Sexual violence is a continuum of acts that can include physical (e.g. forced intercourse, unwanted touching) or non-physical acts (e.g. voyeurism, exposure, sexual harassment), which violate an individual's trust and/or safety and are sexual in nature. While sexual assault, rape, and sexual abuse are often used interchangeably, Wisconsin statutes specifically use the term "sexual assault."
Sexual assault refers to unwanted sexual contact without consent. This includes contact with body parts and/or objects. The use or threat of force is often present. Victims may be intentionally rendered incapable of giving consent through the use of alcohol or drugs. This issue affects all populations, regardless of their age, race, sex, nationality, religion, ability, socioeconomic status, gender identity, or sexual orientation. Perpetrators are frequently someone the victim knows, even an intimate partner.
Each person reacts differently. Immediately after an assault, survivors frequently experience a disruption of their lives. Among other feelings and changes, they may feel disoriented, depressed, helpless, ashamed, angry, irritable, afraid, anxious, or alone. They may engage in behaviors they would not normally do (e.g. isolating themselves from others, using alcohol and other drugs, adopting compulsive behaviors). Some survivors openly share their feelings; others do not. Changes in appetite and sleeping patterns may occur. The trauma of an assault may result in the development of psychological disorders, like Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, depression, anxiety, dissociative disorders, and personality disorders. In short, there is no one way that an individual should be expected to react after a sexual assault.
Know that you have options, and help is available.
- Confidential medical care is available through Aurora's Sexual Assault Treatment Center (219-5555), which provides crisis counseling, STD testing and treatment, treatment of injuries, referrals for future care, and evidence collection. For purposes of evidence collection, do not wash any body parts and avoid rinsing your mouth, brushing your teeth, or going to the bathroom until you have been seen at the Center. Preserve any clothing you were wearing at the time of the assault as well as any sheets, blankets, or towels you had contact with during or after the assault in paper bags. Do not wash them.
- To report a sexual assault to law enforcement, you may contact the Milwaukee Police Department (911).
- Survivors can access many supportive agencies in Milwaukee for advocacy and counseling services. Please see "Where can someone find help?"
- Take care of yourself. Aurora Health Care has useful self-care information for survivors of sexual assault.
As a trusted contact for a survivor, your reaction is important. Many survivors are looking for support and understanding, and they also need to know that they are not to blame for the assault. Aurora Health Care has compiled suggestions of what to say to a survivor of sexual assault. In addition to listening and believing, you can help by connecting them to resources. Please see "Where can someone find help?"
Please note that parents, siblings, friends, and other supportive persons may also be affected as secondary victims of a sexual assault. A secondary victim is a person who knows someone who has experienced a sexual assault. It is normal for them to have some of the same feelings and reactions as a survivor. Loved ones are encouraged to take care of themselves and even reach out to supportive services for themselves. When secondary victims have the support they need to work through their own healing, they can in turn become stronger allies for survivors.
The Office of Violence Prevention has an online directory of agencies and organizations who support those affected by sexual assault and domestic violence. The Commission on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault also publishes materials to help community members locate sexual assault resources.
Our "You Are Not Alone" brochure is available for download in English, Spanish, and large print. It lists the names and phone numbers of organizations that can help, if you or someone you know has experienced sexual assault.
Our safety planning cards, "You Have a Right to be Safe," are also available for download in English, Spanish, and Hmong. These cards assist survivors in developing a comprehensive plan, as they are planning to leave an abusive relationship, which may include sexually abusive behaviors.
For free hard copies of these materials, please contact the Commission Coordinator.
Sexual Assault Needs Assessment
A PDF version of the Sexual Assault Needs Assessment- "Toward a Coordinated Sexual Assault Advocacy Response in Milwaukee: A Needs Assessment of Sexual Assault Advocacy Services." Written by Melissa Ugland with technical support from Courtenay Kessler. Funded by the Wisconsin Office of Justice Assistance. Supervised and implemented by The Healing Center with support from Aurora Health Care.
CDC Sexual Violence Information and Resources
Aurora Health Care Handouts