How to Know If You've Been Sexually Assaulted

Experiencing Sexual assault is life changing.  It can also be confusing.  Many survivors wonder if they were in fact sexually assaulted.  Male survivors may think it wasn’t sexual assault due to the false belief that males can’t be sexually assaulted.  It makes sense that one might, at times on a subconscious level, push away the realities of an assault.  To accept that an assault happened may seem like it would be too painful.  And some may think the assault wasn’t really that bad, they should just move on.  But it is not that easy.  Things that weren’t “that bad” don’t tend to affect people days, months, and years later.  If you are wondering if you were sexually assaulted it can be helpful to have a definition of what sexual assault is.  We will review what constitutes sexual assault in this post.   

What is sexual assault:

  • Unwanted touching of genitals or buttocks whether under or over clothing

  • Being made to touch someone else’s genitals, breasts, or buttocks

  • Being forced or manipulated into sex

  • Being forced or manipulated into giving or receiving oral sex

Any sexual contact of a minor by an adult is sexual assault, even if the minor believed he or she wanted it at the time.  Minors (under the age of 18) can never consent to sexual contact with an adult.  Children are not able to comprehend consent and there is too much of a power imbalance between teens and adults for teen minors to be able to consent to such sexual contact.

While it often takes great courage to reach out for help, it is available.

It can be especially difficult to accept a sexual assault occurred if it was perpetrated by someone you knew or loved.  One might think “it couldn’t be sexual assault, they wouldn’t do that to me” but the unfortunate reality is most sexual assaults are perpetrated by someone who is known to the individual who was targeted.  Family, caregivers, friends, colleagues, or dating partners are often the perpetrators of sexual assault. 

The realization that you’ve experienced sexual assault, especially if you weren’t fully conscious of that reality previously, typically feels shocking and disturbing.  If it happened by someone you knew and trusted the betrayal can itself be a source of hurt and make it hard to trust others.  So what can you do?

What to do if you’ve been sexually assaulted

Being sexually assaulted can lead to numerous painful outcomes.  People who have experienced sexual assault are more likely to have depression, anxiety, substance abuse, PTSD, relationship issues, eating disorders, suicide attempts, self-harm, and more.  But it doesn’t have to be that way.  Mental health counseling helps people come to terms with the trauma and avoid/overcome these other negative outcomes. 

While it often takes great courage to reach out for help, it is available.  I offer specialized counseling for male survivors of sexual assault.  If you would like counseling, you can schedule a session by calling, emailing, or texting me.

-Bill McCadden, MSW, LCSW

Bill McCadden