You are not alone
1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have been victims of sexual violence involving physical contact in their lifetimes.2
All people who have experienced sexual violence, whether recently or in the past, deserve to receive care and support around the emotional, mental, and physical trauma they suffered.
Sometimes, people who have lived through abuse prefer to be called survivors instead of victims. Both words can feel powerful and appropriate for different people in different situations.
You can read some stories from survivors below the timeline. In-person support groups may be available in your area, check at https://centers.rainn.org/
Milestones in the Fight Against Abuse
Rape considered a violent crime. (It was previously considered property damage against the father or husband.)15
Black women legally allowed to be considered a victim of rape in the US. (previously excluded from rape laws)15
First Society for the Protection and Care of Children (SPCC) founded in New York to investigate possible child abuse of all kinds.16
Freud wrote about the high frequency of sexual abuse of children and suggested that sexual abuse can cause later suffering, although he later reversed this position.16
Kinsey report on sex and sexuality found 25% of all women reported being victims of childhood sexual abuse or incest. Of these women, 80% found the experience frightening. These findings were largely ignored.16
Title IX laws passed which made discrimination and sexual harassment in workplaces illegal.17
First rape shield laws enacted to prevent a victim’s sexual history from being used in court.15
Victims of Crime Act established funds to help victims with financial costs of crime.18
Boy Scouts of America established victim compensation fund to support boys who suffered abuse from the 1960s-present.19
Resources available for victims of sex abuse
Any crime victim may need medical, legal or advocacy resources. A victim advocate is someone who helps a victim navigate the criminal justice system and provides emotional support.13
If you or someone else is in immediate danger or need of medical attention, call 911.4
To report suspected abuse of a child, call: 800-4-A-CHILD (800-422-4453).
Call 911 or report to the local emergency room. Tell them what happened. A SANE (Sexual assault nurse examiner) or SAFE (sexual assault forensic examiner) is a nurse or doctor with extra training to collect evidence using a rape kit in case a victim decides to report the crime to law enforcement. This is easier to do if the victim hasn’t washed, brushed, or combed anything, or changed clothes.4
The victim will also be treated for sexually transmitted infections and given pregnancy prevention if applicable.4
After any kind of sexual violence, it is normal to have emotional reactions like anxiety, fear, shame or guilt.4 For mental health resources, one place to start is https://www.apa.org/topics/sexual-abuse/ or https://www.rainn.org/get-help.
Many health care providers are sensitive to issues of abuse and sexual trauma. They can help connect you with other resources and help with any lingering health concerns.14
https://www.rainn.org/get-help This is the link for the sexual assault helpline and live chat – they keep a database of relevant resources across the US for victims as well as provide emotional support.
https://ovc.ncjrs.gov/topic.aspx?topicid=9#tabs2 This is a listing of victim advocacy groups for many types of crimes.
https://www.womenshealth.gov/relationships-and-safety/get-help/state-resources This is a listing of programs by state for victims of domestic violence or sexual abuse.
1. Overview of Rape and Sexual Violence. (2010). National Institute of Justice. https://nij.ojp.gov/topics/articles/overview-rape-and-sexual-violence
2. Preventing Sexual Violence. (2020, January 17). Cdc.Gov; National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Division of Violence Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/sexualviolence/fastfact.html
3. Sexual Assault. (2019, January 3). Justice.Gov. https://www.justice.gov/ovw/sexual-assault
4. Sexual Assault (2019, March 14). Womenshealth.Gov; Office on Women’s Health in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. https://www.womenshealth.gov/relationships-and-safety/sexual-assault-and-rape/sexual-assault
5. An Updated Definition of Rape. (2017, April 7). Justice.Gov. https://www.justice.gov/archives/opa/blog/updated-definition-rape
6. Cortina, L. M., Koss, M. P., & Cook, S. L. (2019, June 20). What’s the difference between sexual abuse, sexual assault, sexual harassment and rape? The Conversation. https://theconversation.com/whats-the-difference-between-sexual-abuse-sexual-assault-sexual-harassment-and-rape-88218
7. How Does Your State Define Consent? (2016). Rainn.Org. https://www.rainn.org/news/how-does-your-state-define-consent
8. Harris v. Forklift Systems, Inc. (n.d.). Oyez. https://www.oyez.org/cases/1993/92-1168
9. Greenfield, L. (1997). Sex Offenses and Offenders, An Analysis of Data on Rape and Sexual Assault. Bureau of Justice Statistics. https://bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/SOO.PDF
10. Snyder, H. (2000). Sexual Assault of Young Children as Reported to Law Enforcement: Victim, Incident, and Offender Characteristics. Bureau of Justice Statistics. https://www.ojp.gov/sites/g/files/xyckuh241/files/media/document/saycrle.pdf
11. Perpetrators of Sexual Violence: Statistics | RAINN. (2013). Rainn.Org. https://www.rainn.org/statistics/perpetrators-sexual-violence
12. Children and Teens: Statistics | RAINN. (2000). Rainn.Org. https://www.rainn.org/statistics/children-and-teens
13. Victim Advocacy/Advocates. (n.d.). Office for Victims of Crime; Office of Justice. Retrieved March 16, 2020, from https://ovc.ncjrs.gov/topic.aspx?topicid=9#tabs2
14. Committee Opinion No. 498: Adult Manifestations of Childhood Sexual Abuse. (2011). Obstetrics & Gynecology, 118(2, Part 1), 392–395. https://doi.org/10.1097/aog.0b013e31822c994d. https://www.acog.org/Clinical-Guidance-and-Publications/Committee-Opinions/Committee-on-Health-Care-for-Underserved-Women/Adult-Manifestations-of-Childhood-Sexual-Abuse?IsMobileSet=false
15. Bishop, Kyla. “A Reflection on the History of Sexual Assault Laws in the United States – The Arkansas Journal of Social Change and Public Service.” The Arkansas Journal of Social Change and Public Service, 20 Apr. 2019, https://ualr.edu/socialchange/2018/04/15/reflection-history-sexual-assault-laws-united-states/
16. Olafson, E., Corwin, D. L., & Summit, R. C. (1993). Modern history of child sexual abuse awareness: Cycles of discovery and suppression. Child Abuse & Neglect, 17(1), 7–24. https://doi.org/10.1016/0145-2134(93)90004-o. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/14763099_Modern_History_of_Child_Sexual_Abuse_Awareness_Cycles_of_Discovery_and_Suppression
17. Title IX | RAINN. (n.d.). Www.Rainn.Org. Retrieved March 22, 2020, from https://www.rainn.org/articles/title-ix
18. Victims of Crime Act | RAINN. (2019). Rainn.Org. https://www.rainn.org/articles/victims-crime-act
19. Crary, David, and Brady McCombs. (2020, February 18). Boy Scouts Seek Bankruptcy, Urge Victims to Step Forward. AP NEWS. apnews.com/d65e98062be130ceeb73a2581cc21d3f