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Sexual violence is a public health, social justice, and safety issue for individuals and communities. We encourage you to expand your knowledge about sexual violence, relationship violence, sexual harassment and stalking by critically thinking about the foundational causes of these issues. The following web pages provide relevant information on how to build a safer community, take responsibility for yourself and others, and respond appropriately to those harmed. Education is critical. Knowledge empowers individuals and communities to change.
Sexual violence exists on a continuum and encompasses a wide range of beliefs, words, behaviors, and actions. While many of the behaviors at the beginning of the continuum may not be against our Code of Conduct, it is important to recognize that they are interconnected to each other and create a culture where violence is often excused, normalized, and even tolerated. Sexual violence prevention is a community effort and everyday actions make a difference. By addressing items on the beginning of the continuum we can contribute to reducing interpersonal violence in our society. Trauma is subjective to the perception of the person who experiences it, and each of these behaviors will impact individuals differently based on their identities and past experiences.
A set of often unspoken expectations of appropriate and inappropriate sexual behavior within a specific group or society at large. These social norms are reinforced by culture, policies, leaders, and other influential people. Examples of social norms about sexual behavior include making assumptions about someone’s sexual behavior based on their age, gender identity, sexual orientation, or other pieces of their identity. An individual’s perception of social norms largely influence behavior. For example, the misperception that college students are very sexually active can lead to students feeling pressure to engage in sexual activity before they are ready.
Tolerating, excusing, or making light of sexual violence through our language. This includes common phrases that describe sex like a sport such as “hit that, smashing, screwing, scoring”. Rape supportive language also includes jokes about sexual violence such as, “That test raped me.” Rape supportive language and jokes are sexual violence because they trivialize the issue and normalize sexually violent behavior for society at large.
Stating that someone who exhibits any of these sexually violent behaviors is “just kidding” or using the phrase “boys will be boys” to excuse sexually violent behavior, or in any way insinuating that the person who perpetrated the sexually violent behavior is not responsible for their action, is sexual violence. Excusing this type of behavior downplays the severity of the violent act and can alter the way that the victim perceives their own experience.
Any statement that explicitly says or insinuates that a victim of a sexually violent behavior was somehow at fault for that experience. This includes questions like “What were they wearing?” “Were they drinking?” and “Why didn’t they leave?”. This is a sexually violent behavior because it alters the victim’s perception of their experience and normalizes the behavior for society at large.
Whistles, shouts, or comments of a sexual nature to a person passing by. These kinds of comments create an unsafe environment for the victims, creating fear. Cat calls should not be written off as flirting, as this normalizes the idea that it is acceptable to behave this way towards another person or group of people.
Invasion of space is placing oneself too closely to another person during personal communication, in public spaces, and when sharing space with another person such as a roommate situation. By invading someone’s personal space power is being exerted over another person, potentially creating an unsafe environment. Survivors of sexual and relationship violence may be re-traumatized by an event of invasion of space. It is important to understand cultural differences when interacting with other people to ensure those around you feel safe and comfortable
The Arizona Board of Regents defines sexual harassment as harassment, whether between individuals of the same or different sex, which includes unwelcome behavior or conduct of a sexual nature (including unwelcome sexual activity) that is made, either explicitly or implicitly, a condition of an individual’s education, employment, or participation in university-sponsored programs or activities or the submission to or rejection of such behavior or conduct is a factor in decisions affecting that individual’s education, employment, or participation in university-sponsored programs or activities. Sexual harassment is also unwelcome behavior or conduct of a sexual nature (including unwelcome sexual advances or activity), which is sufficiently severe or pervasive as to create an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment for academic pursuits, employment, or participation in university-sponsored programs or activities.
According to ASU’s Code of Conduct, stalking means engaging in a course of conduct that is directed towards another person if that conduct would cause a reasonable personal to suffer substantial emotional distress or fear for the person’s safety or the safety of that person’s immediate family member or close acquaintance, and that the person in fact fears for their safety. Stalking may take the form of texting, messaging, calling, following, watching, dropping by the home, or showing up at work or social outings of the victim repeatedly without invitation, even after being asked to stop.
A pattern of behavior used to gain power and control over an intimate partner. Relationship violence is not always physical, it can also be emotional, financial and sexual. Relationship violence often escalates over time and one instance of abuse could be a sign of a larger pattern of power and control within the relationship. Major red flags of relationship violence include the presence of fear, blame, threats and isolation.
Sexual violence includes attempted or actual physical sexual acts perpetrated against a person’s will or where a person is incapable of giving consent due to the use of drugs or alcohol, due to an intellectual or other disability, or due to age is also a form of sexual harassment. This can include rape, sexual assault, sexual battery, sexual coercion, domestic and dating violence and stalking.
ASU uses the term “sexual misconduct,” defined by the Arizona Board of Regents as sexual violence and other non-consensual sexual contact, sexual harassment, other unwanted or non-consensual sexual conduct. In the context of sexual activity, ASU defines consent as informed and freely given words or actions that indicate a willingness to participate in a mutually agreed upon sexual activity. ASU’s Non-Discrimination, Anti-Harassment and Non-Retaliation policy lists the full definition of consent and more information about what is defined as sexual misconduct.
Community Education and Prevention Sexual & Relationship Violence Program | Sexual Violence Awareness, Prevention and Response (asu.edu)