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
The reality is that 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. This often contradicts what we believe and can make it more difficult to recognize an experience as assault.
It’s important to know that sexual assault can happen to anyone, regardless of age, race, gender identity or sexual orientation. However, it disproportionately affects women, bisexual and transgender people, and young adults.
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 other behaviors). This misperception is often based on social stigma that blames the targets of abuse. The reality is that some people choose to exert their will over others and operate from a sense of entitlement to someone else's 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:
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.
5. Support is available
Resources are available for students who have experienced sexual assault, who want to support friends and survivors, or who to learn more about sexual assault prevention. Students often reach out to friends or family members when something bad happens. Having the skills to respond effectively without blame or judgment is important to keep in mind. Learn more skills for supporting your friends through the aftermath of a traumatic event.
Here are some of the resources available to support survivors and friends at CU Boulder:
OVA provides free and confidential information, consultation, support, advocacy and short-term, trauma-focused counseling services for students, grad students, faculty and staff who have experienced a traumatic, disturbing or life-disruptive event.
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.
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.
Traumatic experiences happen every day and the CU Boulder community is not exempt. Friends, family, and mentors are often the first to be told about these experiences. How one responds matters as it can impact healing, as well as whether the survivors will seek additional support.