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Sexual Assault

What is sexual assault?

Sexual assault is any sexual activity that occurs without the victim’s consent. These behaviors include, but are not limited to:

  • Non-consensual kissing and fondling
  • Non-consensual vaginal, oral, or anal sex
  • Non-consensual vaginal, oral or anal penetration with an object or a finger

Other forms of sexual misconduct include:

  • Any invasion of sexual privacy either in person or through audio or video recording
  • Knowingly transmitting a sexually transmitted infection
  • Exposing a person’s body or genitals
  • Prostituting or soliciting another community member

When alcohol or drugs are involved

Whether someone was sexually assaulted after voluntarily or unknowingly drinking or doing drugs, the responsibility still lies with the perpetrator and the assault is not the victim’s fault.

“Drug facilitated sexual assault” is a term used to describe instances when drugs or alcohol are used to compromise an individual’s ability to consent to sexual activity and/or to minimize the individual’s resistance to and memory of the sexual assault.

If someone is mentally incapacitated or physically helpless due to alcohol or drugs, that person is unable to give consent to sexual activity. Perpetrators will often look for someone who is already drunk or high to the point of incapacitation. In other cases, perpetrators instead choose to push a potential victim to over-consume or to slip drugs into a potential victim’s drink without the victim’s knowledge.

It is important to note that the most commonly used drug in sexual assaults on college campuses is alcohol. Other common drugs are GHB, Rohypnol, and Ketamine. Over-the-counter and recreational drugs can also be used in sexual assaults.

It is sometimes difficult to tell if you were drugged without specific medical testing. Some common signs that you may have been drugged without your knowledge include:

  • Higher than normal level of intoxication for the amount of alcohol or drugs consumed.
  • Waking up with no memory of the night before, waking up in strange surroundings with no memory of getting there.
  • Noticing signs of sexual activity with no memory of engaging in sexual activity.
  • Remembering someone engaging in sexual activity with you, but feeling paralyzed and unable to react in the moment.

Consent is Key

Consent is a clear, mutual understanding between two people that both of them are willing to engage in intimate behavior. Virginia Tech defines consent as clear, knowing, and voluntary.

  • Consent is active, not passive. Silence, in and of itself, cannot be interpreted as consent.
  • Consent can be given by words or actions, as long as those words or actions create mutually understandable clear permission regarding willingness to engage in sexual activity.
  • Consent to any one form of sexual activity cannot automatically imply consent to any other forms of sexual activity. Previous relationships or prior consent cannot imply consent to future sexual acts.
  • Consent may be withdrawn at any time by either person.

Lack of consent occurs when the acts are committed either by force or intimidation or by taking advantage of the person’s mental incapacity or physical helplessness. Someone who is incapacitated in any way cannot give consent.

  • Incapacitation includes but is not limited to being asleep, drugged, intoxicated, or unconscious.
  • Consent cannot be compelled or coerced. Coercion is any attempt to cause another person to act or think in a certain way by use of pressure, threats, or intimidation.
  • Consent will not be considered given by someone who is harassed, threatened, or forced into sexual activity.
  • Consent cannot be given by a minor as defined by law.

What is Positive Consent?

  • Consent is defined as positive willingness in act or attitude. The consenting individual must be of legal age and fully informed about the nature of the act.
  • Sexual activity requires positive consent, which means voluntary, positive agreement between the participants to engage in specific sexual activity.
  • Positive consent to sexual activity can be communicated in a variety of ways, but one should presume that consent has NOT been given in the absence of clear, positive agreement.
  • Verbal consent is not an absolute requirement for consensual sexual activity, but verbal communication prior to engaging in sex helps to clarify consent.
  • Communicating verbally before engaging in sexual activity is imperative. However potentially awkward it may seem, talking about your own and your partner’s sexual desires, needs, and limitations provides a basis for a positive experience.
  • Consent must be clear and unambiguous for each participant at every stage of a sexual encounter. The absence of “no” should not be understood to mean there is consent.
  • A prior relationship does not indicate consent to future activity.
Jun 5, 2024