Sexual assault is any sexual activity that is perpetrated against someone's will or without explicit consent of the individual. Sexual assaults are crimes under Virginia law and can be prosecuted regardless of the relationship (boyfriend/girlfriend, husband/wife, parent/child, etc.) between the victim and the perpetrator.
Some behaviors that are considered sexual assault include:
- Non-contact sexual offenses are unwanted or non-consensual sexual behaviors that do not involve touch, such as threats of sexual assault, exposing someone to or creating pornography, taking nonconsensual sexual photography or exposing someone to nudity.
- Sexual harassment encompasses any unwanted or unwelcome sexual advances or obscene remarks in the workplace or other professional or social situations such as the school setting.
- Sexual battery is non-consensual touching, without penetration, of the intimate parts of another.
- Rape includes any sexual intercourse or completed penetration of the vagina, anus or mouth through psychological coercion, intimidation, force or the victim’s inability to consent. Any efforts to commit these acts are considered attempted rape.
Sexual assault lacks the explicit consent of all parties involved in a sexual relationship. Consent is a voluntary and sober agreement to engage in every step of a sexual activity. The absence of a verbal “no” does not indicate consent. If consent is not present then a sexual assault has been committed. Consent can be withheld at any point and must be given for each act along the path. Individuals who are intoxicated cannot give consent. Even if permission to have sexual activity is gained through force, an imbalance of power, use of coercion, the threat of violence or is perpetrated against someone who is not able to give consent, because that individual is sleep, incapacitated, unconscious, legally intoxicated or a minor, consent is not actually given.
Anyone can be a victim of sexual assault. One in 4 adult women and 1 in 9 adult men have experienced sexual assault in their lifetime.1 Most female victims of completed rape experienced their first rape before the age of 25, while over 40% experienced their first completed rape before the age of 18.2 Many college-aged individuals may have already been victimized before beginning higher education years. On college campuses the rates of sexual assault may be shocking to some. One in 5 women will be sexually assaulted in her college career.3
1 Black, M.C., Basile, K.C., Breiding, M.J., Smith, S.G., Walters, M.L., Merrick, M.T., Chen, J., & Stevens, M.R. (2011). The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS): 2010 Summary Report. Atlanta, GA: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, 19. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/ViolencePrevention/pdf/NISVS_Report2010-a.pdf.
2 Ibid., 2.
What can you do if you or someone you know is a victim of sexual assault?
- It is important to seek support to understand what your options are and talk about how the incident(s) impacted you. Contact NOVA’s Sexual Assault Services (SAS) by calling or texting 703.338.0834 (24 hours a day) or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Being violated sexually is a crime and against NOVA student conduct policy. For more information on NOVA’s obligation under Title IX to address instances of sexual misconduct, see the Title IX Policy on Sexual Violence, Domestic Violence, Dating Violence, and Stalking.
- You have the right to file a police report or to file a complaint with your Dean of Student’s office or the Title IX Coordinator.
- In case of an emergency, first call 911 or notify campus police at 703.764.5000.
If you are a victim of sexual assault, know that the abuse is never your fault and there are resources available to you.