Sexual Assault

What is Sexual Assault?
  • Sexual contact without a person’s consent. It covers a range of acts from unwanted touching and fondling to attempted and completed rape. What these acts have in common is a lack of consent.
  • Occurs when a person is unable to consent; when he or she is forced, threatened, intimidated or physically or mentally incapacitated. Alcohol or drug intoxication can produce such a state of incapacitation.
  • Rape is sexual intercourse without a person’s consent. It includes vaginal, anal or oral penetration with either a body part or an object.
  • Sexual assault is a crime. It is a crime of power, not lust, and it is intended to hurt, control, and humiliate another person. Sexual assault is most often perpetrated by someone known to the victim—an acquaintance, friend, date, classmate, coworker, or intimate partner. About 90% of sexual assaults on college students are committed by someone the victim knows.¹

Is it Sexual Assault if....

I didn't resist physically?

People respond to an assault in different ways. Just because you did not resist physically does not mean it was not sexual assault — in fact, many victims make the good judgment that physical resistance would cause the attacker to become more violent.

I was drunk or the person who assaulted me was drunk?

Alcohol and drugs are not an excuse – or an alibi. The key question is: did you consent or not? Regardless of whether you were drunk or sober, if the act was nonconsensual, it is sexual assault. If you were so drunk or drugged that you passed out and were unable to consent, it was sexual assault. Both people must be conscious and willing participants.

I am dating or used to date the person who assaulted me?

It does not matter whether the other person is an intimate partner or an ex-partner, and it does not matter if you’ve had sex in the past. If it is nonconsensual this time, it is sexual assault.

I don't remember the assault?

Just because you don’t remember being assaulted does not necessarily mean it did not happen and that it was not sexual assault. Memory loss can result from the ingestion of "rape drugs" and from excessive alcohol consumption. If you have reason to believe that sexual activity occurred without your consent, contact the SRVSS Office.

I was asleep or unconscious when it happened?

If you were asleep or unconscious, then you did not give consent. And if you did not give consent, then it was sexual assault.

I thought "no" but did not say it?

It depends on the circumstances. If you didn't say no because you were legitimately scared for your life or safety, then it may be sexual assault.


¹Fisher, S., Cullen, F., Turner, M., 2000. The Sexual Victimization of College Women. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice.
²Adapted from