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What is Sexual Assault

Any sexual act that happens without clear, coherent, and sober consent is considered sexual assault. Sexual assault is a term for many forms of abuse and includes

  • Rape or attempted rape, including acquaintance, intimate partner, and marital rape

  • Unwanted sexual touching

  • Forced performance of sexual acts (oral sex or penetration of the offender’s body)

  • Sexual exploitation or trafficking

All forms of sexual violence are very serious and can happen to anyone, regardless of gender, race, age, or other defining characteristics. If you have or are experiencing any of the behaviors, or similar behaviors, mentioned above, report the crime or get help immediately.


It can be difficult for a victim of sexual violence to come forward and seek help. Being able to recognize the warning signs of sexual assault and abusive relationships can be crucial to changing—and, in some cases, saving—someone’s life.

Signs present themselves differently in everyone and vary depending on age. To learn more about warning signs by age group, visit RAINN’s website but these are some common signs:

  • Visible injuries

  • Bruising

  • Bleeding from the genitals or anus

  • Broken or dislocated bones

  • Social withdrawal

  • Fear or avoidance of an individual

  • Developing fear of people or places

  • Changing eating habits

Child Sexual Abuse

Child sexual abuse refers to sexual activity with a minor. Child sexual abuse includes both physical and non-physical sexual activity with a child.

Examples of physical activities

  • Touching of genitals or private parts for sexual pleasure

  • Forcing a child to touch someone else’s genitalia

  • Promoting sexual role-play

  • Penetrating the mouth, anus, or genitalia for sexual gratification

Examples of non-physical activities

  • Showing a minor pornography

  • Asking a child to engage in watching or hearing sexual acts take place

  • Exposing adult genitalia to a child for sexual gratification

  • Watching a child unclothe or use the restroom for sexual gratification

  • Making or downloading child pornography


Children are even less likely to tell an adult. Although these potential red flags may present themselves regardless of a whether or not a child has been abused, they should be taken seriously and you should consult a medical professional or certified organization:

  • Acting out in a sexual manner

  • Change in sleeping pattern or increased amount of nightmares

  • Withdrawing or attaching more

  • Shifting moods, temper, and personality

  • Reversing age appropriate behavior (e.g. acting younger, wetting their bed, getting lower grades than usual, and etc.)

  • Developing fear of people or places

  • Changing eating habits

  • Using overly sexualized behavior and sexual language

  • Developing unexplained bruises

  • Bleeding from and discoloration around the genitals or anus

  • Avoiding alone-time with a specific individual

Sexual violence, can happen anywhere and to anyone. Do not ignore warning signs based off of someone’s physical appearance or situation.


The effects of sexual violence, regardless of age can be visible and/or physical. These effects can also be long-lasting and life-threatening. Sexual violence can have both physical and mental effects. Although these symptoms can be caused by a number of things, and are not the only ones that may occur as a result of sexual violence, if you or someone you know are experiencing these effects and are a survivor of sexual violence, seek help now:


Physical effects

  • Self harm

  • Unexplained bruising

  • Broken or dislocated bones

  • Pregnancy

  • STIs

  • Chronic Fatigue

  • Insomnia

Mental effects

  • Post traumatic stress disorder

  • Anxiety

  • Paranoia

  • Eating disorders

  • Depression

  • Suicide

  • Dissociation

  • Shock

  • Loss of temper and control

  • Mistrust

  • Addiction


How to Prevent Sexual Violence?

Sexual assault is preventable! We are working hard in the fight to eliminate sexual violence but we aren’t enough.

Know what consent is

Consent is an agreement between individuals engaging in sexual activities. It does not have to be verbal but both parties must agree. An individual can withdraw consent at anytime. Learn more about consent through our resources.

There are more forms of sexual violence that exist. It is important to know that sexual assault and other forms of sexual violence can be prevented. CrossRoads takes steps to bring awareness through community education.

For more resources about what sexual assault is, visit the organizations below!


National Sexual Violence Resource Center

The United States Department of Justice

Marshall University, for information about college students