Sexual Assault and Exploitation (Rainn)

Sexual violence (which includes sexual assault and exploitation) on campus is pervasive.

  • Among undergraduate students, 23.1% of females and 5.4% of males experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence, or incapacitation.
  • 4.2% of students have experienced stalking since entering college.
  • 21% of TGQN (transgender, genderqueer, nonconforming) college students have been sexually assaulted, compared to 18% of non-TGQN females, and 4% of non-TGQN males.

Sexual Violence May Occur at a Higher Rate at Certain Times of the Year

  • More than 50% of college sexual assaults occur in either August, September, October, or November.
  • Students are at an increased risk during the first few months of their first and second semesters in college.

Sexual Assault is any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without consent.

This includes: 

  • Non-Consensual Sexual Contact: 
    • any intentional sexual touching, 
    • however slight, 
    • with any object, 
    • by a person upon another person, 
    • that is without consent and/or by force. 
    • Intentional contact with the breasts, buttock, groin, or genitals, or touching another with any of these body parts, or making another touch you or themselves with or on any of these body parts. 
    • Any other intentional bodily contact in a sexual manner.    
  • Non-Consensual Sexual Intercourse is:   
    • Any sexual penetration of vagina or anus with any object 
    • Any oral contact between mouth and genitals 
    • however slight, 
    • by a person upon another person, 
    • that is without consent and/or by force. 


  • is clear, knowing and voluntary permission given prior to and during the interaction. Consent can be given by word or action, but non-verbal consent is not as clear as talking about what you want and what you don’t.  
  • Consent to some form of interaction cannot be automatically taken as consent to any other form.  
  • Previous consent does not imply consent in the future.  
  • Silence or passivity — without actions demonstrating permission — cannot be assumed to show consent.  
  • Consent, once given, can be withdrawn at any time. There must be a clear indication that consent is being withdrawn. 
  • Under this policy, “No” always means “No.”. Anything but a clear, knowing and voluntary consent to any interaction is equivalent to a “no.” 
  • Individuals who consent to interaction must be able to understand what they are doing. When alcohol or other drugs are being used, a person will be considered unable to give valid consent if they cannot fully understand the details of an interaction including a sexual interaction (who, what, when, where, why, or how) because they lack the capacity to reasonably understand the situation. 
  • Use of alcohol or other drugs by any of the parties should not function to excuse any behavior that violates this policy 

Sexual Exploitation 

Sexual exploitation occurs when one person takes non-consensual or abusive sexual advantage of another for their own advantage Examples of sexual exploitation include, but are not limited to: 

  • Invasion of sexual privacy; 
  • Dissemination of intimate images (i.e. revenge porn) 
  • Taking sexualized photographs without permission 
  • Prostituting another person; 
  • Non-consensual digital, video, or audio recording of nudity or sexual activity; 
  • Unauthorized sharing or distribution of digital, video, or audio recording of nudity or sexual activity; 
  • Engaging in voyeurism; 
  • Going beyond the boundaries of consent (such as allowing someone to hide in the closet to watch consensual sex); 
  • Knowingly exposing someone to or transmitting an STI, STD or HIV to another person; DO we need to include something about COVID as it is now thought to be transmitted through sexual activity?
  • Intentionally or recklessly exposing one’s genitals in non-consensual circumstances; inducing another to expose their genitals; 
  • Sexually-based stalking and/or bullying may also be forms of sexual exploitation 

Dating Violence and Domestic Violence

Domestic Violence can occur between any current or former partners. Partners could be or have been married, living together, in a romantic relationship, or have a child together. 

Dating Violence can occur within a romantic relationship, no matter the length or degree of intimacy. 

Domestic Violence and Dating Violence are both defined as a pattern of abusive behavior in a relationship that is used by one partner to maintain power and control over another current or former intimate partner.   This includes any behavior that intimidates, manipulates, humiliates, isolates, frightens, terrorizes, coerces, threatens, hurts, injures, or wounds someone.  

Domestic Violence and Dating Violence tend to escalate in frequency and severity over time. A person tends to not be abusive continuously; rather, it often happens in a cycle where tension builds, an incident can occur, and then a honeymoon phase may exist.  

Infographic detailing abuse cycle including incident, making-up, calm, and tension building.

Types of Abuse

Domestic violence can be physical, sexual, psychological and emotional, economic and academic, or digital actions or threats of actions that influence another person. Physical abuse does not need to be present for a relationship to be abusive. In an unhealthy and abusive relationship, the types of abuse contribute to one person’s world getting larger while the other partner’s world continues to become smaller.

  • Physical Abuse:
    • hitting, grabbing, pushing, punching, pinning someone down 
    • attempting to strangle or choke, 
    • throwing objects and punching walls 
    • threats of using physical force against you or loved ones.
  • Psychological and emotional abuse:  
    • isolating a person from family and friends (through monitoring whereabouts, causing rifts, using excessive jealousy),  
    • making a person feel bad about themselves,  
    • humiliating someone,  
    • gaslighting – changing the way someone thinks about themself 
    • making someone feel guilty,  
    • constant criticism and put downs, 
  • controlling thr way one dresses, who one sees and where one goes, 
    • threatening to take children away for leaving the relationship. 
    • Threatening to expose your secrets such as your sexual orientation or immigration status.
    • Threatening to commit suicide to keep you from breaking up with them.
    • Threatening to harm you, your pet or people you care about.
  • Economic abuse:    
    • Controlling your finances 
    • Maxing credit cards
    • Driving your credit down
    • Giving you presents and/or paying for things like dinner and expecting you to somehow return the favor
  • Academic abuse:
    • Preventing you from studying or completing assignments
    • Belittling or making you feel bad about your academic choices or performance
    • Pressuring you to spend time with them rather than on your education
  • Sexual abuse:  
    • manipulating one to engage in sexual activity through guilt, lies, and pressure,  
    • forcing or intimidating someone to have sexual relations,  
    • tampering with contraception,  
    • making a person feel bad about themselves sexually and their sexual decisions.   
  • Digital abuse: 
    • Using of technology, such as smartphones, the internet, or social media to intimate, harass, threaten, or isolate a victim. 
    • Tracking where someone goes through their phones and social media posts 
    • Spreading rumors over social media
    • Constantly attempting to contact you 
    • Derogatory comments to your posts 
    • Sends you unwanted, explicit pictures and/or pressures you to send explicit video or sexts
    • Uses any kind of technology to monitor you
    • Uses your phone or social media to check up on you

Safety Planning

(Adapted from: “Stalking Safety Strategies,” SPARC)

A safety plan is a personalized tool that can help you stay safe if you are or have experienced stalking, dating violence, domestic violence, and sexual assault. A specialist from Women’s Center & Shelter or PAAR can help you devise your own plan. Some aspects to consider are the following:

  • Trust your instincts – do not doubt yourself.
  • If you are experiencing domestic or dating violence and continue to be in the relationship, consider the following safety strategies:
    • If an incident occurs, where could you go? What would be the best way to get there?
    • If you are worried that an incident may occur, can a trusted person check in on you? Do you have a codeword you can use to indicate you are in trouble?
    • Do you feel you need to pack a bag with important documents, money, medications, etc. in case you need to leave? If so, where can you safely store it?
    • Do you have a safety app that can help you?
    • Is there a safe way you can reach out to a service organization?
    • Can you adjust privacy settings on your devices to ensure you are not being tracked through GPS or Spyware?
  • If you are experiencing stalking, have ended a relationship and are concerned about your safety, or have been sexually assaulted and are concerned about your safety, consider the following:
    • Do you need to cut off contact with the person? Is it practical for you to cut off contact with the person?
      • Remember that any contact, even negative contact, can be misinterpreted as encouragement.
      • Do you feel you need one conversation to make it clear that you do not want any contact? If that is the case, consider making it brief and not leaving it open for discussion. For example, “Do not call, stop by, text, or contact me in any way whatsoever.” or “I am ending this relationship. I am not going to change my mind. Do not contact me again. I do not want to have any communication with you, in any form. If you try to contact me, I will call the police/take legal action.”
      • Sometimes, it may not be possible to cut off all contact. In these cases, consider consulting a professional to help you be safe.
  • Sometimes, a person may use third parties to keep in contact with you. In these cases, consider asking those people not to relay any information back to the individual, even in causal conversation.
  • Social Media can play a role in continuing to cause harm to an individual who has experienced or is experiencing sexual assault, domestic and dating violence, or stalking. Consider:
    • Do you need to block the person on social messaging?
    • Would it be safer if you avoided tagging yourself or identifying your location on social media?
    • Can you ask your friends to not post details about your life or tagging you on their pages?
    • Have you turned off location tracker on your apps?
  • Can you adjust privacy settings on your devices to ensure you are not being tracked through GPS or Spyware?
  • Should you do an internet search on yourself to ensure that rumors, photos, etc. are not being posted?
  • Are you concerned you have been hacked? Do you need to update passwords and change security questions? Do you need a new device?
  • If you have a protection order, keep a copy with you. Also, provide Carlow Police and Student Affairs with a copy.
  • Do you think you are being followed? Would it help to vary your daily routes, method of transportation, or your routine? Can you have someone walk you to your car or the bus?
  • Would you feel safer telling friends and family where you are going?
  • Can you tell friends and family what they should do if they are contacted by the person?
  • Who should you inform about the problem (neighbors/building manager/school officials/Carlow police)? Can you provide these people with a photo or license plate number and notify you if they see the person?
  • No matter your relationship with the person harming you, it can be a good idea to keep a record of incidents that have occurred, even if you do not plan on contacting the police. This can enable you to identify patterns in behavior. It can also be helpful if you need to obtain a protection order to keep the person away from you, if you file a complaint with the school, or if you may face child custody issues. You can do the following:
    • Keep a journal that specifies what happened and the date/time/location. Journal anything that bothers you, big or small.
    • Keep text messages, phone records, screen shots of social media posts.
    • Tell someone you trust

Red Flags

There is no one typical, detectable personality of an abuser. However, they do often display common characteristics.

  • An abuser often denies the existence or minimizes the seriousness of the violence and its effect on the victim and other family members.
  • An abuser objectifies the victim and often sees them as their property or sexual objects.
  • An abuser has low self-esteem and feels powerless and ineffective in the world. He or she may appear successful, but internally, they feel inadequate.
  • An abuser externalizes the causes of their behavior. They blame their violence on circumstances such as stress, their partner’s behavior, a “bad day,” on alcohol, drugs, or other factors.
  • An abuser may be pleasant and charming between periods of violence and is often seen as a “nice person” to others outside the relationship.
  • Sense of entitlement: feels he/she has the right to dictate your behavior, privileges, or responses and opinions.
  • Believes in stereotypical ideas about roles of women and men in relationships.

Power and Control Wheel

Abuse is a pattern of behavior that allows one person in a relationship to gain power and control over the other. 

Power and control wheel infographic. The details of this image are included in the text below.


This wheel describes the way social privilege can be used to control someone. In this case, the wheel illustrates male privilege, because, in a male/female relationship, stereotypical ideas of the roles of women and men can be used to control someone. Females, too, can use stereotypes about men to control them. For instance, they can put down their partner for not being a ‘real man’. 

LGBTQ+ Relationships

In LGBTQ+ relationships heterosexual privilege and homophobia can be used to control partners. Behaviors can include threatening to out someone; blaming one’s own violence on oppression; exploiting partner’s insecurities about transitioning; using anti-LGBTQ+ remarks to put them down. 

Immigrant Relationships

Immigrants can face unique challenges in our society, and these challenges can be exploited in abusive relationships. Immigrants may already be separated from loved ones geographically, which can make it easier to isolate them. Language barriers can be exploited to further isolation. If one does not have an American driver’s license, they may become more dependent on a person who is abusive. An abusive behavior may include hiding or stealing one’s Greencard or passport or threatening to call immigration on someone. 

Women of Color

Oppression is the systemic mistreatment of a defined group of people that is reinforced by society. This system of advantage enables privileged groups to exert control over targeted groups by limiting their rights, freedom, and access to necessary resources and social power.

Some examples of the effect of state intervention on abused women of color include:

  1. The arrest of those very same women for experiencing relationship abuse, even when they were using self-defense
  2. Unwarranted removal by the state of children from women who have been abused
  3. Prosecution of battered women involved in criminal conduct (which is often part of the abuse by the abusive partner)

Source: Sokoloff (2005) Examining the Intersections of Race, Class & Gender


The effects of experiencing sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence, and stalking can be wide-ranging.

They can include, but are not limited to:

  • difficulty concentrating
  • difficulty sleeping
  • nightmares
  • feeling like you are reliving the experience
  • chronic pain
  • headaches
  • feeling ‘jumpy’ or anxious
  • feeling numb
  • low energy
  • stomach problems
  • feeling irritable
  • losing interest in things you valued

These effects can be short-term or long-term.
Getting support can help minimize the impact of SADDVS. Several free and confidential resources are available with links and information provided under Get Help & Support.


Stalking is pattern of repeated and unwanted attention, harassment, contact, or any other course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear.  

Stalking can include: 

  • Repeated and unwanted attempts to contact an individual through text or voice message, email or social media. This can include attempts to contact an individual through a third-party. 
  • Repeatedly following or watching an individual 
  • Repeatedly appearing at one’s home, friends, classes and other venues to attempt to interact with the person 
  • Frightening communications,  
  • Direct or indirect threats. 
  • Harassment through the internet. 

Stalking is dangerous and can often cause severe and long-lasting emotional and psychological harm to victims.  Stalking often escalates over time. Stalking can occur with domestic violence. When stalking occurs in domestic violence, it can increase the risk of homicide.  Stalking can lead to sexual assault and even homicide.  

Additional resources, facts and statistics

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