Types of Sexual Violence

There are many different definitions when it comes to understanding what is and is not sexual violence. Below are some definitions to help give some context to a person’s experience. Just because one of these examples might fit your experience, it does not mean the other person’s behavior would be a crime or violate school code of conduct. If you would like help figuring out your options regarding reporting schedule an appointment with the SAFE Place.

A pattern of behavior exhibited by a person to control their partner or former partner. Abusers use several behaviors to control their current or former romantic partner. Some examples are:

Social Isolation: Preventing you from spending time with friends and family, Not allowing you to go to work or class, monitoring your whereabouts

Financial Abuse: Telling you how or when you can use your money, taking your paycheck. Not allowing access to joint bank accounts, makes you pay for everything.

Psychological Abuse: Name calling, making you doubt your own experience, blaming you for their behavior, threatening to harm you or your family

Sexual Abuse: forcing you to perform sexual acts you’re uncomfortable with, selling sex with you for money, distributing sexual material of you without your knowledge or consent.

Physical Abuse: Hitting, slapping, punching, kicking, pushing, choking, throwing objects at or toward you

Sexual assault is any completed or attempted sexual contact without a person's consent, unwanted touching or kissing of a person’s body, or penetration (orally, vaginally, or anally) without consent. Lack of physical resistance in and of itself does not imply consent. On the contrary, many survivors experience a natural freeze response (along the same lines as “fight or flight”) which prevents them from physically resisting. Additionally, many survivors make the calculated decision that fighting back would cause the attacker to become more violent.

Consent cannot be given if you are fearful, coerced (forced), or incapacitated (drunk or high). Consent is clear and mutually voluntary permission to engage in sexual activity demonstrated by clear actions and/or words.  Consent can never be given when someone is incapacitated due to drugs, alcohol or medication. Consent cannot be given when someone is asleep.

At SFSU we use the Affirmative Consent Standard. Affirmative Consent means an informed, affirmative, conscious, voluntary, and mutual agreement to engage in sexual activity. It is the responsibility of each person involved to ensure that Affirmative Consent has been obtained from the other participant(s). Lack of protest or resistance does not mean consent nor does silence mean consent.

Engaging in behavior directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear for his or her safety or the safety of others or “suffer substantial emotional distress.” This can look like someone repeatedly (multiple times, a pattern):

  • showing up where you are scheduled to be, either in advance or while you are scheduled to be there
  • someone following you to places where you spend a lot of time (work, home, school, appointments)
  • someone tracking your movement without your knowledge (GPS device)

Cyber-stalking is stalking that occurs online, via online communication and social media. This can look like:

  • Someone “liking” or “commenting” on all of your posts in rapid succession or in a pattern over time
  • Sending you numerous copies of the same message; not stopping communication with you if you ask them
  • Contacting you or your friends/family via social media with threats
  • Creating alternate usernames to bypass privacy protections if you have “blocked” them
  • Repeated threatening text messages and voicemails (sometimes from a blocked ID). 

Substantial emotional distress means significant mental suffering or anguish that may, but does not necessarily, require medical or other professional treatment or counseling. (University of North Carolina, Wilmington).

There are two types of sexual harassment:

Hostile Environment: Any unwelcome sexual advances or other unwelcome written, verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. This often includes things like catcalls, sexual jokes, or jokes about someone’s gender. It can also include displaying sexualized images that make someone uncomfortable including sending inappropriate pictures via text or social media.

Quid Pro Quo: This is a Latin phrase which loosely translates to “a favor for favor”. In the context of sexual harassment this is the request for sexual favors in exchange for employment, academic or other related favors. This could be a professor offering to change a grade in exchange for oral sex or a director offering a part in a play in exchange for sex.

If you are still struggling to understand what happened to you, please reach out to speak with an advocate. They can support you as you work to understand your experience and review your options.