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Sexual Assault

Woman receiving counseling from woman counselor

Sexual assault is a significant healthcare problem affecting American Indians and Alaska Natives. If you are in immediate danger, call 9-1-1.

Sexual assault refers to sexual activity when consent is not freely given. This can occur in situations when a person is unable to give consent, including when a person is under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Sexual assault and violence does not discriminate and impacts all ages, all genders, and sexual orientations.

IHS addresses public health problems like sexual violence by:

  • Providing direct health care and behavioral health services for patients;
  • Providing funding for demonstration projects;
  • Developing, implementing, and monitoring health policy; and
  • Training providers in the Indian health system to respond to sexual violence.

How to Help

Individuals who have experienced violent crimes may feel afraid to seek help, out of fear of not being believed. As a friend, family member, healthcare provider, teacher, etc., it is important to respect the individual, ensure their safety, and ensure you are offering a trauma-informed response. If someone you know tells you they have been sexually assaulted consider one of the following responses:

You may be the first person that a person confides in after a sexual assault. Often times, individuals blame themselves for the assault or are afraid they will not be believed. It is important to let the person know they are not alone on their journey to recovery and help is available whether the assault was recent or in the past.
  • I believe you.
  • I am afraid for you.
  • You are not alone.
  • It is not your fault.
  • You do not deserve to be abused.
  • Help is available.

Some people may not be ready to press charges or engage with the criminal justice system.. Reporting the assault should be individuals choice, with their consent, when they are ready to report.

If the person is in immediate danger, call 911 or your local law enforcement agency (e.g., local or Tribal police, FBI/BIA, Sheriffs Department, State Police, etc.).. For more help, call the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).


Medical forensic examinations are available to support the patients health and well-being. With the patients consent, they can be assessed for injuries, provided medications to treat potential sexually transmitted infections, offered evidence collection, and ensure resources are offered for follow-up care and services. A person does not have to report to law enforcement to have a sexual assault exam or to have evidence collected. Examinations are provided by local hospitals or sexual assault examiner programs.

During the exam, medication is available to prevent HIV, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), or pregnancy.

A person should not shower before the exam. However, an exam can still be completed if a person has showered. The person should bring the same clothing that was worn during or immediately after the assault to the exam.