Understanding and Preventing Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment
Myth: Once an individual begins engaging in a sexual act, they cannot change their mind.
Fact: According to New York State Law, consent for sexual contact can be withdrawn at any time, including after penetration. Sexual contact without consent is a crime. It is that simple.
Myth: Rape is a spontaneous act of passion.
Fact: Rape is committed to control, degrade, humiliate or harm another person. Studies show that most rapes are planned or premeditated. While passion, lust, and arousal may be present, they are not uncontrollable urges. Rape is an act of violence, not an act of passion.
Myth: Sometimes the victim is to blame. A victim’s dress, appearance, or actions caused the sexual assault or rape
Fact: How a victim dresses, looks, or acts does not justify the act of sexual violence against them. The victim did not cause the assault and is not responsible for the assault. Individuals who commit acts of sexual assault do so out of a need to control, dominate, or humiliate another person.
Myth: If you have consented to sexual relations with your partner in the past, you cannot refuse to have sex with them in the future.
Fact: One out of every five women is assaulted by their partner each year. Just because you have consented to sexual relations with an individual in the past, does not mean you have given up your right say to “no.” Every sexual encounter is different and you have the right to say “no” each and every time.
Myth: Sexual assault or rape could never happen to me.
Fact: One out of every eight women nationwide is a victim of rape in their lifetime (National Center for Victims of Crime and the Crime Research and Treatment Center 1992). The National Crime Victim’s Unit reports that students are the fastest growing population of rape victims in the United States. One in six college women will experience rape or attempted rape during their college career. One in four college women will become the target of some type of sexual assault. Men are assaulted, too. 10% of sexual assaults on college campuses are perpetrated against men.
Myth: If you don't say "no" or don't fight back, it is not a rape or a sexual assault.
Fact: Sexual assault victims may not say “no” or fight back for a variety of reasons – fear, confusion, feeling intimidated. Victims often report feeling “frozen” by fear and panic, preventing them from fighting back or from saying “no”. Victims may not actively resist being assaulted for fear of angering their perpetrator who may retaliate with greater force/cause greater injury.
Myth: The majority of all acts of rape and sexual assault occur in public places or in dark isolated areas.
Fact: Most rapes occur in peoples’ homes, dorm rooms, or places that are familiar to them.
Myth: It cannot be considered rape or assault if the victim was drunk or high.
Fact: Depending on the level of impairment, a person who is drunk or high may be unable to give consent. Having sex with a person who is unable to consent is a crime.
Myth: Men aren't raped.
Fact: Men, as well as women, are the targets of sexual assault and rape. At least 10% of men are victims of sexual assault. Like women, men who have experienced a sexual assault can suffer from depression, PTSD, substance abuse, or other emotional problems. Men are less likely to report an assault and/or seek help. This is due largely to feelings of embarrassment, stigmatization and a fear of not being taken seriously.
Some men who are raped get an erection while being attacked. This is a physiological response to physical contact or stress and is not a sign of consent, pleasure, or sexual orientation.
Myth: Individuals with disabilities aren't affected by rape or sexual assault.
Fact: Victimization rates for disabled adults are 4-10 times higher than for those without disabilities. The majority of perpetrators of these crimes are males known to the victims (e.g. caregivers, healthcare workers, family members). These crimes usually occur in the victim’s home or in hospitals.
Myth: Individuals are more likely to be raped by a stranger than by someone they know.
Fact: The National Center for Victims of Crime and the Crime Victims Research and Treatment Center report that 4 out of every 5 reported sexual assaults are committed among acquaintances. College women are far more likely to be raped by a friend or fellow student than by a stranger.
Myth: There are no serious emotional or psychological consequences of forced sexual contact.
Fact: Sexual assault can result in serious and intense emotional and physical reactions for victims (depression, thoughts of suicide, headaches, anxiety) which can have lasting consequences and may significantly interfere with daily functioning. Social consequences include strained relationships with family, friends, and intimate partners. Nearly one third of all rape victims will develop Rape-Related Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (RR-PTSD). Symptoms of RR-PTSD include social withdrawal, avoidance behaviors and hyper vigilance.
Myth: Perpetrators are abusive in all of their relationships.
Fact: Perpetrators of violence and abuse are not typically abusive in the context of every one of their relationships. A perpetrator of sexual violence may present themselves as pleasant and charming in social contexts.
Myth: The best way for a survivor of sexual assault or rape to recover is to pretend or ignore that the assault or rape ever occurred.
Fact: The effects of sexual violence can be very traumatic. Survivors often find that engaging in counseling is essential in helping to manage the intense symptoms and complex feelings that result from an assault. An attempt to ignore the assault or pretend it never occurred will not alleviate the impact of the assault and, instead, is likely to impede the recovery process.
Myth: Getting prompt medical attention following a rape or assault is not a priority.
Fact: If you have been sexually assaulted, you should seek immediate medical assistance and support at the nearest SAFE Center. You may decide to report the assault to law enforcement, in which case it is crucial that you do not: shower, bathe or douche; discard the clothing you wore during the assault; brush your hair or teeth; use the bathroom, put on makeup, or eat or drink anything, as these actions can interfere with the collection of evidence.
Myth: Individuals often lie about being raped or sexually assaulted
Fact: The overall majority of reported encounters are legitimate. The FBI reports that false accusations account for only 2% of all reported sexual assaults.
Myth: A rapist or individual who engages in sexual assault is identifiable and fits a certain profile.
Fact: While there is no identifiable profile for a rapist, research has shown that if a perpetrator gets away with it, the individual is likely to continue to commit sexual offenses.
Myth: If a woman or man is being abused by their partner, it can't be all that bad if they decide to stay.
Fact: While some victims are able to successfully leave their abusers, many find it particularly challenging. There are many reasons why. Victims may be afraid to leave because they have been threatened. Others feel ashamed. Some are financially dependent on their abuser. An individual’s decision to stay is not an indication of their level of suffering. Deciding to leave is a complex and difficult process.
New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault. (2010- 2012) . Factsheets: Rape-Related Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. National Center for Victims of Crime (1992) . Retrieved on December 16, 2013 from http//svfreenyc.org.suiviviors_factsheet_43.
New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault. (2000 – 2012) . Factsheets: Men and Sexual Trauma. Retrieved on December 16, 2013 from http//svfreenyc.org.suiviviors_factsheet_96.
New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault. (2000- 2012) . Factsheets: Sexual Assault. National Center for Victims of Crime (199) . Retrieved on December 16, 2013 from http//svfreenyc.org.suiviviors_factsheet_47.
New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault. (2000- 2012) . Factsheets: Campus Crime: Colleges & Universities. National Center for Victims of Crime (2001). Retrieved on December 16, 2013 from http//svfreenyc.org.suiviviors_factsheet_11.
New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault. (2000- 2012) . Factsheets: The Cost of Inaction: Social and Economic Consequences of Untreated Sexual violence in NYC. Retrieved on December 16, 2013 from http//svfreenyc.org.suiviviors_factsheet_144.
New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault. (2000- 2012) . Factsheets: Campus Crime Victims. National Center for Victims of Crime (2002) . Retrieved on December 16, 2013 from http//svfreenyc.org.suiviviors_factsheet_12.
New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault. (2000- 2012) . New York State Laws. Retrieved on December 16, 2013 from http//svfreenyc.org.suiviviors_legal
Sexual violence and rape can happen to anyone at any time. Perpetrators, not survivors, are responsible for sexual violence. Only a perpetrator can prevent a sexual assault or other form of sexual violence, but we can all take steps to reduce the risk. Some prevention strategies for everyone include:
Respect the rights of others.
- Listen to the messages your partner is giving. Be sensitive to both verbal and nonverbal communication. Ask. Double check that you both are doing what you want.
- The absence of the word “no” does not constitute consent. Make sure you have consent by asking your partner what they want to do. If your partner seems confused or unsure, it’s time to stop.
- Remember that having done something sexual relations previously is not a blanket “yes” for the future.
- Remember that your partner can change “yes” to “no” at any time. Respect their choice.
- Know which behaviors constitute rape and sexual assault, and understand that most incidents happen between people who know each other.
- If you choose to drink, be responsible. Alcohol consumption greatly increases the risk of sexual assault.
- Never slip anyone any type of drug. Not only is this illegal, but you don’t know what effect a drug can have on someone.
Increase your safety.
- Think about what you really want from a partner before a possibly uncomfortable or dangerous situation occurs.
- Communicate clearly. You have the right to say “no” or “I’m not sure.”
- Go to a party with friends, not alone. Keep track of your friends and leave with them. Don’t leave alone or with someone you don’t know well.
- If you choose to drink, be careful. Offenders often take advantage of people who have been drinking.
- Know what’s in your drink, whether it’s non-alcoholic or contains alcohol. Open the can yourself, make your drink yourself or watch it being made, and don’t leave your drink unattended. Avoid punch bowls– there is no way to know how much alcohol is in them, and since date rape drugs are odorless, colorless and tasteless they can be added to punch without anyone knowing. Date rape drugs can cause dizziness, disorientation, loss of inhibition, blackouts, and loss of consciousness. If you feel any strange symptoms, tell someone you trust right away.
- Know which behaviors constitute sexual assault and rape. Understand that most incidents occur between people who know each other.
- If something happens, it wasn’t your fault. You have the right to get anonymous or confidential support from resources on campus and off campus.
Look out for the safety of friends.
- When going to a party with friends, keep track of each other while you’re there. Plan to leave together and don’t let anyone leave alone.
- If a friend decides to leave a party with someone else, talk to them about their safety. If you are worried about someone, it’s ok to try to protect them from harm.
- Learn more about sexual assault and rape and how to help a friend who may have been assaulted.
- If a friend discloses to you that they have been sexually assaulted, don’t take it all on yourself. Use CUNY or off campus resources for advice and support for your friend and for yourself.
Members of the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender and Queer/Questioning (LGBTQ) community are, like anyone else, at risk of acquaintance, date and partner rape. In addition, we are at risk of being the target of hate crimes, that is, of being sexually assaulted because of our sexual orientation or identity. We also face additional challenges when it comes to reporting sexual assault:
- We may be reluctant to report abuse to a therapist, police officer or medical provider for fear that these persons will be homophobic, insensitive or may not take our complaints seriously.
- We may fear causing a rift and losing friends and support within the LGBTQ communities.
- Very limited services exist that are tailored specifically for those who identify as LGBTQ.
- Seeking medical treatment can be difficult. Medical providers may assume that we are heterosexual and may not understand the physical and emotional harm of the assault.
CUNY is committed to ensuring that support services are accessible for all students, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. We encourage students to seek help from their campus’ Title IX coordinator or from one of the resources below.
Resources for Combating Sexual Violence
If you or someone you know has experienced violence, the following organizations, hotlines, and websites provide resources and information to help. Many hotlines are confidential and many organizations provide their resources free of charge. All of the resources listed below are LGBTQ friendly and many of them are specifically focused on helping the LGBTQ community.
- Call (212) 714-1141 for the New York City Gay & Lesbian Anti-Violence Project Hotline
- Call 1-800-832-1901 for the Gay Man’s Domestic Violence Project or go to www.gmdvp.org (also provides legal advocacy and court accompaniment; crisis intervention and safety planning; housing and employment advocacy; emergency safe home; emotional support and support groups; first/last month’s rent program; counseling services.)
- Call 1-800-621-HOPE (4673) for the New York City Domestic Violence Hotline
- Call 1-800-799-SAFE for the National Domestic Violence Hotline
- Call 1-800-656-4673 for the National Sex Abuse Hotline
- Call 1-800-246-4646 for the NYC Youthline
- GLBT National Help Center – The National Help Center provides free and confidential telephone and internet peer-counseling, information, and local resources for GLBT and questioning callers in the United States.
- Hotline: 1-888-843-4564
- Youth Talkline (Under 25): 1-800-246-PRIDE (7743)
- Online Peer Support Chat: www.glnh.org/
Counseling and other Services:
- New York City Gay & Lesbian Anti-Violence Project – The Anti-Violence Project: http://avp.org/about-avp is a victims’ services agency providing free counseling, crisis-intervention, and advocacy for survivors of trauma, crime and violence in the New York City’s LGBTQ and HIV- affected communities. It is located at:240 West 35th Street, Suite 200
New York, NY 10001
24-Hour Bilingual Hotline: (212) 714-1141
Office: (212) 714-1184
- New York Family Justice Center (Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens) http://www.nyc.gov/html/ocdv/html/fjc/fjc.shtml – Provides information and services for domestic violence victims in one location. Clients may walk in and choose which services they want, services are free and available to all victims regardless of sex, age, nationality, religion, or sexual orientation. Language interpretation is also available. Check website for hours.198 East 161st Street, 2nd Floor
Bronx, New York 10451
(718) 508-1222350 Jay Street, 15th Floor
Brooklyn, New York 11201
(718) 250-5111126-02 82nd Avenue
Kew Gardens, New York 11415
- Day One: http://www.dayoneny.org/dayone/get_help/Day One provides support for teens and youth, including LGBTQ, up to age 24 who are living in NYC and have been or are currently in an abusive relationship with a dating or intimate partner, including emotional, sexual, technological and/or physical abuse.
- Good Shepherd Services Safe Homes Project: http://www.goodshepherds.org/programs/community/shp.htmlA community-based domestic violence advocacy and service program which provides a hotline, counseling, safety-planning and advocacy for survivors of domestic violence and runs a 20-bed shelter. The Safe Homes Project provides targeted services for special populations, including Spanish-speakers, youth, and LGBTQ survivors of partner violence.Hotline: 718-499-2151 (Available in English and Spanish)
LGBT Community Resources
Connecting with other members of the LGBTQ community is important and can provide a valuable support network regardless of whether you have experienced violence. Below are resources that provide community events and services for the LGBTQ community throughout New York City and nationally.
LGBT Community Center (Manhattan)
Provides quality health and wellness programs in a welcoming space that fosters connections and celebrates our cultural contributions.
208 West 13th Street
New York, NY 10011
Callen Lorde Community Health Center (Manhattan)
Provides sensitive, quality health care and related services targeted to New York’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities — in all their diversity — regardless of ability to pay
356 W 18th St
New York, NY 10011
For Appointments: (212) 271-7200
Health Outreach to Teens (HOTT): (212) 271-7212
The Audre Lorde Project (Manhattan, Brooklyn)
A Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Two Spirit, Trans and Gender Non-Conforming People of Color center for community organizing, focusing on the New York City area.
147 West 24th Street, 3rd Floor
New York, New York 10011
85 South Oxford Street
Brooklyn, NY, 11217-1607
What is consent?
Consent is a knowing, informed, voluntary and mutual decision to engage in agreed upon sexual activity. The issue of consent can be a complicated and ambiguous area that needs to be addressed with clear, open, and honest communication. Keep these points in mind if you are not sure consent has been established:
- Each person needs to be fully conscious and aware.
The use of alcohol or other substances can interfere with someone’s ability to make clear decisions about the level of intimacy they are comfortable with. The more intoxicated a person is, the less they are able to give conscious consent.
- Each person is equally free to act.
The decision to be sexually intimate must be without coercion. Each person must have the option to choose to be intimate or not. Each person should be free to change “yes” to “no” at any time. Factors such as body size, previous victimization, threats to “out” someone, and other fears can prevent an individual from freely consenting.
- Each person clearly communicates their willingness and permission.
Willingness and permission must be communicated clearly. Just because a person fails to resist sexual advances does not mean that they are willing. Consent is not the absence of the word “no.”
- Each person is positive and sincere in their desires.
It is important to be honest in communicating feelings about consent. If one person states their desires, the other person can make informed decisions about the encounter.
Why is consent important?
- Communication, respect, and honesty are fundamental to great sex and relationships.
- Without knowing if you have consent, you may be committing sexual assault.
- Asking for and obtaining consent shows that you have respect for both yourself and your partner.
- Positive views on sex and sexuality are empowering.
- It eliminates the entitlement that one partner may feel over the other. Neither your body nor your sexuality belongs to someone else.
How do you ask for consent?
Show your partner that you respect them enough to ask about their sexual needs and desires. If you are not accustomed to communicating with your partner about sex and sexual activity, the first few times may feel awkward. But, practice makes perfect. Be creative and spontaneous. Don’t give up. The more times you have these conversations with your partner, the more comfortable you will become communicating about sex and sexual activity. Your partner may also find the situation awkward at first, but conversations about consent will build trust and respect for one another.
- When do you ask? Before you act. It is the responsibility of the person initiating a sex act to obtain clear consent. Whenever you are unsure if consent has been given, ask. Check-in throughout. Giving consent ahead of time does not waive a person’s right to change their mind or say no later.
- What words should your partner say to show consent? Consent is not just about getting a yes or no answer, but about understanding what a partner is feeling. Ask open-ended questions. Listen to and respect your partner’s response, whether you hear yes or no: “I’d really like to . . . how does that sound?” “How does this feel?” “What would you like to do?”
- Before you have sex, ask yourself… Have I expressed what I want? Do I know what my partner wants? Am I certain that consent has been given? Is my potential partner sober enough to decide whether or not to have sex? Am I sober enough to know that I’ve correctly gauged consent?
How does alcohol affect someone's ability to give consent?
Alcohol lowers inhibitions and impairs judgment. In small amounts, it can make someone feel more relaxed. However, because intoxication is affected by weight, gender, time, medication and other factors, a small amount for one person could be a lot for someone else. In addition, people may not count their drinks accurately or they may not realize how much alcohol is in a drink.
It may be difficult to tell if someone is too intoxicated to give consent. It is especially difficult to gauge if you have been drinking, since your judgment will be impaired. Some potential signs that someone cannot consent include slurred speech, problems with balance and impaired motor skills. However, you will not be able to gauge many factors: Is the person’s blood alcohol level continuing to rise? Did they have drinks that you don’t know about? Did they drink high proof alcohol (such as Everclear or 151 rum) without knowing it? Is the person taking medication or other drugs that will interact with the alcohol? Is the person fatigued, dehydrated and/or hungry and could have a stronger reaction to the alcohol? Because of these and other factors, the safest, healthiest thing to do is to engage in sexual activity when both/all persons involved are sober.
Being too intoxicated to gauge consent will not absolve you of the responsibility of obtaining consent if you are initiating sex. You can be held accountable for sexual assault by law and under CUNY’s policies and student code of conduct.
How do drugs affect someone’s ability to give consent?
Illegal drugs or medications can also impair someone’s ability to consent. As with alcohol, there are always many factors involved in each individual’s response to a drug. With illegal drugs, there are often added substances that make the effects even more unpredictable.
How do you know you have consent?
- Red: Signs You Should Stop
- Your partner is too intoxicated to give consent. (This is difficult to know, but some potential signs include slurred speech, problems with balance and impaired motor skills.)
- You are too intoxicated to gauge consent.
- Your partner is asleep.
- Your partner is unconscious or for any other reason is physically or mentally unable to communicate consent.
- You are using physical force or size to have sex.
- You hope your partner will say nothing and go with the flow.
- You don’t think they would agree to have sex if they were sober.
- You have had sex before but they have said they’re not interested tonight.
- You have coerced your partner in any way (asking repeatedly, putting pressure on your partner, physically intimidating them, etc.).
- You intend to have sex by any means necessary.
- Yellow: Signs You Should Pause and Talk
- You are not sure what the other person wants.
- You feel like you are getting mixed signals.
- You have not talked about what you want to do.
- You assume that you will do the same thing as before.
- Your partner stops or is not responsive.
- Green: Keep Communicating
- Partners come to a mutual decision about how far to go.
- Partners clearly express their comfort with the situation.
- You feel comfortable and safe stopping at any time.
- Partners are excited!
Adapted from American College Health Association, Shifting the Paradigm: Primary Prevention of Sexual Violence Toolkit.
What if I am confused about a sexual experience I've had?
If you are confused about an experience you’ve had or not sure if your partner respected your boundaries, contact the Title IX Coordinator, or, if you wish to speak to someone who can keep your information confidential, contact a mental health counselor in your campus’s mental health counseling center.
(Adapted with permission from Brown University)
Regardless of the definitions below, if you have faced or are facing unwanted sexual behavior, please contact the Title IX Coordinator for assistance and guidance.
Sexual Harassment is unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature that limits a student’s ability to participate in or benefit from an educational program. It includes unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal, nonverbal, or physical conduct of a sexual nature on or off campus.
Sexual Assault or Sexual Violence is a form of sexual harassment. It encompasses not only forced sexual intercourse (vaginal, oral, or anal) but unwanted touching, fondling, or groping of sexual body parts. It can be committed by the use of threats or force or when someone takes advantage of circumstances that render a person incapable of giving consent, such as intoxication.