Consequences of Sexual Assault
last updated February 1, 2006

Sexual assault can have significant physical, psychological and reproductive health consequences. Sexual assault can cause severe physical injury and trauma-related psychological disorders that may affect victims for years after the assaults. Sexual assault can be fatal; victims are at high risk of suicide, or they may be killed by family members to protect the family's "honor." The social effects of sexual assault can also be severe. Women may experience "social death"—they be ostracized or isolated within their community following the assault.

Sexual assault can have long-lasting consequences for women's health. As the World Health Organization reports, the "[e]xperience of coerced sex at an early age reduces a woman's ability to see her sexuality as something over which she has control. As a result, it is less likely that an adolescent girl who has been forced into sex will use condoms or other forms of contraception, increasing her likelihood of becoming pregnant."

From World Health Organization, First World Report on Violence and Health 149, 162 (2002); Peter Gordon & Kate Crehan, Dying of Sadness: Gender, Sexual Violence and the HIV Epidemic, SEPED Conference Paper Series.

The global consequences of sexual assault are also significant. Sexual assault undermines women's capacity to participate fully in society, and places significant health care burdens on societies. From Ivana Bacik, Catherine Maunsell, & Susan Gogan, The Legal Process and Victims of Rape (September 1998).