No one is alone at UWO!
Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 protects individuals from discrimination based on sex in any educational program or activity operated by recipients receiving federal financial assistance. Sexual harassment, sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking are forms of sex discrimination prohibited by Title IX.
Sexual assault can be a difficult issue to discuss, but it is an issue that college campuses are facing across the nation. UWO has resources available to help you understand your responsibility as a member of the UWO community to treat others with respect and to develop healthy behaviors and relationship practices. These conversations are necessary if we are to build a sustainable community where all individuals are welcome and can safely pursue their personal, professional, and academic goals. See the Support page for immediate assistance.
What is Sexual Assault?
Consent & Sexual Assault
Sexual assault is intentional sexual contact with another person without that person’s permission or consent.
Consent. Words or overt actions by a person who is competent to give informed consent, indicating a freely given agreement to engage in sexual activity or other activity referenced in the definition of sexual assault and sexual exploitation. A person is unable to give consent if the person is incapacitated because of drugs, alcohol, physical or intellectual disability, or unconsciousness.
Intentional is defined as knowingly and/or recklessly engaging in sexual contact without an individual’s consent and does not include accidental contact.
Being intoxicated or incapacitated by drugs or alcohol is never an excuse for sexual misconduct in any form and does not negate intentional sexual contact without consent or diminish responsibility to obtain informed and freely given consent.
Incapacitation. The state of being unable to physically and/or mentally make informed rational judgments and effectively communicate, and may include unconsciousness, sleep, or blackouts, and may result from the use of alcohol or other drugs. Where alcohol or other drugs are involved, evaluation of incapacitation requires an assessment of how the consumption of alcohol and/or drugs affects a person’s decision-making ability; awareness of consequences; ability to make informed, rational judgments; and capacity to appreciate the nature and quality of the act; or level of consciousness. The assessment is based on objectively and reasonably apparent indications of incapacitation when viewed from the perspective of a sober, reasonable person.
Sexual contact includes the intentional contact with the intimate parts of another person’s body, causing another to touch the intimate parts of your body, or disrobing or exposing yourself to another without their permission. Intimate parts may include:
- Any other part of the body that is touched in a sexual manner.
Sexual contact also includes vaginal or anal penetration, however slight, with a body part (e.g., penis, tongue, finger, hand, etc.) or object, or oral penetration involving mouth-to-genital contact.
A good understanding of consent will help provide guidance on how to safely navigate sexual activity with others.
Practicing good consent improves the potential for pleasure and satisfaction for all parties and decreases the chances for sexual assault.
What Else is Sexual Assault?
Sexual assault can take many forms, some of which do not involve penetration or rape. It can range from unwanted sexual contact over the clothes, like touching someone’s butt or fondling their breasts.
Sexual assault can also take subtle forms. If a person uses authority, age, size, or status to coerce another into having sexual contact, sexual assault has occurred. The use of verbal or other threats, either real or implied, to coerce sexual activity is sexual assault.
Failure to stop sexual activity when someone asks for the behavior to stop is sexual assault.
Examples of Sexual Assault
Example 1: “I had quite a bit to drink at a party and came back to my room to sleep. Sometime later, another student who had earlier told me I had too much to drink came into my room, and while I was passed out, initiated sexual intercourse with me.”
- Consent requires clear communication and cannot be given by someone who is passed out (incapacitated). In this example, the student was passed out and unable to give consent. Under UWO policy, the student initiating sexual contact “should have known” that the receiving student was “under the influence of alcohol or drugs such that he/she/they could not give meaningful consent.”
Example 2: “After attending a student event, we walked back to my dorm. I kissed him good night and he asked to come in. I told him he could for a little while. We sat down on my bed and started kissing. Then he pressed me down and pushed up my skirt. I told him to stop, but he kept touching me. All the while he said, “I won’t do anything you don’t want. Relax–you’ll enjoy this.” When my roommate opened the door, he finally stopped.”
- In this example, the student clearly indicated a desire that the sexual touching stop. Though verbal refusal is not essential for an incident to be classified as sexual assault, it makes it clear that consent was not present.
Example 3: “She was a friend of mine from freshman year. We were both studying abroad in Europe and met up one weekend. I invited her to sleep on my floor, but she ended up in my bed and forced herself on me. Since then, I’ve felt hopeless and depressed. I don’t have fun with friends anymore, I can’t even get out of bed. I haven’t thought about my classes in weeks. What will I tell my parents?”
- It’s ok to seek help anytime. It may take weeks or months to process an incident. Support resources are available when you’re ready and sexual misconduct can be reported even if the incident didn’t happen at UWO. The UWO Sexual Violence & Sexual Harassment Policy follows students to any of their college-related programs or activities. See Policies page for more information.
How to Help
Call 911 if you or someone else needs immediate medical care for physical injuries.
It may be hard to know what to do when someone you care about tells you they have experienced sexual violence. The reaction of the first person a survivor discloses to can affect if they choose to tell others or seek additional resources. Remember to listen without judgement, acknowledge the difficulty of what they went through, and tell them that you care about them.
Listen. Many people in crisis feel as though no one understands them and that they are not taken seriously. Show them they matter by giving your undivided attention. It is hard for many survivors to disclose an assault, especially if they are not out yet and by disclosing would have to come out at the same time, so drop what you are doing and be there for them.
Validate their feelings. Avoid making overly positive statements like “It will get better” or trying to manage their emotions, like “Snap out of it” or “You shouldn’t feel so bad.” Make statements like “I believe you” or “That sounds like a really hard thing to go through.”
Express concern. Tell them in a direct way that you care about them by saying something like “I care about you” or “I am here for you.”
Use inclusive language. Rather than assuming someone’s gender identity or sexual orientation, use neutral language like “partner” or “date” instead of “boyfriend/girlfriend.” Do not assume what someone’s gender identity or preferred pronouns are; let them tell you, or you can ask what they prefer. You can always use “they” instead of “he/she” if you are unsure.
Do not ask about details of the assault. Even if you are curious about what happened and feel that you want to fully understand it, avoid asking for details of how the assault occurred. However, if a survivor chooses to share those details with you, try your best to listen in a supportive and non-judgmental way.
Help them get connected to resources. There are many resources for students at UWO. They may feel more comfortable talking with a confidential resource first or they may want to report right away. Confidential resources can be found on the Support page. You can find more information on reporting on the Report page.
Supportive Things to Say to a Survivor
“I believe you” and “It took a lot of courage to tell me about this.” It can be extremely difficult for survivors to come forward and share their story. They may feel ashamed, concerned that they won’t be believed, or worried they’ll be blamed. Be careful not to interpret calmness as a sign that the event did not occur—everyone responds to traumatic events differently. The best thing you can do is to believe them.
“It’s not your fault” and “You didn’t do anything to deserve this.” Survivors may blame themselves, especially if they know the perpetrator personally or were under the influence of alcohol or drugs when the assault occurred. Remind the survivor, maybe even more than once, that they are not to blame.
“You are not alone” and “I care about you and am here to listen or help in any way I can.” Let the survivor know that you are there for them and willing to listen to their story if they are comfortable sharing it and that you do not judge them for what happened. Ask them if there are others’ they also feel comfortable going to and let them know about the help that is available through the University or community.
“I’m sorry this happened” and “This shouldn’t have happened to you.” Acknowledge that the experience has affected their life. Phrases like “This must be really tough for you,” and “I’m glad you felt you could share this with me” help to communicate empathy.
*Adapted from RAINN website, 2021.
Sexual Assault & the LGBTQ+ Community
Sexual violence affects people of every gender identity, and sexual orientation. People who identify as part of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) communities also experience sexual violence and may face different or additional challenges in accessing legal, medical, law enforcement or other resources than other populations. Click on the link below for more resources in English and Spanish (RAINN adapted, 2021).
Effects of Sexual Violence
As an LGBTQ survivor of sexual violence, you may face many of the same emotions and challenges as other survivors, but also might encounter additional hurdles. Below are some common reactions to experiencing sexual violence that both LGBTQ survivors and others may experience.
Wanting to be believed. Not feeling believed or worrying that you won’t be believed.
Wondering if it’s your fault. Feeling shame, guilt, or like it is your fault. You may be going over the assault in your mind many times to try to figure out if you did something wrong. It was not your fault.
Feeling alone. You may feel that you are the only person who has been through sexual assault, or you may worry that others will judge or misunderstand if you tell them.
You may face disbelief that sexual violence affects LGBTQ people. You may encounter people who mistakenly believe that this doesn’t happen to LGBTQ people, which may make it harder to feel that your story is believed.
It can be hard to self-identify as a survivor. For many survivors it can be difficult to identify an experience as sexual violence. However, it can be harder to identify as a survivor if the assault does not fit your idea of what sexual violence looks like or who may be involved with it.
Telling someone might be harder if you are not out yet. If you have not yet come out to friends or family about your gender identity or sexual orientation, you may feel less able to disclose sexual assault to them.
You may not find support in some faith communities. Many survivors find strength and healing in their faith, but you may encounter difficulty finding the support you deserve if your faith community does not affirm your sexual orientation or gender identity. See the UWO Support page for LGBTQ+ resources and services including the UWO LGBTQ+ Resource Center.
Barriers to Service Under-represented Identities
Sexual Assault Fact Sheets
Dating Violence Center – Campus Dating Violence Fact Sheet (PDF)
Office for Victims of Crime – Sexual Violence (PDF)
National Sexual Violence Resource Center – Rape Prevention & Education Program (PDF)
National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs – LGBTQ+ Advocacy Toolkit (PDF)
No More – Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault (PDF)
Protect Our Defenders – U.S. Military Sexual Violence (PDF)
Stronger & Safer Together is UWO’s bystander intervention training. Helping intervene in potentially harmful events and circumstances is a vital part of creating a safe campus community. You can learn and practice these steps when someone appears to be vulnerable to sexual violence.
If you see something, say something!
- Recognize when something is happening.Is someone vulnerable or in danger? When in doubt, trust your gut and step up to help at the at the earliest possible point.
- Decide how you are going to help and then act.Try not to put yourself at risk or make the situation worse. There are many ways to help in different situations:
Direct intervention: Directly addressing the situation in the moment to prevent harm. Examples of helping directly include talking to the person or removing them from the situation.
Delegation: Ask other people to help you. This may be a friend or someone who is in a role of authority, such as a police officer or campus staff.
Distraction: Interrupting the situation without directly confronting someone by causing a distraction. Examples can include spilling your drink, asking a question, or causing a scene.
Do not remain silent and look the other way. Become an active bystander and confront friends who are becoming disrespectful or abusive and intervene if a friend or any student looks vulnerable or needs help.
Easy ways to help:
- You walk into your residence hall and the exterior door is propped open – close the door.
- You and a group of friends are walking home late and see someone walking home alone – remind them of Safewalk or UWO Go or walk with them.
- You see a couple arguing and one of the people is becoming forceful with the other person – call the non-emergency UWO Police number to let them know what you are seeing (424-1212), or 911 if it becomes physical.
- Your friend tells you that the partner they recently broke up with won’t stop calling them and has been outside all of their classes waiting for them to “talk”. Remind them of confidential Support resources on and off campus who can help them decide what to do.
- You are at a party and you see a student who is trying to convince another student to go to the back bedroom with them. They have declined but the person appears to be persistent in trying to convince them to go.
Distract: You could walk up to the pair with a few of your friends and start a conversation to help separate them and assist the more vulnerable person to safety.
Delegate: You could let the vulnerable person’s friends know that they seem to need some assistance in separating themselves from the persistent person. You can always call the UWO Police non-emergency number to express your concern for a potentially harmful situation (424-1212).
- You notice someone is walking around your floor in your residence hall that no one seems to know, and they give you an uneasy feeling. You could let your CA (community adviser) know and they can check out the situation. If you are off-campus and you have the same experience in your apartment complex, you could call the police.
- You see someone sitting alone who is visibly upset. You could ask them if they are OK or if they need some help. Remind the person that UWO has free confidential Support services who are ready to help in any situation. Ask them if they would like you to help get them connected with one of them.