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Definitions and Further Information
The following definitions are taken from University of San Diego's Sexual Misconduct and Relationship Violence Reporting and Response Standards and Protocols.
- What is Coercion?
Coercion is the act of persuading or convincing someone to do something using force or other unethical means. Or… coercion is the practice of forcing another party to act in an involuntary manner by use of intimidation, threats, or other form of pressure. Examples of coercion include but are not limited to threatening a person’s relationships with other people, instilling a fear of falling out of a group or organization.
- What is Consent?
Consent is an affirmative, conscious and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity. It is an informed decision made freely, actively and voluntarily by all parties. It is the responsibility of each person involved in the sexual activity to ensure that he or she has the affirmative consent of the other or others to engage in the sexual activity. Affirmative consent must be ongoing throughout a sexual activity and can be revoked at any time. Lack of protest or resistance does not mean consent, nor does silence mean consent. Consent cannot be obtained by threat, coercion, or force. Furthermore, a current or previous dating or sexual relationship between the persons involved should never by itself be assumed to be an indicator of consent. Being intoxicated does not diminish one’s responsibility to obtain consent.
A person cannot give consent if he or she (1) is a minor (under age 18); (2) has a mental disorder or developmental or physical disability that renders him or her incapable of giving consent, and this is known or reasonably should have been known to the Alleged Offender; (3) is unconscious of the nature of the act, and this is known to the Alleged Offender; or (4) is incapacitated from alcohol or other drugs, and this condition is known or reasonably should have been known to the Alleged Offender. Some indicators that an individual is or may be incapacitated due to intoxication may include, but are not limited to, vomiting, unresponsiveness, inability to communicate coherently, inability to dress/undress without assistance, inability to walk without assistance, slurred speech, loss of coordination, or inability to perform other physical or cognitive tasks without assistance.
In the evaluation of any complaints in any University disciplinary process, it shall not be a valid excuse to alleged lack of affirmative consent that the Alleged Offender accused believed that the Complainant consented to the sexual activity under either of the following circumstances: (a) the Alleged Offender’s belief in affirmative consent arose from the intoxication or recklessness of the Alleged Offender; or (b) the Alleged Offender did not take reasonable steps, in the circumstances known to the Alleged Offender at the time, to ascertain whether the Complainant affirmatively consented.
In the evaluation of any complaints in any University disciplinary process, it shall not be a valid excuse that the Alleged Offender believed that the Complainant affirmatively consented to the sexual activity if the Alleged Offender knew or reasonably should have known that the Complainant was unable to consent to the sexual activity under any of the following circumstances: (a) the Complainant was asleep or unconscious; (b) the Complainant was incapacitated due to the influence of drugs, alcohol, or medication, so that the Complainant could not understand the fact, nature, or extent of the sexual activity; (c) the Complainant was unable to communicate due to a mental or physical condition.
- What is Relationship Violence?
Relationship violence includes Dating Violence and Domestic Violence.
Dating Violence means any act of violence or threatened act of violence committed by a person (A) who is or has been in a social relationship of a romantic or intimate nature with the victim; and (B) where the existence of such a relationship shall be determined based on a consideration of the following factors: the length of the relationship, the type of relationship, and the frequency of interaction between the persons involved in the relationship. Examples of Dating Violence include, but are not limited to, causing or attempting to cause physical or sexual assault or abuse; placing another in reasonable fear of serious bodily injury; restraining another’s liberty or freedom of movement; or Stalking, where such conduct is directed against the victim by someone with whom she/he is or has been in a romantic or intimate relationship.
Domestic Violence includes any act of violence or threatened act of violence committed by a current or former spouse or intimate partner of the victim, by a person with whom the victim shares a child in common, by a person who is cohabitating with or has cohabitated with the victim as a spouse or intimate partner, or by any other person against an adult or youth victim who is protected from that person’s acts under federal or California domestic or family violence laws. Examples of Domestic Violence include, but are not limited to, causing or attempting to cause physical or sexual assault or abuse; placing another in reasonable fear of serious bodily injury; restraining another’s liberty or freedom of movement; or Stalking, where such conduct is directed against the victim by his/her current or former spouse or intimate partner or any other person from whom the victim is protected under federal or California domestic or family violence laws.
- What is Sexual Assault?
Sexual Assault is any unwanted physical contact of a sexual nature that occurs either without the consent of each participant or when a participant is unable to give consent freely. Physical contact of a sexual nature includes, but is not limited to, touching or attempted touching of another person’s breasts, buttocks, inner thighs, groin, or genitalia, either directly or indirectly, or sexual penetration (however slight) of another person’s oral, anal or genital opening. Sexual assault includes, but is not limited to, rape, sodomy, oral copulation, sexual battery, sexual penetration with an object, forcible fondling (e.g. unwanted touching or kissing for purposes of sexual gratification), or threat of sexual assault. Sexual assault can occur either forcibly and/or against a person’s will, or when a person is unable to give consent freely.
- What is Sexual Exploitation?
Sexual Exploitation is sexual misconduct that occurs when a person takes unjust or abusive sexual advantage of another for his or her own advantage or benefit or for the benefit or advantage of anyone other than the exploited party; and that behavior does not otherwise constitute sexual assault. Examples of sexual exploitation include, but are not limited to, videotaping or photographing of any type (web-cam, camera, Internet exposure, etc.) without knowledge and consent of all persons; prostituting another person; knowingly transmitting HIV or a sexually transmitted disease to an unknowing person or to a person who has not consented to the risk; or inducing incapacitation with the intent to commit sexual assault, without regard to whether sexual activity actually takes place.
- What is Sexual Harassment?
Sexual Harassment is a form of sex discrimination prohibited by Title IX. It is unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature when submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of the person’s employment or education; submission to or rejection of such conduct by a person is used as the basis for a decision affecting the person’s employment or education; or such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with a person’s employment or education or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive employment or educational environment. Prohibited conduct can include unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal, nonverbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature.
- What is Sexual Misconduct?
Sexual Misconduct includes Sexual Harassment, Sexual Assault, Sexual Exploitation and Stalking.
- What is Stalking?
Stalking means engaging in a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to fear for his or her safety or the safety of others or to suffer substantial emotional distress. Examples of conduct that may constitute Stalking include, but are not limited to, unwelcome and repeated visual or physical proximity to a person; repeated oral or written threats; extortion of money or valuables; unwelcome and unsolicited written communications, including letters, cards, emails, instant messages, and messages on social media.
- What are some dynamics of relationship violence?
Relationship violence (also known as Intimate Partner Violence (IPV), dating or domestic violence) is any physical or sexual harm against an individual by a current or former spouse of or person in a dating relationship with such individual that results from any action by such spouse or such person that may be classified as a sexual assault, stalking, or domestic violence under California law. Relationship violence can happen to anyone regardless of gender, age, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and religion. It can happen between heterosexual and same-sex married couples, dating couples, or ex-partners. Relationship violence is not about love. It is about maintaining control and power.
Abuse in relationships is much too common — it affects at least one quarter of all relationships: between men and women and same sex couples alike. Additional information about relationship violence in LGBTQ+ communities is available below as well. The information provided here is designed to empower victims, as well as their friends and family members, in making decisions about their lives, in breaking free of an abusive relationship, and finding the support they need to get to a place of healing and personal empowerment.
- What are some examples of relationship violence?
Examples of relationship violence include, but are not limited to:
- Unwanted control of finances, including taking wages or putting the partner "on an allowance."
- Insisting on knowing the partner's whereabouts at all times.
- Intimidation through words, threats, or acts of violence; threatened or completed violence towards a partner's body, possessions, pets, or children.
- Unwanted isolation from family and friends.
- Name-calling, taunts, constant criticism or put-downs; ridiculing of religious faith or using religion as a means of control.
Power and Control
Relationship violence is rooted in power and control. If you look at the wheel below, you can see how most aspects of abuse are not physical, but are emotional, sexual, and even economic. Physical violence, which is in the rim of the wheel, is the force that is used to keep someone under control when the behaviors inside the spokes do not work.
- How can men be a part of the movement to end sexual and relationship violence?
Why should men care about sexual violence?
We are all affected by sexual violence. Chances are that someone close to you has been sexually abused or sexually assaulted. When men speak out about other men's violence, it is an important step towards stopping all forms of violence.
Men are sexually assaulted. Studies show that 10-20% of all males are sexually assaulted at some point in their lives. Men are not immune to the epidemic of sexual violence, nor are male survivors safe from the stigma that society attaches to victims of rape. Male survivors are often disbelieved or blamed for their own victimization when they report an incident of sexual assault. Frequently, they respond, as do most people who have been sexually assaulted, by remaining silent and suffering alone.
Sexual violence affects men's relationships with others. Some people are sexually assaulted by strangers but the vast majority of sexual assault is committed by someone the victim knows, trusts, or even loves. While anyone can be a perpetrator of sexual assault, most often perpetrators are men. If someone you love has been abused or raped, they may have a hard time trusting men. Another man's violence can damage the relationships in their life. Subtler things can affect a person's ability to trust other men as well, such as the fear of being raped, images of violence against women in the media and news stories about sexual assault.
Men know survivors. At some point in a man's life, it is very likely that someone close to him will disclose that they are a survivor of sexual violence. Men must be prepared to respond with care, sensitivity, compassion, and understanding. Ignorance about rape and its impact can only hinder the healing process and may even contribute to the survivor's feeling further victimized. A supportive presence during a survivor's recovery, however, can be invaluable. Many survivors get help because of the love and support of people close to them.
Men can stop sexual violence. All men can play a vital role in stopping sexual violence by challenging rape supporting attitudes and behaviors and raising awareness about the damaging impact of sexual violence. Every time a man's voice joins those of women in speaking out against rape, the world becomes safer for us all.
(Adapted from Men Can Stop Rape, "Rape: A Men's Issue.")
- Sexual and relationship violence in the LGBTQ+ communities
Research estimates that 25% to 33% of LGBTQ+ relationships are abusive (the same percentage as in straight relationships). Abusive LGBTQ+ relationships have the same dynamics of power and control as straight relationships, but frequently go undetected and unreported. Because of this, abuse in LGBTQ+ relationships can seem like a hidden problem. Attitudes like "women don't hurt each other" or "a fight between two men is a fair fight" can keep people from recognizing abuse. Some abusers threaten to "out" the victim to parents, friends or employers. A victim may be afraid to get help, worried that the police and counseling services will be homophobic and insensitive.
Are there differences in the type of dating violence experienced in LGBTQ+ relationships? Dating violence is always the responsibility of the abuser, regardless of the gender or gender identity of the abuser or the type of relationship. But abusers may use a person’s identity as a way to abuse or control a person who identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer. For example, an abuser may use threats of outing a partner’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or HIV status to further control the person they are hurting. Individuals who identify as LGBTQ+ may face additional barriers when it comes to finding support and resources, such as these:
- Very limited services specifically for those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer
- When LGBTQ+ individuals report abuse to a therapist, police officer or medical provider, they often feel that the abuse is not taken seriously
- Homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia deny the reality of LGBTQ+ people’s lives, including the existence of LGBTQ+ relationships, let alone abusive ones
- When abuse exists, attitudes often range from "who cares?" to "these relationships are generally unstable or unhealthy"
- Shelters for abused women may not be sensitive to same-sex abuse or gender identity concerns (because shelters are open to all women, a lesbian victim may be afraid that her abuser will get access to the shelter. Admittance to a shelter is often based on gender and a shelter may turn away a person because they can't accommodate a range of gender identities)
- Abused gay men have even fewer places to turn for help
- In LGBTQ+ relationships, there may be additional fears of losing the relationship, because it confirms one's sexual orientation; fears of not being believed about the abuse and fears of losing friends and support within the LGBTQ communities
Power and Control in LGBTQ Relationships
In all relationships, relationship violence is rooted in power and control. Relationship violence in the LGBTQ+ community can look different and includes using heterosexism and homophobia/biphobia/transphobia to keep someone under control when the behaviors inside the spokes do not work.
- Sexual assault & relationship violence myths
Myth: Only certain types of women are sexualy assaulted.
Any person of any age, race, class, religion, occupation, physical ability, gender identity, or appearance can be raped. Almost one out of every five undergraduate women experience attempted or completed sexual assault while in college and approximately 6.1% of males reported being victims of completed or attempted sexual assault during college.
Myth: Most sexual assaults occur as spontaneous acts in dark alleys and are committed by strangers.
Close to 80% of all sexual assaults are committed by someone the survivor knew. This can range from someone known to the survivor only by sight, to individuals with whom they are very close: a best friend, a lover, or spouse. Statistics show that 50% of sexual assaults occur in or around a survivor's home and 50% of the assaults occur during the day.
Myth: Women give mixed messages because they don't want to admit that they really want to have sex. They just need to be convinced to relax and enjoy themselves.
Rape is a crime for which the perpetrator has responsibility. By understanding that rape is rape, regardless of the relationship between the parties, and regardless of the behavior of the victim, the focus will stay on the perpetrator's behavior, not the victim's. It is important to note that coercion is unreasonable pressure for sexual activity. Coercion is the use of emotional manipulation to persuade someone to do something they may not want to do such as being sexual or performing certain sexual acts. Being coerced into having sex or performing sexual acts is not consenting to having sex and is considered sexual misconduct.
Myth: Many people falsely report being sexually assaulted.
A judge of the New York State Supreme Court has said, "False rape charges are not frequently made; only about 2% of all rape and related sex charges are determined to be false—the same as other felonies." FBI statistics support this as well. This is the same rate of false reporting as other major crime reports.
Myth: Victims "ask for it" by their dress or behavior.
No one ever asks to be raped. The sexual appearance and/or seductive behaviors of a person DO NOT equal consent. Many convicted sexual assailants are unable to remember what their victims looked like or were wearing (99%). Nothing a person does or does not do causes a brutal crime like sexual assault. A person’s choice of clothing in NO WAY grants permission or invites rape.
Myth: There is a "right" way for a victim to respond to a sexual assault.
Victims of sexual violence exhibit a spectrum of responses to the assault, which can include: calm, hysteria, withdrawal, anger, apathy, denial, and shock. Being sexually assaulted is a very traumatic experience. Reactions to the assault and the length of time needed to process the experience vary with each person. There is no “right way” to react to having been sexually assaulted. Assumptions about a way a victim “should act” may be detrimental to the victim because each victim copes with the trauma of the assault in different ways, which can also vary over time.
Myth: The gender of the victim or rapist determines their sexual orientation.
Sexual assault is about power and control, not about determining one’s sexual orientation. However, it is important to note that corrective rape occurs or committing rape because of one’s perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. The common intended consequence of the rape, as seen by the perpetrator, is to turn the person heterosexual (or another sexual orientation) or to enforce conformity with gender stereotypes.
Myth: An erection or orgasm implies consent.
Erection, ejaculation, and orgasms are physiological responses that can't be controlled and can even result from stress. These responses can be confusing for a person who has been sexually assaulted and can make them wonder if they really did enjoy or want the sexual contact. It is important to validate these responses, and reassure that they are physiological and normal.
Myth: It is impossible to rape a spouse or significant other.
Just because someone has consented to have sex with a spouse or partner once, twice, or a hundred times before does not mean that he or she has consented to all future sex with that person.
Myth: Victims who do not fight back have not been sexually assaulted.
Anytime someone is forced to have sex against their will, they have been sexually assaulted, regardless of whether or not they fought back. There are many reasons why a victim might not physically fight their attacker including shock, fear, threats, or the size and strength of the attacker. Neurobiology and one’s “flight or fight” response also contributes, and each individual reacts differently during an attack.
Myth: Intimate partner violence occurs only among poor, uneducated families and/or among people of color.
Abuse affects people of all classes, races, religions, genders, nationalities and ages, married or not, straight and LGBQ+.
Myth: Sexual assault or relationship violence is caused by alcohol or drug use.
Alcohol and drugs are never an excuse for violence, or the cause of violence. Even chronic substance abusers batter when they are sober, and not all batterers are users of alcohol or drugs. Additionally, sexual assault survivors are never responsible for the attack, no matter how much alcohol or drugs were consumed. Responsibility lies with the perpetrator; the survivor is never responsible for the assailant's behavior. Alcohol and drugs may increase the risk of being targeted for sexual assault, and may make someone incapable of giving consent or protecting themselves, but it is not the cause of the assault. Both parties must be able to mentally, emotionally, physically, and verbally choose to engage in the sexual activity. Vulnerable behaviors do not excuse the criminal behaviors of another person.
Myth: Relationship violence only occurs in heteronormative relationships and between married couples.
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, from 25% to 50% of all women in heterosexual relationships are abused. Rates of violence in same-sex relationships are the same. Relationship violence is just as common among dating couples as it is among married couples. The difference is that our understanding of abuse among married couples is greater than what we know about dating couples. As a result, sometimes the knowledge of law enforcement or the laws that they must enforce do not meet the needs of victims of dating violence.
- National organizations
NotAlone.gov includes information for students, schools, and anyone interested in finding resources on how to respond to and prevent sexual assault. You can find a crisis service, learn more about students’ rights, identify schools’ obligations to protect students from sexual assault, and understand how to file a complaint with the federal government.
RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) is the nation's largest anti-sexual violence organization. RAINN created and operates the National Sexual Assault Hotline in partnership with more than 1,000 local sexual assault service providers across the country and operates the DoD Safe Helpline for the Department of Defense. RAINN also carries out programs to prevent sexual violence, help victims, and ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice.
Culture of Respect
Culture of Respect is dedicated to strengthening sexual assault prevention and response on college campuses.
Founded in 2010 to honor the memory of Yeardley Love, One Love works with young people across the country to raise awareness about the warning signs of abuse and activate communities to work to change the statistics around relationship violence.
1 in 6
The mission of 1in6 is to help men who have had unwanted or abusive sexual experiences in childhood live healthier, happier lives. Their mission also includes serving family members, friends, and partners by providing information and support resources on the web and in the community.
Founded in 2013, Know Your IX is a survivor- and youth-led organization that aims to empower students to end sexual and dating violence in their schools. We envision a world in which all students can pursue their civil right to educations free from violence and harassment. We recognize that gender violence is both a cause of inequity and a consequence of it, and we believe that women, transgender, and gender non-conforming students will not have equality in education or opportunity until the violence ends. We draw upon the civil rights law Title IX as an alternative to the criminal legal system — one that is more just and responsive to the educational, emotional, financial, and stigmatic harms of violence.
Campus Assault Resources and Education (CARE)
5998 Alcalá Park
San Diego, CA 92110