University of Vermont

Sexual Assault

Sexual assault is any kind of unwanted sexual contact that is forced on another person without their consent.  When people think of sexual assault, they often associate it with “stranger rape.”  In fact, most cases of sexual assault involve assailants that are known to the victim, like a boyfriend, girlfriend, classmate, partner, neighbor, or “friend of a friend.” In 80 - 90% of cases involving completed or attempted rape, the victim and assailant know each other (December 2000 National Institute of Justice Report). 

Sexual assault does not have to involve intercourse.  Any type of unwanted sexual touching – like touching someone’s penis, vagina, breasts, or even making out with them – can be sexual assault if they didn’t give a clear sign that they wanted the contact.  Consent can be given verbally, but may also be shown through body language or other behaviors.

Consent has to be given freely; it can’t be coerced or forced.  Threatening, belittling, or badgering your partner into participating in sexual activity that s/he may not be comfortable with is not consent.

A Word on Alcohol

It’s really important to know that a person who is incapacitated by alcohol, drugs, or any other factor cannot give consent.  This means that if your partner or a person you want to have sex with is really drunk or has taken drugs, s/he probably cannot give consent, and having sex with him/her may result in you being charged with sexual assault or misconduct.  If you aren’t sure if your partner is able to give consent, or whether you received clear signals that s/he is consenting freely, don’t do it.  It’s not worth putting you or your partner at risk.  If the situation seems unclear, stop and make sure you both want the same thing.  It’s okay to wait until another time when you are both sober, drug free, and clear about what you want to do. 

Last modified February 19 2014 01:56 PM