What is sexual violence?

Sexual violence is an umbrella term encompassing a wide range of acts including but not limited to rape, sexual assault, harassment, stalking, unwanted touching, etc. In other words, sexual violence is any sexual act or experience committed against someone without that person’s freely given consent.

What is consent?

Consent should be freely given, enthusiastic and affirmatively communicated through verbal and/or non-verbal language. Consent cannot be assumed or obtained through coercion, manipulation, force, or while under the influence of any drug(s) including alcohol.

Consent and age

  • A person under the age of 13, cannot give consent for any sexual activity 
  • Individuals under the age of 18 cannot give consent to caretakers. Caretakers include individuals that support, help or watch over individuals under the age of 18 like parents, babysitters, and teachers.
  • Individuals age 14 or 15, can only give consent to non-caretakers within 4 years of your age.
  • Individuals age 16 or older can give consent to any non-caretaker of any age. 
  • Regardless of age, any sexual act or experience without consent is sexual violence 

What is coercion, manipulation or force?

Coercion and manipulation involve persuading, influencing, or controlling someone to do something through the use of threats, dishonesty, or pressure as well as exploitation of someone’s trust or abusing one’s power/authority. For example, someone is:

  • Making you feel like you owe them
  • Continue to pressure or badger you
  • Make you feel afraid or threatened if you say no

Who commits acts of sexual violence?

Anyone can commit sexual violence: all genders, ages, identities, etc. These individuals are called perpetrators and most of the time, they sexually assault someone they know and/or have established trust with.

Who is responsible for sexual violence?

The perpetrator is the only person responsible for committing sexual violence.

Why do people commit acts of sexual violence?

Committing sexual violence is a choice that perpetrators make. It is not because they “can’t control themselves” or they’re “crazy”. It’s about power and control. Most of the time perpetrators have access to consensual sexual activity and they choose to commit sexually violence.

Who experiences sexual violence?

Anyone can be sexually assaulted: individuals of all genders, ages, identities, cultures, etc.

What can I do to help end sexual violence?

There are many things you can do ranging from volunteer work to bystander intervention. Visit our Take Action page to learn more about what you can do and how to join us in ending sexual violence. 

How common is sexual violence?

Check out RAINN's website for more information. 

Can survivors protect themselves?

Survivors cannot prevent sexual violence. The only person(s) able to prevent sexual assault is the perpetrator. Thus, it is important to believe survivors which helps create a culture where sexual violence is not tolerated and reports of sexual violence are taken seriously. 

Should I buy pepper spray?

Using pepper spray, learning self-defense, and strategies of that nature are called risk-reduction techniques. They do not prevent someone from carrying out an act of sexual violence but may reduce someone’s risk.

Most assaults are committed by someone the survivor knows, making them unlikely to be ready to use pepper spray or self-defense strategies.

Where & when does sexual violence happen?

Most commonly, perpetrators sexually assault someone in a private space like a home, loved one’s home, dorm, etc. However, they can happen anywhere. Perpetrators sexually assault at all times of the day.

What are my options if I've been sexually assaulted? 

Know that what happened to you was not your fault and you have several options. Check out our Get Help tab to learn more.

What if someone I know tells me they were assaulted?

Believe and support them. Your support can make a large difference in their healing. Learn more about how to respond to a disclosure about sexual violence here

RVAP provides free, confidential services to all survivors of sexual assault and loved ones. For more information, or for questions call 319-335-6000.