Learn About Sexual Violence in Maryland


What is Sexual Violence?

Sexual violence is a serious public health issue that impacts everyone, regardless of age, race, gender, or sexual orientation. Sexual violence is any sexual activity when consent was not given. Anyone can experience sexual violence, but most victims are female. The person responsible for the violence can be a friend, intimate partner, coworker, neighbor, or family member. Most perpetrators are male and are usually someone the victim knows. 

Nationally, more than 1 in 3 women and nearly 1 in 4 men experienced sexual violence involving physical contact in their lifetime. In Maryland, it is estimated that 1 in 5 (or 466,000) adult women have been forcibly raped and 1 in 6 (or 359,000) adult men have experienced sexual violence in their lifetimes (NISVS, 2010). 

Together, we can stop sexual violence before it starts. Stopping violence before it happens is a Maryland Department of Health priority. It can be prevented.​

Frequently Asked Questions


What is sexual violence?

Sexual violence is when someone is forced to do something sexual they don’t want to do.

What types of sexual violence are there? 

Sexual violence has many forms. This includes someone forcing another person to perform a sex act, such as vaginal, oral or anal sex, or using an object. It can also include touching someone’s private parts or using words about their body or sexual acts to threaten and harass them. Sexual violence can include physical harm, but some forms are not physical and can even happen online.

For more information, visit the CDC’s Uniform Definitions Document

What is consent?

Consent is an important part of any relationship. Mutual consent means both people say what they want, and both people agree to any behavior they are going to do together.

Sometimes a person cannot consent, for example if they are a child, unconscious, or have certain disabilities. 

Resources for Survivors 

Where can I get help?

In Maryland, every county has a Rape Crisis and Recovery Center that provides free, 24 hour help. They offer information and support, including medical and legal options. Find a Center nearest you by visiting the MCASA

How do I get a sexual assault exam?

While every hospital can provide medical care, several hospitals can provide special exams and care for sexual assault survivors. These exams are called Sexual Assault Forensic Exams (SAFE). Find your nearest local SAFE Program in Maryland on the MCASA website. 

How do I access legal services? 

If you are considering reporting rape or sexual assault, legal services may be helpful. Maryland laws about sexual assault can be confusing. Many Rape Crisis and Recovery Centers offer legal support, and the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault’s Sexual Assault Legal Institute (SALI) can also help. 

How do you help someone you know…

If someone you know was sexually assaulted, the first thing you can do is to listen and believe them. You can give them control by not telling them what to do and to assure them of your support. You can share resources with them, such as the hotline number for the Rape Crisis and Recovery Center in their community. Every survivor copes differently and, as a friend or family member, you can support your loved one.

Starting the conversation can feel difficult or awkward, but there are resources to help. To learn more about supporting survivors, visit MCASA and NSVRC.


Preventing Sexual Violence

What can I do to prevent sexual violence?

Sexual violence can be prevented. We can positively influence others and create change. You can start by speaking up when you hear harmful jokes, stepping in when you spot bad behavior, and model consent with friends and family. The CDC has additional information about preventing sexual violence here​.

What is bystander intervention?

Bystanders play a key role in preventing sexual violence. Bystanders are anyone who intervenes or speaks up against language or behaviors that supports violence. Bystanders can offer to help or get help in situations where violence may occur or has occured.

What role can boys and men play?

Boys and men are important to include in sexual violence prevention. Male role models and peers can prevent sexual violence by highlighting positive aspects of manhood, equal relationships between genders, and making violence toward anyone unacceptable. These changes in attitudes and behaviors can spread through social groups and create positive, lasting change.

How do we teach skills to prevent sexual violence?

Building skills, particularly among youth, are an important part of sexual violence prevention. Social-emotional learning, healthy dating and intimate relationship skills, healthy sexuality, and empowerment skills are examples of skills that prevent sexual violence.

What are social norms?

Social norms are how people think other members of the group should act. Every group has social norms, such as countries, college campuses, or sports teams. Norms influence everything, from our diet, clothes, relationships, and solving problems.

How do we create changes in social norms to prevent sexual violence?

Changing social norms can prevent sexual violence. This can include encouraging positive bystander behavior and engaging men and boys to play a role in ending sexual violence. We can change social norms in neighborhoods, workplaces, schools, and places of worship, for example. 

How can organizations prevent 

sexual violence?

Workplace policies are key to preventing sexual violence and creating a healthy, fair workplace that does not allow sexual harassment. Policies in the workplace can help set the tone for the culture and behaviors expected of employees. Strong policies can prevent workplace bullying and sexual harassment. 

How can changes in the built environment prevent sexual violence?

Environmental change can prevent sexual violence. The built environment can include policies, spaces, and/or social norms. The environment can change behavior by encouraging positive behavior and stopping harmful behavior. Examples of changing the built environment to prevent sexual violence include improving school safety, workplaces, neighborhoods, or parks. 

​How do we empower girls and women? ​Supporting and empowering women and girls can prevent sexual violence. This includes providing leadership opportunities and increasing economic supports for women and families. Efforts that improve economic security and stability for women can prevent sexual violence. This includes strengthening opportunities for education, employment, and income.

What can we do to support survivors?

Supporting survivors is key to improving health and healing. Counseling and advocacy services (such as support groups, medical or legal support) can also help. Adults and children can use these services and it make a life-long difference.​​

When is Sexual Assault Awareness Month?

Sexual Assault Awareness Month, or SAAM, is an annual month-long awareness and educational campaign. SAAM takes place every April and has many opportunities to include SAAM activities into your school, place of work, community, or household. To find out more, visit the National Sexual Violence Resource Center's SAAM webpage​.