Sexual Violence Definitions

Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment happens when one person uses sexual words, gestures, looks, or touches that may make another person feel uncomfortable or unsafe. Sexual harassment is a form of discrimination. It means that someone is treated differently because of their gender. It may be repeated or it may be very offensive on a one-time basis. It is usually intentional, but sometimes people don’t know that they are sexually harassing another person. Anyone can be harassed and anyone can be a harasser. It is important to note that sexual harassment is NEVER the targeted individuals fault.

What is the difference between sexual harassment and flirting?

Sexual harassment and flirting are NOT the same. Flirting feels good. Sexual harassment does not.

Flirting happens when both people agree to flirt and both enjoy it. Flirting makes a person feel attractive, is a compliment, is two-way and is an enjoyable experience.

Sexual harassment makes one person feel uncomfortable and unsafe. Sexual harassment feels bad, makes a person feel threatened, is degrading, is one-way, and is a negative experience.

Sexual Assault

Sexual assault is a crime that happens when you are forced, threatened or manipulated into sexual contact, of any kind, against your will. Sexual assault is defined as rape, fondling of private parts, incest, or statutory rape.

Sexual assault is the most under-reported crime in the United States. It is a crime that affects everyone; it is estimated that a woman is sexual assaulted every 6 minutes. 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men will be sexually victimized before they become 18. Sexual contact without consent is sexual assault, whether the offender is a stranger or someone you know. Sexual assault can happen to anyone at any age, at any place, at any time. The way a person dresses or behaves does not cause sexual assault.

You always have the right to say “no”, even if:

you have been drinking or taking drugs
you are wearing sexy clothes that make you feel good
you agreed at first and then changed your mind
you have had sex before
your date has spent a lot of money
you think your date will get mad
you have been going out for a long time



Stalking is defined as repeated, purposeful course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person potential mental injury, bodily injury or emotional distress. Stalking happens when someone repeatedly approaches, pursues or follows, threatens, harasses, trespasses on someone’s property, vandalizes, conducts surveillance, shows a weapon, restrains, or commits bodily injury against the targeted individual. A stalker does these things to make the targeted individuals afraid – afraid that they will hurt, rape, kidnap or kill them or someone they love.

A stalker might follow the targeted individual when they drive to work. They might wait for the targeted individual outside of their home or office. A stalker might call the targeted individual on the phone and make threats or hang up when they answer. Some stalkers slash tires, vandalize homes and threaten their victims with weapons. Some stalkers send flowers, gifts and cards.

If you think you are being stalked, please know it is okay to feel concerned, nervous or scared! Consider the following tips to increase your safety and effectively report the crime.

  • Try to avoid the person stalking you. This can be difficult at times, especially if the person stalking you is close to you or your family.
  • If you are being stalked through communication technology, like email or text messaging, make it clear that you wish to stop contact. Once you’ve made it clear, do not respond to further communication.
  • Keep any evidence received from the stalker such as text messages, voicemails, letters, packages, flowers, emails, etc., but do not respond. You can do this by taking screenshots of conversations, pictures of what the stalker has sent you etc…
  • Inform family, friends, supervisors, and co-workers of the situation.
  • If you have children, create a code word that lets them know they need to leave the house or call the police.
  • Consider reporting the stalking to local law enforcement or a university official through our Title IX process. Remember, the university is here to protect you and help you feel safe within the campus community.

Relationship Violence

There are many different terms to refer to sexual violence that occurs within relationships, including: intimate partner sexual violence, domestic violence, relationship violence, dating violence, among others. No matter what term is used or how the relationship is defined, it is never okay to engage in sexual activity without someone’s consent.

Warning signs that intimate partner violence may be happening, could be if they:

  • Attempt to cut you off from friends and family
  • Are extremely jealous or upset if you spend time away from them
  • Insult you, put you down, say that you can never do anything right
  • Try to prevent you from attending work or school
  • Try to prevent you from making decisions for yourself
  • Destroy your property
  • Threaten to harm your family members
  • Threaten to harm your children or take them away from you
  • Tell you that you are worthless and that no one else could ever love you
  • Control your finances

Information taken from RAINN, & West Virginia Foundation for Rape Information and Services,