What is Sexual Assault

Sexual assault is forced, manipulated, or coerced sexual activity. It is a crime in which the assailant uses sex to inflict humiliation on the victim, to exert power and control over the victim, or to use the victim to attain sexual gratification without regard for the victim’s consent. 

  • Sexual assault can include child sexual abuse, rape, attempted rape, incest, exhibitionism, voyeurism, obscene phone calls, fondling and sexual harassment.
  • While sexual assault can take many different forms, the loss of power and control that a victim experiences is a common thread.
  • The victim of sexual assault can be any age, race, gender, or social background, as can the perpetrator. 
  • Rapists can be anyone. Most are married or have ongoing relationships.
  • In more than half of all reported rapes, the victim and rapist know each other.
  • Child victims know their rapist in more than 80 percent of all cases.
  • Some rapists use drugs to disable their intended victim. For more information, see our section on Drug Facilitated Sexual Assault.

Rape (Referred to as Sexual Assault under the law): Any sexual intercourse with a person without his or her consent.

Acquaintance Sexual Assault: An assault in which the victim and perpetrator are known to each other.

Intimate Partner Sexual Assault: Sexual assault within an intimate relationship. Click here for more information.


There are many misconceptions about sexual assault
Does any of this sound familiar?


"It can't happen to me"...
Rape is an isolated, infrequent event that only happens to certain kinds of people such as attractive young women and/or women who are promiscuous.
FACT: Anyone can be sexually assaulted. Victims can include infants to people in their nineties, people with disabilities, people of color, lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgendered, and people from every racial, ethnic, religious, & socio-economic background.

"She asked for it."
A rape is provoked by that person's behavior: being drunk, wearing tight clothing, staying out late...
FACT: No one asks to be sexually assaulted, nor does anyone's behavior justify the crime. The offender, not the survivor, is always responsible for the crime.

Men can defend themselves if being sexually assaulted.
FACT: Men are often attacked by gangs, assaulted with weapons, and taken by surprise. Drugs and alcohol are sometimes used. Physical strength is often not a factor of protection in sexual assaults and is often not a trait of the perpetrator. The perpetrator has likely planned the rape. The victim doesn't know about a rape ahead of time and is usually shocked.

"Someone could stop a rape if they wanted to."
FACT: Fear, threats, and physical brutality can immobilize anyone.

Women secretly want to be raped.
FACT: Women do not want to be victims of violent humiliating assaults. A fantasy about aggressive sex is not asking to be raped.

Get HELP Fast

Domestic Violence
24-hour Hotline
1-866-644-3574

Sexual Assault 24-hour Hotline
1-800-277-5570

Find a Crisis Center

Call our hotlines anywhere in New Hampshire for support. Stalking victims should call the Domestic Violence Hotline. TTY available at 1-800-Relay-NH.

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