preventive treatments and address any concerns regarding sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV. 

  • Seek counseling and ongoing support. Plan for your ongoing safety. Rape crisis centers can provide referral information and confidential services 

Source: West Virginia Foundation of Rape Information and Services |

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Are you or someone you love a victim of sexual assault? 
Call our hotline, (800) 688-6157.
 Our advocates are available 24 hours a day, 
7 days a week. 
Your call is confidential. 
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