Photo of a tree blooming with white flowers in front of the center for community building.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month

In honor of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, Health and Wellness Services will be partnering with OIEC, CUSG, the Center for Inslucion and Social Change as well as the Residence Hall Association to host a variety of free events and activities, including a 5K, self defense workshops, speaking events and more.

Check out the full schedule of events

Sexual violence can have lasting impacts on individuals and communities. Here are five things everyone should know about sexual assault.

1. Sexual assault can happen to anyone

Unfortunately, the majority of sexual assaults are carried out by people we know: friends, acquaintances, classmates, co-workers, partners, exes, neighbors or someone a person may have met online or at a party.

It’s important to know that sexual assault can happen to anyone, regardless of age, race, gender identity or sexual orientation. 

If sexual assault is something that has happened to you—it’s not a result of who you are or something you did (such as dressing a certain way, drinking alcohol or behaving a certain way). Someone has chosen to exert power over you and is operating from a sense of entitlement to your body. It is a choice to perpetrate sexual assault and never the survivor’s fault.

2. Consent is key

People often think that consent is something that you "get" or "give" in a sexual situation. Consent is more of an agreement that people arrive at together. Consent can include words or actions that create mutual understanding, clear willingness and acceptance of the conditions of any sexual activity.

Consent must be established before people engage in any sexual activity. This gives us the opportunity to set personal boundaries and limits and understand the boundaries of others.

3. Sexual assault can include a wide range of experiences

Sexual assault includes any unwanted sexual contact or behaviors that a person did not or was not able to consent to. 

Sexual assault can include, but is not limited to, the following:

  • Unwanted penetration or contact, including vaginal, anal or oral sex (this includes penetration by an object or another person’s body part)
  • Unwanted touching of private body parts (e.g. butt, breasts, genitals) 

Keep in mind that sexual assault can also include attempted assault using any of the methods listed above. Additional forms of sexual misconduct include sexual harassment, exploitation (e.g. sharing nudes, videotaping sexual acts without consent, etc.) as well as intimate partner abuse such as dating violence and stalking.

Learn more about sexual misconduct at CU Boulder

If you or someone you know isn’t sure whether or not an experience may have been sexual assault, confidential advocate counselors on campus are available for free and confidential consultations and support. Advocate counselors with the Office of Victim Assistance (OVA) are here to help students explore their experiences and learn about their rights and options. Remember, you don’t have to know what to call it in order to get support. Give them a call at 303-492-8855 or check out Ask an Advocate hours

4. Sexual assault can be preventable

As Buffs, we have the opportunity to look out for our friends, speak up about sketchy situations and take steps to create a safer community. If you see someone in a potentially harmful or high-risk situation, you can do something to intervene. Bystanders are particularly important in situations where someone is being targeted by a perpetrator because of their level of intoxication, or if a person has been intentionally drugged in an attempt to facilitate sexual assault. Impaired or incapacitated people are usually unable to protect or advocate for themselves.

Learn to identify high-risk situations.

We can get better at recognizing situations where someone may be pursuing a person sexually because of their level of intoxication. Keep an eye on people who hit on the drunkest person at a party, encourage others to drink, try to get a drunk person alone or away from their friends, are persistent about pursuing someone sexually or commit low-level boundary violations. 

Keep track of friends.

At parties, high-proof alcohol mixed with sweet punch or juice might be served to increase the likelihood that people will become intoxicated. It’s common for perpetrators of sexual assault to encourage alcohol consumption or target those who are intoxicated. It’s important to check in with a friend if you observe any sudden changes (e.g. difficulty standing, disorientation, etc.) that might indicate they’ve had too much to drink.

Don’t leave friends behind.

Commit to not ditching someone if they have too much to drink and/or become difficult. This decreases the likelihood that someone will have to rely on less known friends or strangers to get home, which can create risk for something bad happening. Consider whether someone offering to walk a person home or look after someone who has had too much to drink is trustworthy and being helpful or is potentially looking for access to someone who is vulnerable.

Trust your instincts.

If something feels weird or wrong, it probably is. If you see a situation that ever feels uncomfortable or unsafe, follow your gut. It’s okay to make up an excuse to interject or interrupt something that doesn’t seem right  (e.g. you don’t feel well and need them to leave with you, you need them to check on a friend, you want them to go with you to get something to eat, etc.) to disrupt an uncomfortable or problematic situation.

Learn more about bystander strategies you can use to interrupt problematic situations

5. Support is available

If you or someone you know has experienced sexual assault, there are support resources available on campus to support survivors and their friends.

Office of Victim Assistance (OVA)

OVA provides free and confidential information, consultation, support, advocacy and short-term counseling services for students, grad students, faculty and staff who have experienced a traumatic, disturbing or life-disruptive event.

Confidential resource

Office of Institutional Equity and Compliance (OIEC)

OIEC implements and enforces university policies around sexual assault, intimate partner abuse and stalking, and other forms of sexual misconduct. If you or someone you know at CU has been impacted, reports can be filed online. Anonymously reporting is an option as well.

Don't Ignore It

Explore your options for seeking confidential support, reporting concerns and learning skills for helping others. If something seems off, it probably is—don't ignore it.

Mandatory reporting policy

All university employees who have the authority to hire, promote, discipline, evaluate, grade, formally advise or direct faculty, staff or students are considered "responsible employees" and are required to report alleged misconduct to the Office of Institutional Equity and Compliance (OIEC). This includes, but is not limited to resident advisors, teaching assistants, professors, graduate instructors, academic advisors, coaches or other university employees with supervisory authority.

Any sexual misconduct, intimate partner abuse (including dating and domestic violence), stalking, protected-class discrimination or harassment, or related retaliation disclosed to a responsible employee must be reported to the OIEC. The person impacted has the choice about whether and how they want to proceed. Reporting is required to help ensure that people understand their rights and options.

 Note: Confidential campus resources are exempt from CU Boulder’s mandatory reporting policy, including the Office of Victim Assistance (OVA), Counseling and Psychiatric Services (CAPS), Faculty and Staff Assistance Program (FSAP) and Ombuds.

Learn more about mandatory reporting