Sexual violence is defined as a sexual act that is committed or attempted by another person without freely given consent of the victim or against someone who is unable to consent or refuse.
It includes: forced or alcohol/ drug facilitated penetration of a victim; forced or alcohol/drug facilitated incidents in which the victim was made to penetrate a perpetrator or someone else; non-physically pressured unwanted penetration; intentional sexual touching; or non-contact acts of a sexual nature. Sexual violence can also occur when a perpetrator forces or coerces a victim to engage in sexual acts with a third party.
Sexual violence involves a lack of freely given consent as well as situations in which the victim is unable to consent or refuse:
Words or overt actions by a person who is legally or functionally competent to give informed approval, indicating a freely given agreement to have sexual intercourse or sexual contact.
Inability to Consent
A freely given agreement to have sexual intercourse or sexual contact could not occur because of the victim’s age, illness, mental or physical disability, being asleep or unconscious, or being too intoxicated (e.g., incapacitation, lack of consciousness, or lack of awareness) through their voluntary or involuntary use of alcohol or drugs.
Inability to Refuse
Disagreement to engage in a sexual act was precluded because of the use or possession of guns or other non-bodily weapons, or due to physical violence, threats of physical violence, intimidation or pressure, or misuse of authority.
Sexual violence is divided into the following types:
- Completed or attempted forced penetration of a victim
- Completed or attempted alcohol/drug-facilitated penetration of a victim
- Completed or attempted forced acts in which a victim is made to penetrate a perpetrator or someone else
- Completed or attempted alcohol/drug-facilitated acts in which a victim is made to penetrate a perpetrator or someone else
- Non-physically forced penetration which occurs after a person is pressured verbally or through intimidation or misuse of authority to consent or acquiesce
- Unwanted sexual contact
- Non-contact unwanted sexual experiences (ie filming, photographing, pornography)
Methods used by the perpetrator to coerce someone to engage in or be exposed to a sexual act. The following are tactics used to perpetrate SV (this is not an exhaustive list):
- Use or threat of physical force toward a victim in order to gain the victim’s compliance with a sexual act (e.g., pinning the victim down, assaulting the victim)
- Administering alcohol or drugs to a victim in order to gain the victim’s compliance with a sexual act (e.g., drink spiking)
- Taking advantage of a victim who is unable to provide consent due to intoxication or incapacitation from voluntary consumption of alcohol, recreational drugs, or medication
- Exploitation of vulnerability (e.g., immigration status, disability, undisclosed sexual orientation, age)
- Misuse of authority (e.g., using one’s position of power to coerce or force a person to engage in sexual activity)
- Economic coercion, such as bartering of sex for basic goods, like housing, employment/wages, immigration papers, or childcare
- Degradation, such as insulting or humiliating a victim
- Fraud, such as lies or misrepresentation of the perpetrator’s identity
- Continual verbal pressure, such as when the victim is being worn down by someone who repeatedly asks for sex or, for example, by someone who complains that the victim doesn’t love them enough
- False promises by the perpetrator (e.g., promising marriage, promising to stay in the relationship, etc.)
- Nonphysical threats such as threats to end a relationship or spread rumors
- Grooming and other tactics to gain a child’s trust
- Control of a person’s sexual behavior/sexuality through threats, reprisals, threat to transmit STD’s, threat to force pregnancy, etc.
*Content Source: Center for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Division of Violence Prevention
Content source last updated: May 3, 2016