Definitions

Be Informed: Learn More About Sexual Misconduct

Many persons who have experienced some form of sexual misconduct often are not sure if what they have experienced is sexual misconduct at all. It is normal to have these questions. There are different types of sexual misconduct, and there are terms that are commonly associated with sexual misconduct. Read on for a list and detailed explanations.

Consent

Generally, consent refers to agreeing to do something. Legally, there are different types of consent but the common thread is agreement, and choice. Sexual consent is a voluntary agreement between the respective persons to engage in sexual activity. Consent cannot be forced or manipulated, and cannot be given if someone is incapacitated or unable to make choices for themselves. The persons involved agree because they want to.

Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment refers to unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature in the workplace or learning environment. 

Sexual harassment does not have to involve behavior of a strictly sexual nature. If someone constantly makes offensive comments about women in general, that is an example of sexual harassment. The same goes for offensive comments about any other gender.           

Teasing and offhand comments are not usually covered under sexual harassment laws but they can have lasting emotional effects. 

Harassers can be of any gender. They can be supervisors, colleagues, peers, or even patients.  

Harassment can escalate to the point of creating a hostile work environment. You may feel extremely uncomfortable, and you may feel a sense of dread at the thought of being in close proximity to the harasser.       

You may be unsure about what to do. You may not want to speak up about it out of fear that it will negatively affect your chances for advancement or, even worse, cause you to be cut from your program. These are all understandable concerns since many harassers tend to hold positions of influence.  

Examples of sexual harassment: 

  • Frequent jokes or comments about sexual acts or sexual orientation

  • Requests for sexual favors

  • Making advancement opportunities dependent on sexual favors

  • Unwelcome sexual advances. This can be stated or implied 

  • Unwanted physical contact or touching

  • Unwanted texts, photos or emails that are sexually explicit

  • Talking about sexual acts/fantasies/stories at school/work.

Sexual Assault

Sexual assault refers to sexual behavior or contact that occurs without consent. The term sexual assault is often used interchangeably with rape. However, while rape is a form of sexual assault, not all sexual assault is rape. Examples of sexual assault are: 

  • Fondling or unwanted sexual touching 

  • Attempted rape 

  • Forcing someone to perform sexual acts, such as oral sex 

  • Rape (Non-consensual penetration of the victim/survivor’s body).

Domestic Abuse/Violence

Domestic violence is a pattern of behaviors used by one partner to maintain power and control over another partner in an intimate relationship. This includes people who are married, living together or dating. Domestic abuse may also occur between family members. It can happen to anyone, regardless of race, gender, age, religion or sexual orientation. This type of abuse may be physical, emotional, verbal, economic/financial or spiritual. The abusive partner/person may do things to physically harm the other partner/person, to arouse fear, to prevent them from doing what they would like or force him/her to do things that he/she does not want to do. It is also called intimate partner violence, domestic abuse or relationship abuse. Examples of domestic abuse/violence are: 

  • Punching, strangling, shoving, or physically harming you in any way 

  • Threatening to harm or kill you or him/herself 

  • Twisting your words to mean something that you never intended 

  • Gaslighting 

  • Blaming you or others for the abusive behavior 

  • Forbidding you to work or attend school 

  • Jeopardizing your employment by stalking or harassing you at work 

  • Controlling all of the money in the relationship/household, and denying you access to it 

  • Insulting or name-calling.

Dating Violence

Dating violence is a pattern of abusive and controlling behavior in a romantic relationship. The abuse can be verbal, emotional, physical, sexual, or any combination of these elements. As with the other kinds of sexual misconduct, it can happen to anyone, and the person being abused is not to blame. The abusive partner tries to control the other partner in many ways. These include: 

  • Insisting on being with you all the time 

  • Calling or texting you constantly to know where you are and whom you’re with 

  • Calling you names or putting you down 

  • Not letting you spend time with your friends, or demanding that you cut off contact with your friends 

  • Telling you what to wear 

  • Being jealous 

  • Threatening to hurt you, someone you care about or him/herself if you don’t do what they tell you to 

  • Shoving, hitting or kicking you, or causing you other physical harm 

  • Forcing you to have sex or perform other sexual acts. 

Stalking

Stalking can be described as a pattern of obsessive behaviors directed towards a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear. Stalking can escalate over time. Typically, stalkers may: 

  • Send unwanted cards, gifts, letters, texts or emails

  • Follow you and tend to show up wherever you are

  • Damage your property

  • Use technology such as GPS to track your movements

  • Drive by or hang out at your school, workplace or home 

  • Threaten to hurt you, your family, friends or pets 

  • Do or say anything else to try to control, track or frighten you.      

It is important to note that this type of behavior does not result from the stalker being encouraged in any way. The person who is being stalked is not to blame.

Trauma

Trauma refers to a psychological and emotional effect of an experience or event that is deeply distressing or disturbing. No one knows how they will react in any given situation, and people can have very different reactions to the same experience. We all process events and experiences differently. 

Experiences with sexual misconduct can certainly be traumatic. Trauma can manifest in several ways: 

  • Intense feelings of guilt – as if you feel that it was somehow your fault 

  • Flashbacks 

  • Anger 

  • Unpredictable or unstable emotions 

  • Feelings of despair and isolation.         

If you or someone you know can identify with any of these feelings, know that you are not alone. CAP advocates are here to listen, and can connect you to helpful resources.