Sexual Assault

Sexual Assault

Sexual Assault

How to Get Help

Most sexual assault advocates, such as those here at Skagit DVSAS, have strict confidentiality policies. This allows a survivor to safely and fully explore their options.  They can also set up evidence collection (like a rape kit) and contact law enforcement, if needed and if you want to pursue your legal options. And, if you’re not exactly sure what to call the sexual violence you were the victim of, a counselor can help with defining it and getting a handle on the events. Advocates at agencies like ours are a good resource for survivors who might be too intimidated to navigate the legal and medical systems alone.


Survivors shouldn’t be afraid to report a crime, but should expect to be treated with respect and dignity and — most of all — should expect to be believed and supported. Each survivor is different and each survivor is the best judge of the best path forward for their individual circumstances. Our advocates will take the time to help you understand your options, safety plan and make decisions about next steps.

What is Sexual Assault?

Just defining sexual assault can be a challenge. The US Dept of Justice defines it as, “any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient.” Webster’s definition: “illegal sexual contact that usually involves force upon a person without consent or is inflicted upon a person who is incapable of giving consent (as because of age or physical or mental incapacity) or who places the assailant (such as a doctor) in a position of trust or authority.”

However, the legal definition can vary, depending on which state you’re in and can even be different depending on where the assault happened. It’s very complex because of the way in which our laws are made. Some states explicitly define assault of a sexual nature and other do not, preferring to record that crime under different terminology. Here, we will look at what sexual assault is, and what it is not, as well as information on how to stay safe, heal, and reclaim your power.

Recognizing Assault

Very generally speaking, sexual assault falls into one of three categories:

  1. Penetration: Of a body part by another body part, or of a body part by an object
  2. Contact with genitalia, breast, buttocks, or other intimate body parts
  3. Exposure of genitalia, breast, buttocks or other intimate body parts

However, it can also have a much broader definition. Sexual harassment, for instance, can include creating a hostile environment, pervasive and unwanted jokes and comments, and behavior and body language that makes an individual feel harassed and unsafe.

Nonconsensual sexual contact or activity includes , but is not limited to: touching, kissing, exhibitionism, and intercourse—anal, vaginal, or oral.  Sexual assault can take the form of:

  • Harassment
  • Exposing/flashing
  • Forcing a person to pose for sexual pictures
  • Fondling
  • Unwanted sexual touching

In most extreme cases, sexual assault may involve force which may include but is not limited to:

  • Use or display of a weapon
  • Physical battering
  • Immobilization of the victim

You Are Not Alone

How You Can Help Survivors

  • BELIEVE the survivor—Don’t deny or ignore the sexual abuse/assault.
  • Affirm the experience. Don’t blame the survivor.
  • Ask them questions such as “How do you feel now?” and “Would you like to talk about what’s on your mind?”
  • Communicate your own willingness to let them talk.
  • Talk, listen, respect, be emotionally available, listen non-judgmentally; let them talk, but don’t force a discussion.
  • Assure them of your availability to provide support throughout the process of recovery.
  • Ask appropriate questions (show interest), but don’t ask too many questions unless you are willing to hear the answers.
  • Ensure the survivor’s safety.
  • Educate yourself, don’t blame yourself.
  • Moderate your natural tendencies to become overprotective and give the survivor time to heal.
  • If the rape distresses you to the point where you don’t want to hear about it, or when you feel like you can’t be of much help, then encourage them to talk with someone else who they can trust.
  • You can encourage and accompany the survivor to medical and legal appointments, if the survivor is comfortable with that.

Help is Available

How We Can Help

Skagit DV & SA Services provides services to any victim of sexual assault or domestic violence, recent or past.  We also assist family members and friends of those who have been assaulted or abused.

Those of us who work at Skagit DV & SA Services understand what you might be feeling as a victim of abuse: guilt, grief, fear, pain, anger, confusion, shame.  We know it’s hard to sort out the truth.  If you’re feeling helpless, blaming yourself, making excuses for the abuser, or avoiding friends and family,  then maybe it’s time to call us: 360-336-9591

We Are Here for You

Here When You Need Us

What we can do is help you:

  • Clarify the issues you face
  • Understand why violence happens
  • Provide support during interviews and court proceedings
  • Protect your children
  • Navigate through unfamiliar systems, such as the legal system
  • Support you through transitions
  • Locate local resources
  • Create a plan for your safety
  • Manage your stress
  • Learn parenting skills
  • Focus on the future
  • Celebrate your successes

….and much more.
We are here to help.

Our Location

1521B Leigh Way
PO Box 301
Mount Vernon, WA 98273
Get Directions »


24-Hr Hotline: (888) 336-9591
Office: (360) 336-9591
Fax: (360) 336-9593


Let's Keep In Touch

Subscribe to our monthly newsletter. We value your privacy and will not sell, trade, barter, give away, or use your information for any purpose other than the agency newsletter.


© 2024 Skagit Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault Services | Accessibility Privacy Policy Terms of Service