Education and Information

Terms and Definitions

Sexual Violence is defined as any form of unwanted, unwelcome, forceful or coercive sexual contact, or any sexual contact that lacks consent. Different terms are used to define these behaviors including: rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment and sexual abuse. Sexual violence may be perpetrated by anyone; stranger, intimate partner, family member, acquaintance, friend, etc.

Consent means giving active permission for any and all sexual acts. Consent must be freely given, ongoing, specific to each act, reversible and informed. Consent is not present within a relationship in which there is an imbalance of power.

Consent is Tea-  The Consent Is Tea video walks you through the question, “How can I know if they’re giving consent?”

Dating Violence is defined as a pattern of controlling or coercive behavior by one individual to maintain power and control over another in an intimate relationship. It can be physical, emotional, sexual, economic, or mental. It includes the use of intimidation, threats and isolating behaviors. Technology can play a role in dating or domestic violence as well. If there is no intervention, the violence or abuse may escalate over time, both in frequency and severity.


Stalking is defined as any course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to be fearful of serious harm or danger to themselves or those close to them. This can include excessive contact or messaging on social media despite efforts to make the person stop, following, manipulation, vandalism and threats. Stalking can be done by a stranger, but is most commonly done by a former or current partner.

Sexual Harassment is unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct/communication of as sexual nature, when doing so is made a condition of someone’s educational or work status. It often creates a hostile, demeaning, intimidating work/educational environment. This can come from anyone, though is often seen from a person in a position of authority.


What Does an Unhealthy Relationship Look Like?

A healthy relationship is one in which both partners have mutual respect, control over decision making, encourage one another, display compromise and have trust in one another.

An unhealthy relationship may look like that too, at times. It’s difficult to decide when a relationship is unhealthy, but a good guide may be family and friends. Often they recognize red flags long before the person within the relationship can spot them. If multiple members are cautioning about time spent with a partner, or expressing fears or doubts, be as open as possible to understanding why they have those feelings.

When one partner holds most of or all the control within a relationship, it is considered unhealthy. Unhealthy behaviors can include:

  • Extreme jealousy
  • Name calling, put downs and dismissing the partner’s feelings
  • Forcing one partner to check-in, or demanding to have access to partner’s private information (phone, social media accounts, etc)
  • Dependence on one partner
  • Making threats to harm self, partner or others
  • Hostility; aggressive body language, threatening looks
  • Physical violence
  • Sexual violence (includes unwanted penetration, guilting a partner into sex)
  • Withholding affection or sex as a form of punishment or retaliation

It is still partner violence even if both partners are abusive to each other. Sometimes there is not one clear person at fault. At different times, both parties may feel victimized and hurt by their partner. Unhealthy relationships often escalate. Rarely do they ever recover and repair themselves without intervention, or without one partner leaving. If you’re feeling concerned about yourself, a friend or a loved one, reach out to VPVA to talk about options, resources and safety planning. To learn more information on safety planning, Click Here.


What Does Sexual Violence Look Like?

Consent is mandatory during sexual activity. If consent is not present during a sexual act, it can be considered sexual assault. Consent may not be given if:

  • One or both parties is underage
  • There is an imbalance of power; the perpetrator is in a supervisory relationship
  • The perpetrator is a family member
  • The survivor was under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or was otherwise incapacitated
  • The survivor was asleep
  • The survivor was cognitively impaired and did not understand what they were consenting to
  • One party was coerced, pressured or gave in due to fear/threats

Sexual violence can come in many forms. It affects people regardless of age, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, socioeconomic status, religion or race. The following are some examples of sexual assault:

  • Fondling or unwanted sexual touching
  • Forcing a victim to perform sexual acts (ex: oral sex) on the perpetrator
  • Forced sexual acts (ex: oral sex) on the victim
  • Forced exposure to pornography or sexual acts
  • Attempted penetration with a body part or object
  • Penetration with a body part or object


Stats and Facts


For more statistics on Sexual Violence, visit RAINN.

For more statistics on Domestic Violence, visit NCADV.