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Sexual Abuse of Adults

What is the sexual abuse of adults?

Sexual abuse of adults includes both sexual harassment and rape.

What behaviors occur with sexual abuse of adults?

Sexual harassment includes any unwelcomed sexual advances or unwanted sexual contact by another adult. People involved in sexual harassment may also tell sexual jokes, ask for sexual favors, and/or use crude or abusive language in the presence of someone else who is not inviting the behavior. Victims of harassment may wrongly blame themselves for having somehow contributed to the harassment.

Rape is the forceful act of sexual intercourse against a person's will or consent. The focus of rape is power or anger and not sex. Rape is frequently carried out by someone known to the victim and can even occur within a marriage. Anal intercourse, which may accompany rape, is called sodomy. Fellatio, oral sex, may also be a forced act that accompanies a rape. Threats of serious bodily harm or death are often connected to a rape. Following an assault, victims of sexual abuse will often feel like they have been ruined by the horrible, painful event. Victims of rape may also wrongly blame themselves for somehow getting into a situation where the assault occurred.

What are some of the statistics of sexual abuse of adults?

  • Most rapes are committed by men between the ages of 20 and 50.
  • Victims of rape range from under 2 years of age to more than 80 years of age.
  • More than 50 percent of all rapes reported in the United States occur against females under 18 years of age.
  • Strangers commit only about one-half of all rapes; the other half are caused by men who are known to their victims.
  • Relatives of the victim commit about 5 percent of all rapes.
  • In more than one-third of all cases of rape, the male, the female, or both were using alcohol. Do males or females commit sexual abuse?

Males are almost always the perpetrators of sexual abuse in the United States.

At what age does sexual abuse of adults occur?

Sexual abuse of adults occurs during any age of adulthood even into the geriatric population.

How often are adults sexually abused in our society?

Many, maybe most, rapes go unreported to authorities. However, more than 100,000 rapes (which is about 300 episodes every day) are reported in the United States every year.

How is sexual abuse of adults treated?

Treatment for the rape victim focuses on helping that person heal from the psychological and physical trauma caused by the event. It is important to give immediate support to the rape victim. Individual, group, family, and/or couples therapy are recommended. The victim should be encouraged to talk about her feelings about the trauma. It is often very helpful and healing for a victim to know that the rapist has been arrested and convicted of the rape.

What can people do if they need help?

If you, a friend, or a family member would like more information and you have a therapist or a physician, please discuss your concerns with that person.

Developed by John L. Miller, MD

Reviewed by athealth on February 7, 2014.