ABSTRACT OBJECTIVE: This study aims to investigate the prevalence of adolescents and young adults who were victims of sexual violence at some point in their lives and to compare the presence of depressive and anxious symptoms, quality of life, and use of alcohol, tobacco, and illegal drugs among this population and those who were not abused. METHODS: Validated questionnaires and instruments were applied in a group of university students to assess: sexual profile and behavior, socioeconomic status, presence or not of sexual violence (Questionnaire on Exposure to Traumatizing Events), depressive (Beck Depression Inventory) and anxious symptoms (Beck Anxiety Inventory), quality of life (World Health Organization's Quality of Life Assessment) and the use or abuse of tobacco, alcohol, and illegal drugs (Smoking, Alcohol, and Substance Involvement Screening Test). RESULTS: Out of the 858 students who participated, 71 (8.3%) were victims of sexual violence, 52 girls (73.2%). In the victims of violence group there were more students who already had the first sexual intercourse (p = 0.029), students who already had become pregnant (p = 0.001), students with higher scores for depressive (p < 0.001) and anxious symptoms (p = 0.001), students with worse quality of life (p < 0.001), and who used more tobacco (p = 0.008) and marijuana (p = 0.025) as well as abused hypnotics or sedatives (p = 0.048) than in the non-victim group. CONCLUSION: The abuses are presented in several forms and affect, even in long term, the survivors' life. The sexual violence theme should be addressed and widely discussed in all spheres of society in order to mobilize, to sensitize, and provide society with knowledge, demystifying this subject and drawing attention to this important social issue.