Health and Wellness
What is Sexual Assault?
Sexual Assault is an umbrella term that describes any type of sexual activity that lacks consent. This includes unwanted sexual touching, rape, attempted rape, and sexual abuse.
Rape is defined as forcible sexual intercourse without the person’s consent. Sexual intercourse refers to oral, vaginal or anal penetration by a body part or an object. Washington State Law uses the term rape and divides the law into three degrees listed in the Revised Code of Washington.
The majority of rapes are committed by someone known to the survivor as an acquaintance, friend or dating partner. It usually does not involve weapons or extreme physical force. Often sexual assault involves one person ignoring the other’s protest and forcing intercourse without consent.
What is consent?
Consent is an active process of willingly choosing to participate in sex of any kind.
What does consent look like?
- Involves each person in a sexual or possibly sexual interaction (both parties are responsible for knowing if they have consent)
- The best way to know if you have consent is to ask (Is this ok? Are you comfortable doing this?)
- Consent can always be withdrawn (at any time, even during sex)
- Consent isn’t something given just once (it’s ongoing active process)
- Nothing makes consent automatic or unnecessary (regardless of prior sexual relationships)
- In some situations, full, informed and free consent cannot truly be given (incapacitated by alcohol, drugs, emotional distress or coercion)
- Consent is not the absence of a no, it’s the presence of a yes
Victims and Survivors
People who have experienced sexual violence may identify as victims or survivors depending on where they are in the healing process. This term can have negative connotations by misrepresenting someone as passive, defeated and powerless. Because victims of sexual violence exhibit incredible strength, resiliency and ability to heal, we prefer to use the word survivor.
Survivor is a term that represents strength, empowerment, resiliency, healing and growth that each victim experiences in a unique way. We aim to help “victims” make the transition to “survivors” by regaining control of their lives and moving forward with the healing process.
Getting Help If You’ve Been Sexually Assaulted
Believe in yourself
Remember that no matter what the circumstances, you are not to blame for what happened to you. Give yourself permission to do what you need to do to take care of yourself.
Tell someone you trust for support
This could be anyone, so think about who would be the most supportive. This person may be a good listener or be able to provide resources and options.
Trust your instincts
Don’t downplay the danger. If you feel unsafe, you probably are. Take threats seriously.
Develop a safety plan, if needed
This includes things like deciding who you can call when you need help, changing your daily routine, arranging for a place to stay and using the buddy system. The Health & Wellness Advocate or UW Police Department Crime Victim Advocate can help you create a safety plan.
Seek medical care
Medical care after a sexual assault can be helpful for treating or preventing illness and injury. Generally, you want to have tests done as soon as possible. Having a medical exam within 120 hours is best for collecting physical evidence of the sexual assault. Even if you are not sure you are ready to file a police report, it may be reassuring to have the evidence if you decide to press charges later. Explore all of your options for testing and medical care.
Contact the Health & Wellness Advocate for support, advocacy and resources
The Health & Wellness Advocate listens and supports all students by providing a confidential place to discuss sexual assault, relationship violence, stalking and related issues. The Advocate can assist you in reporting to the police and in exploring and arranging for counseling, academic help or changes in living situations.
Report to the police
If you decide to report to the police, you can call the UW Police Department and the police officer will meet you in a location of your choice. You can also contact the Health & Wellness Advocate to review your reporting options. It is your decision to file a report or to go forward with an investigation, and you do not have to make it immediately. However, if you decide to file a report, it would be advantageous to your case to do this as soon as possible. If you are making an immediate police report, evidence may be preserved in the following ways: do not wash, bathe, or brush your teeth; don’t remove sheets or clothes; and don’t straighten up or touch anything in the area where the assault took place.
Report to the University
Sexual assault, sexual harassment, physical abuse and threats are violations of the UW Student Conduct Code. Community Standards and Student Conduct (CSSC) can help you make a formal report and determine if the University can take action for these behaviors. You may want to talk to a lawyer or legal advocate about civil lawsuits and other options.
Seek supportive counseling
Regardless of whether you get a medical exam or report the assault, you may want help dealing with the impact of the assault. The Counseling Center and Hall Health Mental Health are resources on campus. The Health & Wellness Advocate can also provide referrals to off-campus community services.
- Community Standards and Student Conduct (CSSC)
- Counseling Center
- Hall Health
- Title IX Office
- UW Police Department
- Asian Counseling & Referral Service
- API Chaya
- Abused Deaf Women’s Advocacy Services
- Consejo Counseling & Referral Service for the Latino community
- Crisis Clinic – 24-hour crisis line and community resource directory 866-4CRISIS
- Harborview Center for Sexual Assault & Traumatic Stress (HCSATS)
- King County Sexual Assault Resource Center (KCSARC) – 24-hour crisis line 888-99-VOICE
- New Beginnings
- Northwest Network for Bi, Trans, Lesbian and Gay Survivors of Abuse
- Legal Voice
- Sexual Violence Law Center