Sexual violence occurs when a person experiences ANY sexual act without giving consent. Sexual violence includes any type of unwanted sexual contact. Some examples of sexual violence are:
Consent is an agreement between people who are engaging in sexual activity. Consent can, but does not have to be, a verbal agreement (i.e. saying “yes” or “no”). Consent should happen every time you engage in sexual activity. Giving consent one time does NOT give consent for all future sexual activity. You can withdraw consent at any time if you no longer want to participate.
Consent is NOT:
Sexual violence occurs within all communities and cultures, but some groups experience higher rates of sexual violence and less access to care. Specifically, marginalized groups—including women of color, sexual minorities, immigrants, and transgender individuals—may be more vulnerable to experiencing sexual violence and face added barriers to receiving support and fair treatment (such as from law enforcement, medical/mental health providers, community shelters, or the justice system) after experiencing sexual violence.
Relationship violence, which often involves one partner’s attempts to assert power and control over another partner, can include:
Experiencing sexual or relationship violence is never your fault.
*Adapted from Arizona Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence
Myth: Alcohol and other substances are the cause of sexual assault
Fact: Alcohol and other drugs are not a cause of rape or sexual assault. Sometimes perpetrators use alcohol or drugs to control their victim. Being intoxicated or incapacitated by drugs or alcohol is NOT an invitation for assault or rape.
Myth: Women often falsely accuse men of sexual assault or rape.
Fact: FBI statistics indicate that only 2% of reported rapes are false.
Myth: Sexual assault is provoked by the survivor’s actions, behaviors, or manner of dress.
Fact: Sexual assault or rape is NEVER the survivor’s fault. No one “asks” for or causes an assailant or perpetrator to assault them.
Myth: Men cannot be sexually assaulted.
Fact: Approximately 1 in 6 men have been sexually abused or assaulted. And sexual assault of men is thought to be underreported due to the stigma of reporting.
Myth: If someone is aroused when they are assaulted, it is not really sexual assault.
Fact: Orgasm and other forms of sexual arousal are natural, biological reactions outside of a person’s control. Sexual arousal does NOT constitute consent and does not mean that the survivor enjoyed or wanted the assault.
Myth: Sexual assault is usually perpetrated by a stranger in a dark alley or isolated area.
Fact: A sexual assault can happen anywhere, at any time. The majority of assaults occur in places that are thought to be safe, such as homes, and most sexual assault survivors report knowing the perpetrator before the assault occurs.
Myth: Sexual assault survivors should always report the assault to the authorities.
Fact: There are many reasons why a survivor may choose not to report, including being worried about not being believed, fear of retaliation from the perpetrator, fear of being blamed, embarrassment, shame, distrust of the law, desire to protect the perpetrator, and/or pressure from others.
Myth: You cannot be assaulted while you are in a relationship.
Fact: Sexual violence can indeed occur within relationships. Being in a monogamous sexual relationship does not negate the need for consent.
Sexual or relationship violence can be a traumatizing experience that may cause some reactions for days, months, or even years after the trauma. Sometimes people have a delayed response to the experience, while other might react right away. Everyone reacts differently to trauma. Below are some of the common patterns and reactions that many survivors may experience.
Changes in eating
Feeling out of control
Guilt and shame
Feeling detached or apathetic
Feelings of worthlessness
Being around others all the time for fear of being alone
Avoiding leaving home or going to places with crowds
Difficulty with physical or emotional intimacy
Letting go of activities you used to enjoy
Avoiding things that remind you of the trauma
Loss of trust in yourself, in others
Lack of safety in relationships
Using substances (alcohol, food, drugs) to cope
Flashbacks of the event
Questioning why this happened
Telling yourself that you are bad, damaged, or dirty
Ruminating on what you could have done differently
Worry about what others will think
Avoiding thinking or talking about the trauma
If you have just been sexually assaulted, get to a safe place and consider your next step. You will likely be making some decisions about what to do next, including who to tell, whether to seek medical and/or psychological care, and whether to take any disciplinary or legal action. There are many services and resources on and off campus available to survivors of sexual assault, including recent survivors and those who have been coping with a past assault for a while. If you are currently in danger and cannot get to a safe place, call 9-1-1.
RAINN- The Nation’s Largest Anti-Sexual Violence Organization
Comprehensive information and resources regarding sexual violence
Maryland Coalition against Sexual Assault
Resources in Maryland and Information for Survivors of Sexual Violence
Staying Safe on Campus
Tips from RAINN about ways to increase on-campus safety for college students
RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline: 1-800-656-HOPE (4673)