Understanding Sexual Violence

What is Sexual Violence?

Refers to physical sexual acts perpetrated (performed) against a person’s will or where a person is incapable of giving consent, including sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence, and stalking. (Sexual Misconduct Policy, page 6)

What is Sexual Assault? 

Is any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the consent of the recipient. Falling under the definition of sexual assault is sexual activity such as forced sexual intercourse, sodomy, molestation, incest, fondling, and attempted rape. It includes sexual acts against people who are unable to consent either due to age, or lack of capacity. Source: https://www.justice.gov/usao-wdpa/page/file/1249256/download

What is Dating Violence?

The term “dating violence” is violence and abuse committed by a person to exert power and control over a current or former dating partner. Dating violence often involves a pattern of escalating violence and abuse over some time. Dating violence covers a variety of actions and can include physical abuse, physiological and emotional abuse, and sexual abuse. It can also include “digital abuse”, the use of technology, such as smartphones, the internet, or social media to intimidate, harass, threaten or isolate a victim. Source: https://www.justice.gov/usao-wdpa/page/file/1249256/download

What is Intimate Partner/Domestic Violence?

Is a pattern of abusive behavior in a relationship that is used by a partner to maintain power and control over another current or former intimate partner. Domestic violence can be physical, sexual, economic, or psychological actions or threats of actions that influence another person. This includes any behavior that intimidates, manipulates, isolates frightens, terrorizes, coerces, threatens, hurts, injures, or wounds someone. Source: https://www.justice.gov/usao-wdpa/page/file/1249256/download

What is Stalking?

The term “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 suffer substantial emotional distress. Stalking can escalate over time and can lead to domestic violence, sexual assault, and even homicide. Stalking can include frightening communications, direct or indirect threats, and harassing a victim through the internet. Source: https://www.justice.gov/usao-wdpa/page/file/1249256/download


Consent is an explicitly communicated voluntary agreement to engage in a particular sexual activity at a particular time.

Consent must be in clearly understandable words or actions and freely given.

Consent can never be the result of:

  • Force- violence, physical restraint, or the presence of a weapon;
    Threats- indications of intent to harm, whether direct or indirect;
  • Intimidation or duress - extortion, menacing behavior, bullying;
    Coercion-undue pressure; or
    Deception or fraud- misrepresentation or material omission about oneself or the situation to gain permission for sexual or intimate activity.
  • Consent can never be given by a person who is unconscious or asleep;
  • Consent can never be given by anyone under the age of 13 and may not be given by anyone under the age of 16 by anyone four or more years older than the complainant;


  • Consent can never be given by a person who because of mental disability is unable to make a reasonable judgment
  • Consent can never be inferred from:
  • Silence, passivity, or lack of resistance alone;
  • A previous consensual sexual encounter;
  • Attire

Consent to one form of sexual activity does not consent to engage in all forms of sexual activity;

If at any time during a sexual act any confusion or ambiguity is or should reasonably be apparent on the issue of consent, each individual should stop the activity and clarify the other person’s willingness to continue and his or her capacity to consent.
Consent may be withdrawn by either party at any time. Once withdrawal of consent has been expressed, sexual activity must cease. (Sexual Misconduct Policy, Page, 7-8)

  Understanding and Helping Others

Most important factors to remember when talking with students about abusive relationships:

  • Non - judgmental Attitude – be open and understanding with them. Remember the pressures of early adulthood/college
  • Validation – what happens to young people in violent relationships is never their fault and their feelings need to be validated.
  • Safety & Trust – an individual needs to feel safe and know they can trust you to keep their information confidential, but also not to decide for them.
  • Respect & Support – respect their feelings, experiences, autonomy, and maturity. You are acting as a support system right now, not their advisor/disciplinarian.
  • EMPOWERING: empower young people to help themselves by clearing up their skewed self-perception.

What NOT to do...

  • Be judgmental about another person’s choices in their relationship.
  • Try to take control of the situation – unless an EMERGENCY requires that you do so.
  • Make any assumptions – if you aren’t sure, just ask.
  • Blame or punish someone for remaining in, or struggling to leave an abusive relationship
  • Minimize the importance of the relationship/dating partner. Source: Domestic Violence Center of Chester County DVCCC – www. dvccc.com
  Be An Active Bystander

When someone interrupts a problematic or potentially harmful situation, stopping action or comments that promote sexual or discriminatory violence, bullying, harassment, intimidation, or threatening behavior - they are being an active bystander. An active bystander also takes action when they see someone who is intoxicated and in need of help, or may even be in emotional distress. Being an active bystander is about challenging and changing the cultural norms that make problematic or harmful behavior acceptable. 

At LU, we intervene when we see a community member in need of support or when a situation does not fit our values. Intervention is not one size fits all. You can select an intervention style that works for you:

Be Direct- you feel comfortable acting as the primary helper

Be Indirect- you create a distraction or other interruption to halt the potentially harmful situation

Refer- you can request assistance from a qualified resource such as Sexual Violence Prevention & Education (SVP&E) Title IX, Counseling Services, Public Safety

Delay your intervention for when addressing the behavior is more appropriate- you may not feel comfortable saying something at the moment, so you follow up with the person within 24 hours to address things like harmful jokes, comments, or catcalling. Note that you should not delay when responding to a high-risk situation like intoxication or sexual assault. Source – Active Bystander - www.du.edu/cape

Attend training and build your active bystander skills and /or complete the on-line Sexual Violence Prevention Program, checkup To GoYou – http://interworksdsu.edu/echeckup/svp/campus/lincoln You can also volunteer or request training if you think your team, club, class, organization or department would benefit. Call: SVP&E @ 484-365-7839

  Online Resources

Sexual Violence

Relationship Violence/Dating Violence


Digital Violence

Sexual Violence

  • WOAR: Women Organized Against Rape 24-hour Hotline: 215-985-3333
  • Trevor Project (LGBT) Crisis 866- 488-7386

Domestic/Dating Violence/Relationship Violence