You are responsible for your own body, just as everyone else is for theirs. Unfortunately, almost every day, there are instances of rape, sexual violence, and harassment on college campuses. Campus rape statistics vary depending on the study, but they may not be accurate anyway; not all survivors decide to file a report. It is estimated that one in every four women will survive a sexual assault by college graduation. The statistics vary for other victims, but sadly, sexual assault affects men, transgender individuals, and nonbinary, intersex, and gender-nonconforming people as well.

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What is sexual assault?

Any nonconsensual sexual experience is a sexual assault. These experiences could include rape or any other form of unwanted penetration. Molestation, unwanted touching, and unwanted kissing are other forms of sexual assault.

Why is consent important?

Consent affects everyone, whether they are sexually active or abstinent, married or single, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation.

Consensual sex and sexual assault are not the same. Consensual sex is voluntary; sexual assault is not. Consent is important—whether you say yes or no—because it draws the boundaries between sex and assault. Giving or refusing consent is also empowering. It gives people the agency to say no or to say yes. This is equally important for people who are sexually active and for people who are not.

What if a partner is pressuring me into doing something I’m not comfortable doing?

If something does not feel right, you can say no. There is no reason to feel ashamed of turning down a sexual experience. Say no calmly and firmly. Your partner should always listen to your needs and respect your wishes.

How does alcohol affect consent?

Alcohol is often called “liquid courage” or “social lubricant.” It can increase confidence, but it can also impair judgment and perception. If you have been drinking, regardless of how much, your judgment and decision-making processes are impaired. You may experience the “beer goggles” phenomenon, in which you perceive people differently than they appear in a sober environment. Typically you see them as more attractive the more alcohol you consume.

People under the influence of alcohol (and/or drugs) cannot consent. Some institutions and states have policies and laws that reinforce this. If a drunk person tries to initiate sexual contact, this individual may have a harder time understanding whether the other party gave consent. Regardless of whether you are trying to initiate contact or on the receiving end, “no” means no, silence means no, and hesitation generally means no.

What is acquaintance or date rape?

Occasionally, some people realize that their partners, friends, or significant others are not respecting their wishes. Acquaintance or date rape is a sexual assault perpetrated by someone that the victim knows or trusts. By most definitions, date rape is specifically perpetrated by a person who expects to have a sexual relationship with a romantic partner or significant other. Often, either alcohol or drugs are used to facilitate date rape.

Like all sexual assaults, acquaintance and date rapes are devastating. Those who suffer through these experiences are often left with conflicted feelings. They may not want to report the perpetrators, or they may feel guilty for ever having trusted them.

Are they any risk factors for date rape?

Date rape can happen to anyone, though you are at more risk if you’ve been drinking or doing drugs since your judgment is already impaired. Alcohol is the most common substance used to facilitate date rape. Drugs like Rohypnol, GHB, and ketamine may also be given to the victim to force compliance, reduce inhibitions, and prevent new memories from forming. The best way to avoid ingesting date rape drugs is to get or make (from containers that you open) all of your own drinks, not to accept drinks from people who you don’t know or trust, and to keep your drink with you at all times, even in the bathroom.

This Student Caffé blog post goes into further detail about date rape drugs, how to avoid them, and what to do if your drink has been compromised or you’ve ingested drugs accidentally.

What do I do if I have experienced a sexual assault of any kind?

Consent is essential to your health and safety. It keeps you in control of your body and encourages you to respect those around you. If you did not give your consent and think you may have experienced an assault, there are resources out there to help you. Your assault is never your fault. You may access counseling, medical services, or legal advocates before reporting the assault to your campus or local police department, if you so choose. You may also call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 800-656-HOPE (4673) to be redirected to a trained sexual assault service provider in your area.

How do I avoid a sexual assault?

In an ideal world, everyone would be respectful of each other’s wishes and bodies. Other people would respect you whenever you decided to say no. This is how it should be, but it doesn’t always happen that way.

Unfortunately, sexual assaults can happen to anyone (virgins, married people, men, children, the elderly, etc.), and they are relatively common on college campuses. There is no surefire way to avoid a sexual assault (it is just what it sounds like: an unwanted assault). That said, many media outlets and online forums practice something called victim-blaming, which suggests that victims could have prevented their assaults. This is a tragic and hurtful misconception that takes the blame away from the perpetrator of the attack. If you experience an assault, it is not your fault and you were not asking for it. You are not to blame for the way you dressed, the route you walked, or anything that happened to you while you were under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

How do I respect my partner?

You don’t want to be pressured, so it is easy to see why you wouldn’t want to pressure anyone else into any sexual activity. Ask questions and listen. If your partner says no or otherwise hesitates, stop the encounter immediately. Respect your partner and his or her choices. Treat your partner the way you would like to be treated.

Page last updated: 12/2016