Sexual Violence Awareness
Sexual violence is not just a woman's problem. Nor is it something that happens to someone else, somewhere else. Sexual Violence happens everywhere, every day, every minute to people of all ages. Family and friends of the victim are also affected. We are all affected.
Sexual violence is a significant problem on college campuses across the nation, where most victims are acquainted with their assailants. The effects of crimes such as rape and sexual assault on these student victims can be devastating, creating emotional, trauma-related difficulties and, consequently, disrupting or ending their academic careers.
What Is the Crime of Rape?
According to Pennsylvania law, rape, which is a first-degree felony, is sexual intercourse obtained:
- through "forcible compulsion," *
- through threat of "forcible compulsion,"
- when a person is unconscious or unaware that intercourse is occurring even though conscious,
- when a mental disability renders a person incapable of consent,
- when a person is less than 13 years of age even though consent is given,
- or when the offender gets his victim drunk or high for the purpose of preventing resistance without the knowledge of the victim.
* "Forcible compulsion" is defined as "compulsion by use of physical, intellectual, moral, emotional, or psychological force, either expressed or implied," and does not require that the victim resists the offender.
Sexual assault, which is a second-degree felony, consists of non-consensual sexual intercourse. Sexual intercourse includes vaginal, anal, or oral sex. There must be some penetration, however slight, but ejaculation is not necessary.
Aggravated indecent assault, also a second-degree felony, consists of penetration of the genitals or anus by a part of the offender's body without consent.
Indecent assault is unwanted touching of intimate parts of the body and is a second-degree misdemeanor.
Rape and sexual assault can be committed by a stranger, acquaintance, close friend, relative, date, or a spouse. Alcohol or other drug use can impair an individual's ability to give consent. The penalties range from imprisonment for up to two years for indecent assault to imprisonment for up to ten years for sexual assault and twenty years for rape, in addition to fines and restitution. The statute of limitations for reporting rape, sexual assault, and aggravated indecent assault is five years and two years for reporting indecent assault.
Sexual harassment and misconduct: Engaging in unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature that is sufficiently severe or pervasive so as to substantially interfere with the individual’s employment, education, or access to University programs, activities and opportunities, and such conduct would detrimentally affect a reasonable person under the same circumstances. Sexual harassment may include, but is not limited to, sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, sexual exploitation, stalking, dating violence, and domestic violence (as described in AD-85). Sexual misconduct is a form of sexual harassment and refers to attempted or completed unwanted or non-consensual sexual activity, including, but not limited to the following: rape, sexual assault, sexual battery, forcible sodomy, sexual penetration with an inanimate object, intercourse without consent, sexual touching and fondling, the touching of an unwilling person's intimate parts (defined as genitalia, groin, breast or buttock, or clothing covering those intimate parts), forcing an unwilling person to touch another's intimate parts, sexual exploitation, and sexual coercion.
Consent means a clear, knowing, and voluntary agreement to engage in mutually agreed-upon sexual activity. Consent may be communicated through verbal or non-verbal expression, and cannot be inferred from the absence of a “no.” Consent cannot be gained by threat, coercion, intimidation, or force. In order to give consent, one must be of legal age for sexual consent as physically and cognitively able to understand what is being agreed to; for example, one must be both sober enough and conscious enough to consent. Consent may be withdrawn at any point. Consent for one form of sexual activity cannot automatically imply consent to any other forms of activity.Consent must be obtained on each occasion and cannot be assumed by previous consensual actions.
The only way to prevent sexual violence is to stop people from committing crimes, such as rape and sexual assault. However, the action steps below are things individuals can do to reduce their risk of victimization.
Think about what your sexual limits are, and be prepared to communicate them directly.
Be aware of sex-role stereotypes that prevent you from acting as you want to, such as a woman not being able to initiate sexual activity or a man not being able to say "no."
Pay attention to nonverbal behaviors, including the signals you may be sending. Make sure that your body language is consistent with verbal messages.
Remember that alcohol and other drugs can interfere with your ability to communicate effectively and deal with potentially dangerous situations. Be responsible in your decision making with regard to alcohol and drugs.
Learn to be assertive and speak directly. Don't worry about being polite. Expect and demand that your rights and feelings be respected.
Trust your instincts. If the situation doesn't feel right, it probably isn't. Confront the person immediately or leave.
Avoid being in a vulnerable situation with someone you don't know well.
Know how you're getting home from a social event. If the friend or group of friends you were planning on walking with have already left, call the Penn State SAFE WALK (814 865-WALK), rather than walking alone or with someone who you just met.
In a dating situation, listen carefully to the other person's statements. If you're confused about what the person means, particularly if you feel that the person is giving a mixed message, ask for clarification.
Don't make assumptions about someone's behavior. You can't assume that someone who drinks heavily, dresses provocatively, or goes to your room wants to have intercourse with you; if a person consents to kissing or petting, again, don't assume that the person is willing to have intercourse.
Assume that "No" means No.
Do not exploit others sexually. Focus on consent and mutuality.
Avoid responding to peer pressure that encourages "scoring" and bragging about sexual activity. Instead, use peer pressure positively to discourage exploitation of others. For example, don't engage in "locker room" talk about women or laugh at rape jokes.
Confront exploitative and/or violent behaviors when they are occurring. As difficult as it may be, you truly will be helping all those involved.
Individuals who DO SOMETHING to decrease the likelihood that something bad will occur or get worse.
There are two ways bystanders can be active:
Reactive:The choices you makes in response to a situation that you think might be high risk or might eventually lead to something high risk. The next time you are in a situation that makes your gut go “uh-oh,” instead of walking away, thinking to yourself, “This is none of my business,” take a moment to check in, make a phone call, provide support, or ask a friend to help.
Proactive:These are little things you can do to make it less likely that concerning behaviors ever happen. This might include having a conversation with a friend about this issue, wearing an anti-violence message on a t-shirt or pin, posting a bystander message on Facebook, or Tweeting about bystanders’ role in violence prevention.
Reactive Bystander Actions (for anyone)
To help you come up with solutions, think about the 3 Ds. These are ways a bystander can reactively respond to concerning situations. You have lots of options! Source: Green Dot etc., a non-profit organization dedicated to violence prevention education (www.livethegreendot.com).
Direct: This approach just means you are directly interacting with the people involved in the situation and addressing that you are concerned. It may be a confrontation or it may just be checking in with a friend. Examples:
- “Hey – what are you doing?”
- “Are you OK?”
- “Is he/she too drunk to hook up?”
- “I’m worried about you, can I get you home?”
- Just give your friend a look that shows you don’t like what you see.
- “Back off.”
- “Not cool, s/he is way too drunk.”
- Mutter something under your breath, like “not cool.”
- Offer to walk a classmate/friend/colleague across campus after class, because they’re worried their ex is stalking them.
Distract: This approach’s focus is diversion. If you see a situation and can think of a way to divert the attention of the people in the situation, distract is the perfect option. Sometimes all a situation needs to diffuse is a little diversion. Examples:
- Spill your drink
- Act drunker than you are and tag along
- Make a noise complaint to campus safety or the cops
- Talk loudly on your cell phone close to the situation
- Show a YouTube video on your cell phone
- Just don't leave
- Ask for directions
- Bring up an event (“Hey, did you see that game last night?”)
- Offer an alternative activity
Delegate: When you recognize a concerning situation and you may be uncomfortable saying something yourself or you feel like someone else is better suited to handle it (i.e. a friend, police, bartender), delegate is a solid option. Here you are asking someone else to help in the situation. It also has the additional benefit of making someone else aware of what is going on and that something needs to be done. Examples:
- Talk to his/her friends, ask them to check in
- Tell his/her friends to get them home safely
- Call 911
- Call campus safety
- Tell an RA
- Alert a bartender or bouncer to the situation
- Grab some friends to confront the situation with you
- Ask a professor to have a conversation with a classmate about your concerns
- Ask a colleague to check in with a student/other colleague
Proactive Bystander Actions (for anyone)
In order to reduce the number of people impacted by violence, we don’t just want to respond to concerning behavior – we want to keep it from happening in the first place. And even if you never see a high-risk situation, there are things you can do to reduce the likelihood that violence happens on this campus. Examples:
- Have a conversation with a friend about this issue
- Talk to a friend about your personal commitment to be an active bystander
- Read all you can about sexual assault, dating violence and stalking and how to be an active bystander
- Post something on Facebook about bystanders or this issue
- Tweet about being an active bystander
- Make a personal commitment to look out for your friends
- Make a plan with your friend group for how you will look out for each other
- Bring a training to your dorm or fraternity or sorority
- Write a paper about violence prevention
- Wear a t-shirt or pin with an anti-violence stance
- Write a letter to the editor
- Volunteer at a local domestic violence shelter or rape crisis center
- Add a line to your e-mail signature about your personal commitment to violence prevention
- Attend a training to increase bystander intervention skills
Know What to Do When Someone Experiences Sexual Violence
No matter how careful you or your friends are, it may not be possible to fully prevent sexual violence. Then it becomes important to know what to do to help yourself or a friend feel safe again. Remember, it is not your fault or your friend’s fault who is the victim. No one asks to be sexually assaulted, and no one deserves it.
After an act of sexual violence occurs, a victim (female, male, or any gender identity or expression) should:
Get the victim to a safe place as soon as possible.
Try to preserve all physical evidence. The victim should not bathe, shower, douche, use the toilet, or change clothing until she/he has a medical exam.
Respect the wishes of the victim and support decisions the victim makes regarding reporting the crime and seeking out services. As a friend of a victim, there are things you can do to help. The kind of support the victim gets determines how quickly the person will heal from the rape/sexual assault. It's important to listen in a nonjudgmental way, let the victim know she/he is not to blame, encourage action, let her/him regain control by making decisions, and understand that each victim reacts and recovers differently. Most likely you will be affected, too, so take care of yourself and your own needs as well.
Get medical attention as soon as possible. An exam will determine the presence of physical injury, sexually transmissible diseases, or pregnancy. The exam, if done within 72 hours following the rape/sexual assault, can obtain evidence to assist in criminal prosecution. If the victim is worried about pregnancy, Emergency Contraception Pills (available through University Health Services) can be administered within 72 hours of the sexual assault to help prevent pregnancy.
Contact a close friend who can be with the victim for support. The friend can accompany the victim to the medical exam and/or police department.
Consider talking to a counselor. The victim may be feeling a variety of strong emotions: fear, anxiety, depression, guilt, powerlessness, shame, shock, disbelief, embarrassment, denial, and/or anger. The victim may also have some physical problems, such as sleep disturbances and nausea. Therefore, seeing a counselor may be important in helping the person understand her/his feelings and begin the process of recovery.
What Penn State Is Doing About Sexual Assault
Provides a dusk-to-dawn Safe Walk for a safer alternative to walking alone. Call (814) 865-WALK to arrange for an escort.
Provides the services of a victim resource officer through the Penn State Police and Public Safety. Services include support, information, court accompaniment, and referrals.
Provides assistance, advocacy, and educational programming through the Center for Women Students.
Provides sexual assault counseling, including crisis services, through Center for Women Students and Counseling and Psychological Services.
Has a Sexual Assault and Harassment Task Force created by Penn State President Eric Barron, who charged the task force to “collect, review, and provide an evaluation of Penn State’s activities relating to sexual assault and other forms of sexual or gender-based harassment.”
Includes a Policy Statement on Sexual Assault and Abuse in the Code of Conduct, which specifies that "The Pennsylvania State University will not tolerate sexual assault or abuse, such as rape (including acquaintance rape) or other forms of non-consensual sexual activity. These acts degrade the victims, our campus community, and society in general. While the University cannot control all the factors in society that lead to sexual assault and abuse, the University strives to create an environment that is free of acts of violence." Violations of the policy are subject to disciplinary proceedings through the Office of Student Conduct.