Sexual assault is sexual contact by one person against another without consent. The law defines consent as positive cooperation in act or attitude pursuant to an exercise of free will. Consent may not be inferred from silence or passivity. A current or previous relationship does not constitute consent. The most recent national study by the Justice Department found that the number of incidents in which female college students were sexually assaulted occurred at a rate of 35.3 incidents per 1,000. The survey defined sexual assault as completed or attempted rape, threats of rape, sexual coercion, unwanted sexual contact with force or the threat of force, and stalking. Among the report’s findings are that nearly sixty percent of the rapes on campuses took place in the victims’ residences. Fewer than five percent of rapes and attempted rapes were reported to law enforcement officials. Sexual assaults are predominantly committed by men against women. However, men can be assaulted by women and same-sex assaults do occur. The majorities of assaults are committed by an acquaintance of the victim and involve the use of alcohol by one or both persons. Incidents of sexual assault are against the law or University policy.
When you become aware that a student has experienced a sexual assault or has been the recipient of inappropriate and/or unwelcome physical contact:
- Believe what the student is telling you.
- Be supportive, and don’t overreact.
- Be aware that when a student discloses information about an assault to you, s/he is demonstrating trust in you and the desire for help.
- Be aware that victims can feel shame and anger towards themselves. Listen without conveying judgment, reinforce that the assault is not their fault.
- When possible, speak to the student in private or a location the student feels comfortable.
- Refer the student to Counseling Services (906) 487-2538
- Encourage the student to talk with a trained DIAL Help crisis specialist by phone (888) 661-5589
- Refer the student to the Public Safety and Police Services (906) 487-2216 if the student wants to make a police report.
- Report incidents to the Title IX coordinator. Reports may be made anonymously.
- Minimize the situation.
- Convey negative judgment even when high-risk behavior such as intoxication is involved.
- Try to persuade the student to make a police report.
- Tell other staff members about the incident except for those who need to know.
This page was adapted with permission from material developed by the University of California, Santa Barbara.