Sexual and Relationship Violence Definitions
Below you will find a list of definitions we have established to help sort through the terminology around sexual assault. Often terms are used interchangeably, sometimes creating confusion around the issue. If you have any questions about the language, please feel free to e-mail the office of Health Promotion and Wellness at HPW@depaul.edu.
Sex offense means any sexual act directed against another person, forcibly and/or against that person's will; or not forcibly or against the person's will where the victim is incapable of giving consent. Sexual Offenses include, but are not limited to, rape, forcible sodomy, sexual assault with an object, fondling or kissing without consent, incest, statutory rape, the threat of sexual assault, sexual abuse, or any unwanted physical contact of a sexual nature, that occurs without consent by all the individuals involved.
Sexual assault means a forcible or non-forcible sex offense as classified by the FBI Uniform Crime Reporting system. Sexual Assault is an example of a Sexual Offense.
Sexual misconduct means taking sexual advantage of another person for the benefit of oneself or a third party when consent is not present. This includes, but is not limited to, sexual voyeurism or permitting others to witness or observe the sexual or intimate activity of another person; indecent or lewd exposure; recording any person engaged in sexual or intimate activity in a private space; distributing sexual or intimate information, images or recordings about another person; or inducing incapacitation in another person with the intent to engage in sexual conduct, regardless of whether prohibited sexual conduct actually occurs.
Domestic violence means violence committed by a family orhousehold member. A family or household member includes parents andchildren, current or former spouses, a person with whom the victim shares achild in common, a person who is cohabitating with or has cohabitated with thevictim, and others as defined by Illinois law. Domestic violence can be asingle event or a pattern of behavior.
Dating violence means violence committed by a person who isor has been in a social relationship of a romantic or intimate nature with thevictim (i.e. a relationship which is characterized by the expectati on ofaffection or sexual involvement between the parties); and where the existenceof such a relationship shall be determined based on a consideration of factorssuch as the length of the relationship, the type of relationship, and thefrequency of interaction between the persons involved in the relationship. Dating Violence can be a single event or a pattern of behavior.
Stalking means a course of conduct (i.e.two or more acts) 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.
Sexual and relationship violence can occur in many different ways, including through physical force, intimidation, manipulation, and coercion. This may include the voluntary or involuntary use of drugs and/or alcohol that renders an individual unable to give consent. Sexual and relationship violence can occur within personal relationships, including those that are intimate, professional, familial, or friendly. In fact, sexual violence involving strangers constitutes only a small percentage of cases. Individuals of any sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity may experience sexual or relationship violence. There is nothing a person can do to deserve or provoke sexual or relationship violence.
At DePaul, consent is defined as unambiguous and voluntary
agreement to move forward with a specific sexual request, act or experience.
Consent cannot be obtained from individuals who are asleep or who have a
temporary or permanent mental or physical incapacity, including as a result of
drug or alcohol use, or because of age. Consent is an affirmative act,
not a lack of action. Lack of resistance or submission as the result of
force, coercion, duress, or threat thereof does not constitute consent.
The absence of "no" or "stop" should never be interpreted
as implicit consent, if consent is otherwise unclear. Resistance is not
required to demonstrate lack of consent.
If you are not sure how to think about what happened, keep in mind that sex should feel good, mutual, intimate. When it doesn't, people sometimes don't know how to define it. If you feel bad, taken advantage of, or abused, you should take these feelings seriously even if you don't know what label to put on the experience. It is important to note that 70% of sexual assaults are committed by someone you know – friends, intimate partners, relatives or acquaintances.
Confusion is a common response to an unexpected event. You did not intend or expect the situation to end with you feeling uncomfortable, bad or taken advantage of. It may take some time to process the unexpected, and possibly violent, turn of events. Accept your confusion as natural.
Many people minimize the significance of an event and minimize the strength of their emotional response when something bad happens to them. In a way this can be an adaptive strategy, but it also can make it more difficult to deal with what happened. Be careful not to dismiss your feelings of discomfort too quickly.
You may also be concerned that your decisions and actions contributed to the bad outcome and worry that it's your fault. You are right in taking responsibility for your own decisions and actions, but you are not responsible for the actions of the other person, nor are you in any way "deserving" of what happened to you.
There is often confusion or blurriness around whether consent was given or not prior to sexual activity. Here is some information about consent that might be of help to you:
- A person cannot give consent (no matter what s/he might verbalize) if they are intoxicated or unconscious as a result of alcohol or drugs. In Illinois having sex with a person in that state can be legally considered sexual assault/rape.
- The absence of "no" should never be interpreted as "yes."
- A person's lack of inhibition or inability to give consent should never be taken to mean consent.
- 7 comparisons that anyone can use to show how simple and logical the idea of consent really is
If in your gut you feel that something "bad" or "wrong" happened and that you feel uncomfortable, hurt, angry, etc. then you need to take this gut feeling seriously. It is a fallacy that people over report sexual assault. In fact it is one of the most under reported crimes in the world. Seek out someone who can help you process your thoughts and feelings so you can fully deal with what happened. A counselor, clergy member, health professional, family member, trusted friend or a trusted campus resource may help you in this process.
Common misbeliefs about Intimate Partner Violence
I asked for it. No one asks to be hurt. It doesn't matter what you do, if your partner abuses you, it is wrong.
This is normal in relationships. Even if you grew up in a home with violence and abuse, these are not normal or acceptable behaviors.
I'm the only one dealing with this. Approximately 3 to 4 million women are battered annually. Abuse is not talked about because people often feel ashamed or afraid or do not want to admit that a problem exists.
No one can help me. If you can take the initial step of deciding there is a problem there are many resources available to assist you.
Love and violence/abuse cannot exist within the same relationship. In relationships in which there is intimate partner abuse, the partners also love each other. Most abusers act in a caring, loving manner some of the time. Most victims of abuse love the abuser and hope that the abuse will stop. Typically, over time, the calm, loving periods of the relationship decrease.
Warning signs of an abusive relationship
Consider the questions below. Think about how you are being treated and how you treat your partner. Remember, when one person scares, hurts or continually puts down the other person, it's abuse.
Does your partner...
- Embarrass or make fun of you in front of your friends or family?
- Put down your goals and accomplishments?
- Make you feel like you are incapable of making a good decision?
- Use intimidation or threats to get you to comply?
- Tell you that you are or would be nothing without them?
- Treat you roughly—grab, push, pinch, shove or hit you?
- Call you several times or show up to make sure you are where you said you would be?
- Use drugs or alcohol as an excuse for saying or doing hurtful things?
- Blame you for how they feel or act?
- Pressure you sexually for things you aren't ready for?
- Make you feel like there is no way out of the relationship?
- Prevent you from doing things you want to do, like spend time with friends or family?
- Try to keep you from leaving after a fight or leave you somewhere after a fight to "teach you a lesson"?
- Sometimes feel scared of how your partner may act?
- Constantly make excuses to others for your partner's behavior?
- Believe that you could help your partner change if you could only change something about yourself?
- Try not to do anything that would cause conflict or make your partner angry?
- Feel like no matter what you do, your partner is never happy with you?
- Always do what your partner wants you to do instead of what you want?
- Remain with your partner because you are afraid of what your partner would do if you broke up?