Sexual Abuse - ACCESS - Assault Care Center Extending Shelter & Support

Sexual Abuse

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Sexual Abuse Crisis Line:  515-292-5378 or Toll Free 800-203-3488


What is sexual abuse?

Sexual abuse comes in many forms, and different definitions are used for legal vs. personal understanding.

The Iowa Code section 709.1 defines sexual abuse as a sex act is “done by force or against the will of the other”. The term “against the will” includes various definitions including the inability to give consent when incapacitated, under threat, or as a child.

Rape is forced sexual intercourse, including vaginal, anal, or oral penetration.

Sexual assault is unwanted sexual contact that stops short of rape or attempted rape. This includes fondling.

Sexual Misconduct is any non-consensual behavior of a sexual nature that is committed by force, intimidation, or is otherwise unwelcome. The term includes sexual assault, sexual exploitation, sexual intimidation, and sexual harassment

Sexual intimacy requires that all participants consent to the activity. Consent between two or more people is defined as an affirmative agreement--through clear actions or words--to engage in sexual activity. The person giving the consent must act freely, voluntarily, and with an understanding of his or her actions when giving the consent. No matter what definition applies, if an individual feels that her/his sexual boundaries were violated, ACCESS is here to help with services tailored to a victim’s individual experience and needs.


ACCESS provides FREE and CONFIDENTIAL support to victims of sexual abuse.  ACCESS understands that an experience of sexual abuse is highly personal.  Therefore, any victim may want to take time considering all options for service, and make the choices that best meet her/his comfort level.

  • Our 24-hour crisis line: 1-800-203-3488; Reach out for a victim, friend, family or for support. Our trained advocates are ready to help discuss options for their immediate safety and wellbeing. 
  • Response: In-person, 24/7 response to victim in need, such as when reporting sexual abuse to law enforcement or a medical provider, or to another location where a victim is seeking help.
  • Criminal Justice Advocacy: support to a victim as she/he reports a crime, or is involved in later proceedings relating to the crime such as meetings with attorneys or court hearings.
  • Systems Advocacy: assistance to a victim in seeking help from, or explaining needs to  systems such as a workplace, to a medical or counseling provider, or to a school/ university.
  • Community education and training: ACCESS is prepared to help all community members engage in the fight against sexual abuse. By working to enhance the community's awareness and educating community members on professional skills, we increase protections for victims.

Sexual Abuse Counseling: 

An advocate can provide counseling to assist a survivor of sexual abuse in recognizing the impact of abuse, to identify the strength that she/he had in surviving this abuse, and to recognize resources that can be utilized for long term healing.  We strive to increase a survivor's own capacity to heal in whatever way she/he feels is most beneficial.  Whenever possible, ACCESS strives to connect a survivor to a long-term specialized resource such as a counselor or therapist.  In addition, we hope to help a survivor build informal supports in her/his own life.  We can provide education and support to family members, friends, neighbors, or supports within a faith community.  

All services to victims of sexual abuse are voluntary.  The goal of ACCESS is to help a survivor decide what course of actions she/he is ready to take, to prepare for these steps through education and support, and empowerment.

Human Trafficking:

Human Trafficking is a modern form of slavery that affects over 20 million people worldwide. Human trafficking can be differentiated between labor and sex trafficking. Labor trafficking is the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purposes of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery. Sex trafficking is the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, obtaining, patronizing, or soliciting of a person for the purposes of a commercial sex act, in which the commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such an act has not attained 18 years of age.

ACCESS works with survivors of human trafficking providing them with free and confidential services including; counseling services, housing advocacy, civil, criminal advocacy, system advocacy, among other empowerment services. ACCESS also works with the community and schools in an effort to educate citizens about and in order to prevent human trafficking. 

Help Someone

If you know someone who has been a victim of sexual abuse, here are a few things to keep in mind while you work to support them:

  • Believe them.
  • Affirm that it's a good thing they're talking about it. It takes a lot of courage and bravery to talk about something so personal.
  • Listen - without judging.
  • Let them know that you support and care about them, and that they are not responsible for the abuse.
  • Empower them to make their own choices about what steps to take next.  Remember, their choices and freedom were taken away - they have a right to control over their own life.
  • Educate them about ACCESS services.  If you'd like to know more about our services, use the number below to speak with an advocate.

Support Groups

ACCESS consistently offers support groups for different needs, including sexual abuse. Please check back or call 515-292-0500 for updated information.

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