Sexual Assault and Mental Health | Mental Health America

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Sexual Assault and Mental Health

What is sexual assault?

Sexual assault refers to sexual behavior that occurs without the clear consent of the victim. According to the Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network (RAINN), this includes:

  • Attempted rape;
  • Fondling or unwanted sexual touching;
  • Forcing a victim to perform sexual acts, such as oral sex or penetrating the perpetrator's body; and
  • Penetration of the victim's body (rape)

It's important to note that force does not just mean physical force, but includes manipulation, coercion, threats, and situations where a person is unable to give consent. [1]

Sexual violence is never the victim's fault.

How common is sexual assault?

1 in 6 women and 1 in 33 men report experiencing an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime. [2]

How does sexual assault impact mental health?

Sexual assault can have a variety of short- and long-term effects on a victim's mental health. Many survivors report flashbacks of their assault, and feelings of shame, isolation, shock, confusion, and guilt. People who were victims of rape or sexual assault are at an increased risk for developing:

Having a previous history of being a victim and negative reactions from family, friends, and professionals worsen the impact of sexual violence on mental health.[3] Because sexual trauma can have such a serious impact on mental health, it's important that services and supports consider and address the trauma that many individuals have experienced.

If you have concerns about your mental health, take a mental health screen.

Other Resources on Sexual Assault:

Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network (RAINN)

24/7 Hotline: 800-656-4673

National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC)

End Rape on Campus

For support: 424-777-3762 


[1] Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network, Sexual Assault.

[2]Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network, Victims of Sexual Violence: Statistics.

[3]Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Sexual Violence: Consequences. 


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