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Sexual Violence 

What is sexual violence? 

Sexual violence is a traumatic sexual act that occurs without the survivor's consent. Sexual assault, rape and sexual abuse all fall under the umbrella term of sexual violence. Acts of sexual violence can be perpetrated by people who are known or unknown to the survivor. However, the National Institute of Justice reports about 80 percent of sexual violence is perpetrated by someone known to the survivor. Sexual violence can occur with peers, people of authority, romantic relationships, acquaintances or close friendships. Sexual violence can also be perpetrated by individuals of a similar or different sex, gender, or sexual orientation then the survivor. 

Following are descriptions of kinds of sexual violence:

Coercion. Using threats, intimidation, statements, or force to manipulate another person into a sexual act. 

Rape. Any form of sexual penetration where the victim does not or is not able to provide consent (i.e., oral, anal, vaginal). 

Sexual Abuse. Any unwanted sexual activity in which perpetrators of abuse use force, make threats, intimidate or take advantage of those who are unable to provide consent. 

Sexual Assault. An umbrella term which encompasses unwanted touch, coercion, attempted rape and rape. 

Survivor. An individual who has experienced sexual violence. This word is used as an empowering alternative to the word "victim." Some individual may prefer this term, while others may prefer the term victim. It is best to use the term that the individual identifies most with. 

Common reactions

Survivors of sexual violence can experience a wide range of reactions both in the long and short term. These include, but are not limited to: 

Decreased self-esteem. Survivors can experience decreased feelings of confidence about themselves or uncertainty due to their traumatic experience

Feelings of shame or guilt. Survivors can often blame themselves for their assault. It is important to note that survivors of sexual are not guilty or deserving of their violence. 

Changes in eating and sleeping. The experience of trauma can lead to an increased or decreased appetite. Additionally, survivors can feel an increased need to sleep or can have insomnia, lying awake most of the night.

Difficulty in social situations. Due to the nature of sexual trauma, individuals may be distrusting of others including both close and acquaintance relationships. This may lead to social withdraw or isolation. 

Increased or decreased sexual activity. Following an act of sexual violence, survivors may experience a lack of overall sexual desire or interest. In contrast, some survivors may engage in an increase of sexual activities as a means of re-gaining control over their sex life. 

Difficult concentrating or completing tasks. Experiences of trauma can impact an individual's cognitive abilities including concentration, memory, decision making and emotional regulation. 

Changes in the use of alcohol or other substances. Survivors may increase their use of alcohol or other substances as a way to self-medicate. 

Physiological concerns. Survivors may experience physiological concerns, including increased headaches, decreased immune system or problems with their gastrointestinal system. 

Potential next steps

Decision making after sexual violence can feel overwhelming, confusing, and lonely. Survivors do not need to feel alone in weighing alternatives and deciding what to do next. There are supports both on and off campus that can help sort out options even if the survivor does not want to give a name or make any form of formal or informal report. Survivors have options, some of these are listed below: 

Support resources are outlined in detail at:

Additional Resources