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

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 you met 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, like drinking alcohol or dressing or behaving in 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.

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.

It’s important to establish consent before you hook up. This gives us the opportunity to set personal boundaries and respect the boundaries of others.

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 intercourse, including vaginal, anal or oral sex
  • Unwanted penetration, including penetration by an object or another person’s body part
  • Unwanted sexual touching, groping or fondling
  • Unwanted or coerced sexual contact

Keep in mind that sexual assault can also include attempted assault using any of the methods listed above. Additional forms of sexual misconduct include intimate partner abuse, dating violence, stalking and sexual harassment.

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, 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.

Ask an Advocate

Sexual assault is 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 environment. Here are some ways that you can help prevent sexual assault on campus:

Make a plan. If you’re going out to a party or gathering, go with people you know and trust. Watch out for each other and plan to stick together. If plans change, talk about it as a group. Never leave someone behind in an unfamiliar situation or with unfamiliar people, especially if they are intoxicated.

Trust your instincts. If something feels weird or wrong, it probably is. If you ever feel uncomfortable or unsafe in a situation, follow your gut. Have a shared code word, sign or text emoji that means "get me out of this situation", so friends can help. It’s okay to say that you don’t feel well, have plans in the morning or a test you need to study for to get out of an unsafe situation.

Know what you’re drinking. You can’t always know if someone has added something to your drink, so if in doubt, throw it out. At parties, high-proof alcohol mixed with sweet punch or juice might be served to increase the likelihood that partygoers will become intoxicated. It’s common for perpetrators of sexual assault to encourage alcohol consumption or target victims who are are intoxicated. It’s also important to check in with a friend if you experience any sudden changes (e.g. blurry vision, difficulty standing, etc.) or feel like you’ve had too much to drink.

Be an effective bystander. If you see someone in a potentially harmful 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 more about bystander strategies you can use to interrupt problematic situations and ensure everyone makes it home safely.

Support is available

If you or someone you know has experienced sexual assault, there are support resources avialable 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.

Learn more about mandatory reporting