Sexual offenses are generally classified as unwanted or unwarranted sexual contact with another individual.  Sex crimes range in severity including sexual harassment, stalking, sexual assault, rape, or molestation. 

   Offenders can be viewed as violent or non violent and can be categorized as acquaintances, family members, spouse or significant others, friends, or strangers.  While most believe these crimes are sexually motivated, it is often determined the offenders commit these crimes to obtain control, release anger and hate, seek revenge, or attempt to resolve other inadequacies in their life.  Those who commit sexual crimes are not restricted to a certain sex, race, or age.  While most often, it is believed offenders utilize force to commit these crimes, they also use manipulation, drugs or alcohol, and psychological triggers.  They do normally seek victims which they view themselves to be superior of and feel they can control. 

   Offenders normally seek certain environmental factors prior to committing sexual crimes.  Often they seek individuals who are away from crowds, are distracted or not paying attention, and appear easy to control.  Offenders frequently search for areas to commit crimes which are desolate and victims who do not draw attention.


   Unfortunately, victims of sexual crimes frequently do not report incidents to the police.  This may stem from feelings of guilt, shame, or fear.  Sexual crimes are very personal in nature for the victim and often a police investigation prolongs the unwanted feelings a victim has during the crime.  It is very important to understand, the offender is to blame for the incident, not the victim or any actions the victim took prior to the incident. 

If you know a victim:
If a victim speaks with you regarding a sexual assault incident, there are steps you can take to make the victim feel comfortable. 

          LISTEN!  The most important step in helping a victim is to listen to what they say.  If they want to tell you about the incident or their feelings, sometimes being a good listener helps them deal with the situation.  Refrain from any judgments while they speak.  Feelings of guilt may prevent the victim from healing.
          Let the victim make choices.  Try not to pressure the victim into any choices.  They were victimized and may feel like they do not have control of the situation.  Allowing them to take action at their own pace allows them to regain control and aids in the recovery process.
          Offer to be there for them.  The process of investigating a sexual crime can be intimidating.  Having a friend or family member close by for support can make the process less intrusive.  Be understanding if they want to be alone.  While some appreciate the comfort of a loved one, others may feel it is too personal to share.  
          Check in with them afterwards.  There is no time frame of when a victim will heal.  The victim has experienced trauma and will handle the incident at their own pace.  Checking in with the victim periodically allows them to know you are there if needed; however not pressuring them to heal.
          Don't force them into life's daily routine until they are ready.  Dwelling on a traumatic incident is not healthy; however the victim may feel you are forcing them to forget the incident, instead of heal, if you pressure them into activities they are not ready for.  Being in public, around people, or in certain situations may raise memories of the incident and cause fear.  The victim will be able to decide when they are ready to resume their normal activities.
          Offer professional assistance.  Click here for valuable resources to assist victims of sexual crimes.

If you are a victim:
When dealing with sexual assault, the first thing to remember, it's not your fault.  The offender is to blame in any sexual assault situation.  Nothing you did, didn't do, or said caused this crime.  The beginning of a sexual crime investigation can be an overwhelming event.  Knowing what to do and how to handle the situation may help you negotiate the investigation.

          Be safe.  Immediately after a criminal incident, safety is the number one concern.  If capable, move to a safe location.  If desired, contact a friend or family member to be with you during this time.  Decide a location where you feel protected from any predators.
          Contact help.  It is preferred to have victims contact law enforcement as soon after the incident as possible.  This aids in obtaining valuable evidence.  If you do not feel comfortable contacting law enforcement, click here for a list of resources.  You can remain antonymous when obtaining information about sexual assault victims.  There are many agencies to offer assistance, all of which have professionals who are trained in all types of assaults.
          Evidence is key.   Law enforcement will provide transpiration to a hospital if needed.  A certified nurse will assist you in collecting evidence known as a "rape kit."  These professionals are specifically trained in assisting victims through the investigation process.  But maintaining evidence until you respond to the hospital starts with you.  It is recommended you not take a shower or clean yourself after an assault.  Keep all clothing worn during the incident.  Any items used by the offender can be taken to law enforcement.  Our goal is to identify the offender and ensure he does not commit this crime again.
          Heal at your own pace.  Sexual assaults are a traumatic event.  Each person heals at their own rate.  Don't allow anyone to determine if you are ready to continue your normal routine.  It will happen when you are ready.  Many victims need professional assistance when dealing with this trauma.  There is no shame in being a victim, or asking for assistance.

Safety tips

   While sexual assault crimes may be random and unplanned, there are certain steps you can take to deter criminals from selecting you as their victim.

Always keep your head up and remain alert.  
Take notice of your surroundings, including people and vehicles.
Stay away from dark, desolate alleyways and parking lots.  
Plan your route by knowing hiding areas to look out for and safe areas for a quick escape when needed.
Try to walk with a buddy system, especially at night or in sparsely populated areas.
When walking to your vehicle, have your keys out and ready to prevent wasted time at the car door.
If you have something on your windshield, carefully drive to a lit area before stopping to remove it.
Consider self protection such as pepper spray, a personal taser or stun gun, or with adequate training; a firearm.
Go to social gatherings with a friend and keep tabs on each other through out the night.
Never leave a drink unattended.
Have a code word or phrase to use with friends or family to let them know you need help.
Always trust your instincts.
When dating, meet in a public place.
Don't give out personal information such as addresses of your work or home.
Keep home windows and doors locked.
Don't advertise that if you live alone. 
Put only initials or your last name on your mailbox.
Assert yourself by yelling or drawing attention during an attack.
Fight back by any means necessary during an attack.  It may cause the offender to leave.
Try to create distance between you and the possible attacker.
Catch the offender by surprise to get a possible moment for escape.
Report any suspicious activity to law enforcement.


The following resources can assist with victims, family of victims, and prevention tips.  Click the link to view their web site.

National Sexual Violence Resource Center
RAINN - Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network
Center for Disease Control - Sexual Violence
Victims of Crime
Joyful Heart Foundation
Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence

Hotlines:  All hotlines are 24/7 unless noted

National Sexual Assault Hotline:  1-800-656-4673      
Sexual Assault Hotline:  1-888-773-8368
National Hotline for Victims:  1-855-484-2846

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