What is Sexual Assault?

  • Sexual Assault: What is It?

Sexual assault is any kind of sexual contact that occurs without consent OR through coercion or manipulation.  In many instances the victim knows the assailant; this is acquaintance sexual assault.

  • Sexual Assault Can Happen to Anyone

Contrary to popular myth, sexual assailants and their victims come from all walks of life. Sexual assailants and their victims may be of any age, gender, race, ethnicity, or socioeconomic group. Sexual assault can occur in heterosexual and same-sex relationships.

  • How Victims Often Feel

There are as many reactions to sexual assault as there are victims. Some common feelings are numbness, intense fear, anger, depression, feelings of betrayal, and while undeserved, shame and guilt. Victims also often experience sleep and appetite changes, physical aches and pain, increased use of alcohol, and avoidance of usual friends, places and activities. Sexual assault can lead to serious disruptions in relationships, work, education and daily life.

If You Are Assaulted, Some Steps To Consider:

  • Get to a place where you feel safe.
  • Consider getting a physical and forensic exam. The perpetrator may have had an STD that requires treatment. An AIDS/HIV test is also recommendable although six months must elapse before HIV can accurately be detected. A qualified physician or nurse will examine you for injuries and collect physical evidence that could be used in criminal proceedings, if you decide to prosecute. Mary Washington Hospital nurses have been trained and certified by the Virginia Division of Forensic Science with administering the Sexual Assault Nurse Examination (SANE) Program that aids the victim with this process.

If the assault occurred within the past 24 hours, don’t bathe, don’t change clothes or linens, and don’t douche as this can destroy physical evidence of the assault.

  • Tell someone you trust.
  • Report the assault to the University Police, and to the Office of Title IX.  Consider reporting even if you are uncertain whether you wish to file criminal or on-campus Title IX charges. You are in control. Additional information about these options is given in this booklet. If you desire, the Office of Title IX (540-654-5656) can issue a “no contact” letter to the assailant barring him or her from contacting you in any way – in person; via telephone, e-mail, or instant messaging; through a third party; etc.
  • Seek counseling. Early intervention helps survivors recover. The Talley Center for Counseling Services staff is available, as are off-campus resources.


The following information provides an overview and list of resources for students, parents, friends, faculty, and staff who are interested in learning more about sexual assault and intimate partner violence. Please visit the Office of Title IX for a detail list around definitions, policies, resources, etc. To learn more about the policy to understand your rights and expectations in our community, please review the Policy on Sexual and Gender-Based Harassment and Other Form of Interpersonal Violence (Prohibited Conduct Policy).

Here is a quick link to the definitions under the Prohibited Conduct Policy that include Sexual Assault and Intimate Partner Violence.

On Campus Resources:

  • Title IX Coordinator,  located in Fairfax House. The Title IX Coordinator can be reached at 540-654-5656.
  • Additional resources on campus can be located here

Local Resources:

  • Rappahannock Council Against Sexual Assault (RCASA) (540) 371-1666 provides individual and group counseling, outreach, and information for survivors, family and friends.
  • Virginia Family Violence and Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-838-8238, available 24 hours
  • Mary Washington Hospital is an essential contact if you have been sexually assaulted. Your health and medical safety should never be over looked. For general information dial (540) 741-1000
  • Additional resources in the area can be located here

General Resources:


See Also:

Sexual Assault Information

Friends, Family and Staff Can Help