Sexual violence can be defined so broadly that it can be hard to know what it means. Look through our resources with the tabs to the left. Learn more about sexual violence: what it is, how to respond to it, and how to prevent it.

What Is It?

Sexual violence is any sexual activity committed by force against a person’s will.

Sexual activity can include anything from hugging to having sex. These actions can be committed by boyfriends, girlfriends, friends, acquaintances, family members, partners, and strangers.

“By force” can also include a wide range of things. Physically holding someone down, using violence, or using weapons is one type of force. Coercion, manipulation, and putting pressure on someone is also force. Threatening or blackmailing someone is force too. So is bribing or tricking someone.

Against a person’s will means without their active consent. So if the person didn’t want to do it, it was without their consent. Saying “no” is an obvious indicator that there is no consent. But there are other ways that people say no or indicate they don’t want to do something without using the word no. If you were too scared to say no, that doesn’t mean that what happened was your fault. Only a clear and enthusiastic yes means yes. Also, a person who is using alcohol or drugs cannot give consent. Sexual activity with someone who is passed out, sleeping, or under the influence of drugs or alcohol is sexual violence.

Sexual violence does not discriminate. It is never the victim’s fault.

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