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Advocacy Services

Sexual Assault/Sexual Violence

Advocacy Services > Sexual Assault

You are not alone.

It is not your fault.

If you have experienced sexual assault, it's not your fault.

Defining Sexual Assault / Sexual Violence
  • Non-Consensual Sexual Penetration: Any act of vaginal or anal penetration by a person’s penis, finger, other body part or an object, or oral penetration by genitalia, without consent.

  • Non-Consensual Sexual Contact:Any sexual touching without consent, other than non-consensual sexual penetration. Examples of non-consensual sexual contact may include:  genital-genital or oral-genital contact not involving penetration; contact with breasts, buttocks or genital area, including over clothing; removing the clothing of another person; and kissing.

Other Definitions under VCU’s Sexual Misconduct/Violence and Sex/Gender Discrimination Policy include:

  • Affirmative Consent: Voluntary, informed, non-coerced agreement through words and actions freely given, which a reasonable person would interpret as a willingness to participate in mutually agreed-upon sexual acts.  Affirmative Consent to sexual activity happens when each partner willingly and affirmatively chooses to participate.  Affirmative Consent is informed (knowing); voluntary (freely given); active (not passive), meaning that through the demonstration of clear words or actions, a person has indicated permission to engage in mutually agreed-upon sexual activity.

Important points regarding Affirmative Consent include:

    • Consent to one act does not constitute consent to another act
    • Consent on a prior occasion does not constitute consent on a subsequent occasion
    • The existence of a prior or current relationship does not, in itself, constitute consent
    • Consent can be withdrawn or modified at any time before or during sexual activity
    • Consent is not implicit in a person’s manner of dress or flirtatious behavior
    • Accepting a meal, a gift or an invitation for a date does not imply or constitute consent
    • Silence, passivity or lack of resistance does not alone constitute consent
    • Initiation or participation by someone who a reasonable person knows or should have known to be deemed incapacitated is not consent
  • Coercion: The use of an unreasonable amount of pressure to gain sexual access.  Coercion is more than an effort to persuade, entice or attract another person to have sex.  When a person makes clear that they do not want to participate in a particular form of sexual contact or sexual intercourse, that they want to stop or that they do not want to go beyond a certain sexual interaction, continued pressure can be coercive.  In evaluating whether coercion was used, the frequency of the application of the pressure, the intensity of the pressure, the degree of isolation of the person being pressured and the duration of the pressure are all relevant factors.
  • Incapacitation: The state in which a person’s perception or judgment is so impaired that he or she lacks the cognitive capacity to make or act on conscious decisions and, specifically, that a person lacks the ability to make informed, rational judgments about whether or not to engage in sexual activity.  A person who is incapacitated is unable, temporarily or permanently, to give Affirmative Consent because they are mentally or physically helpless, asleep, unconscious or unaware that sexual activity is taking place.  A person may be incapacitated as a result of the consumption of alcohol or other drugs, or due to a temporary or permanent physical or mental health condition.

  • Sexual exploitation: Occurs when an individual takes non-consensual or abusive sexual advantage of another person, whether for their own benefit or the benefit of another person.  

Shocking Statistics [1]
Bystander Intervention

Prosocial bystanders are individuals whose behaviors intervene in ways that impact the outcome positively. For all types of crimes, bystanders are more likely to help the situation than to make it worse. As an active or empowered bystander, you can support others in your VCU community by using these bystander intervention strategies and tools:

  • A-C-T: Assess the situation-Choose your action-Take your action
  • Interrupt or distract when in a uncomfortable situation. For example, you can  say: “Hey, your car is getting towed,” to distract someone possibly intending to hurt someone else.
  • Call VCUPD (804-828-1234) or use the LiveSafe app to report trouble.
  • Trust your gut. If you think something seems off about a person or situation, there is probably good reason for that feeling.
  • Complete the Not Anymore online training to learn more tips and tools about bystander intervention.
  • Join Students Advocating Violence Education and Support (SAVES) or Men Against Violence (MAV) at the Well to promote healthy relationships and healthy masculinity.
  • Visit a Well staff member or student peer advocate to get support.
  • Talk with a trusted RA, student leader, and faculty or staff member at VCU to make an informed decision.

All RAMs have an obligation and opportunity to keep everyone in their RAMily safe. 

The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.” -- Albert Einstein.

What are some of the potential effects of an assault?

Survivors of sexual assault react to their experiences in many different ways. There are many feelings and experiences that are common for many survivors, while others may be specific to the given circumstances. If you have not experienced any of these, it does not mean there is something wrong with how you are responding to the experience. The feelings you experience are part of the healing process. Everyone's experience is different.
Sexual assault is an act of power and control. When you were assaulted, you were without power during the assault. It is natural to feel frightened and powerless after what you have experienced. You may:

  • Feel a loss of control over your life;
  • Feel a sense of shock and disbelief;
  • Have difficulty concentrating;
  • Go through a period of acting as if nothing happened (after the initial shock is over); and
  • Be fearful and feel unsafe.

Please remember this is not your fault and how you feel is normal. There are people on & off campus that are here to support you.

For assistance, contact The Well at 804-828-9355 or MyOptions@vcu.edu to speak with an advocate and/or schedule an appointment. If you have a disability and need additional accommodation, we will do our best to provide the service necessary.

If you need assistance after standard business hours (8:00 am - 4:30 pm Monday - Thursday and 10:30 am - 4:30 pm Friday), call the 24/7 Richmond Regional Hotline at: 804-612-6126.

You may also phone VCU Police at: 804-828-1234 and ask to be connected with a 24 hour on-call VCU Counseling Services therapist. 


[1] Walters, M.L., Chen J., & Breiding, M.J. (2013). The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS): 2010 Findings on Victimization by Sexual Orientation. Atlanta, GA: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

[2] http://cola.unh.edu/prevention-innovations/bystander

[3] http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/ascii/tpivc99.txt