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Facts About Sexual Assault, Sexual Harassment, and Stalking

Sexual assault can happen to anyone, regardless of age, race, gender, sexual orientation, religion or socioeconomic status. In the United States:

  • 1 in 6 women and 1 in 33 men reported experiencing an attempted or completed rape at some time in their lives.
  • Every 2 minutes another American is sexually assaulted.
  • In Massachusetts alone, 4,418 adolescents and adults are sexually assaulted each year – that’s 12 people each day and one every two hours.
  • Despite these numbers, sexual assault is one of the most under-reported crimes, with 60% still being unreported.

Sexual assault is a term for any unwanted sexual contact, such as unwanted touching, fondling, or groping, or even rape. The following are some legal definitions of sexual violence and other related acts that may help name what has happened to you or someone you know. If what happened to you or someone you know does not seem to fit into one of these categories, it does not mean that you were not harmed.


Forced and non-consensual sexual penetration of any body part by another body part and/or object. A person is forced into sexual intercourse through threats, physical restraint, and/or physical violence.


In Massachusetts, consent cannot legally be given if a person is under the age of 16, mentally disabled, or incapacitated (intoxicated, drugged, unconscious, or asleep). A person can never assume consent, and complying with a rapist’s demands to avoid further harm is not consent.

Indecent Assault and Battery

Non-consensual, sexually offensive touching that does not include penetration.


Willful and malicious engagement in a pattern of conduct or series of acts over a period of time directed at a specific person that seriously alarms or annoys that person and causes them to fear for their safety or well-being. A person can stalk another by following, calling, instant messaging, writing, or emailing them.

Criminal Harassment

Willful and malicious engagement in a pattern of conduct or series of acts over a period of time directed at a specific person that seriously alarms or annoys that person and causes considerable emotional distress.

Annoying Telephone Calls

Telephoning another person or causing a person to be telephoned repeatedly for the sole purpose of harassing, annoying, or molesting that person, regardless of whether conversation ensues or whether indecent or obscene language is used.

Sexual Harassment

Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature in which submission to or rejection of such conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual’s work or school performance or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work or school environment.

Many survivors share common reactions to rape, but each survivor copes differently. It is important to remember that there is no right way for the survivor to feel and cope, and there is no timeline for when they “should” feel better. Some of the common reactions to rape include:

  • Guilt, shame, self-blame
  • Fear (of people, of their assailant, etc.)
  • Sense of vulnerability
  • Avoidance
  • Anger
  • Mood swings
  • Distrust
  • Loss of control over their life
  • Numbness
  • Re-experiencing
  • Sexual concerns (fear of intimacy, want for intimacy)

Additional Information:

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts: Chapter 265-Crimes Against the Person
Extent, Nature, and Consequences of Intimate Partner Violence Research Report
BJS: National Crime Victimization Survey
RAINN: Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network

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