The following is a list of terms related to sexual and interpersonal harassment and violence. Some terms below may have different definitions used within University policies and State and Federal Laws. Please refer to the definitions provided within those policies and laws for those descriptions.
Definitions below are taken and/or adapted from sources cited. Citations within the definitions attempt to cite the specific portions of the definitions taken or adapted from that source. Citations following the initial term mean that the entire definition is taken or adapted from that source. We have attempted to correctly cite from sources taken; however, if an error is found, please contact us so we can appropriately attribute authorship to the content. See citations below.
(from The University of Tulsa’s Alcohol Policy)1: The University strongly encourages students to report instances of sexual violence. TU recognizes that students are often less likely to report incidents of violence, or suspected violence, when they themselves have been consuming alcohol in a situation that may put them at risk for conduct violations. Please note that victims of sexual violence will not receive sanctions related to violations of the alcohol policy. The Medical Alcohol Amnesty Policy (MAAP) “represents the University’s commitment to informed decision-making and promotion of responsible behaviors when faced with alcohol-related emergencies.” Under MAAP, students seeking help for themselves or for other students with medical emergencies and/or victims of suspected acts of sexual violence “will not have a complaint filed or be sanctioned for violations of University alcohol-related policies. Students seeking assistance in compliance with this policy shall not be referred for disciplinary action solely related to the possession, consumption or supplying of alcohol. Students may be required to consult with the Dean or an Assistant Dean of Students and may be required to participate in an appropriate educational program depending upon their involvement in the situation. Participation in any program as a result of this policy shall not be noted on the student’s conduct record. Nothing in this policy shall prevent an individual who is obligated by federal, state, or local law, or University policy, practice, or procedure, to do so from reporting or taking other action related to the possible criminal prosecution of any student.” Additionally, “No individual may receive amnesty under this section more than once in a two year period. Records of all requests for assistance under this policy shall be maintained by the Office of Student Affairs. Participation in any program as a result of this policy shall not be noted on the student’s conduct record. In the event an individual who previously utilized the MAAP policy is involved in a subsequent alcohol-related incident, this incident and any resulting sanctions shall be treated as an alleged second offense.”
Read the full amnesty policy here.
Bystander intervention is an approach that aims to engage bystanders, or third party witnesses, to situations in which violent behavior has occurred, might occur, or is in the process of occurring. These interventions encourage bystanders to speak up and intervene in ways that make the situation better. By involving third parties, these interventions aim to increase the scope and breadth of violence prevention efforts.3,4
You may encounter a situation where you believe that someone might be or become a victim of violence (sexual, physical, emotional), harassment or stalking. As a bystander, you have the choice to remain silent or to intervene and take an active stance on ending violence. By intervening, these strategies allow individuals to send a powerful message about what is acceptable and expected behavior in our community.3,4
Intervention can happen in many ways, and it is always important to think about what is best for your own safety and the safety of others. Intervention can be very direct – where you insert yourself into the situation in some way to distract or interrupt. It can be less direct — texting your friend to come over to help you, knocking on an apartment door and walking away, or asking a friend to intervene. Indirect intervention also includes things such as calling Campus Security to intervene in a situation on your behalf.
“The act of using pressure, alcohol or drugs, or force to have sexual contact with someone against their will” and includes “persistent attempts to have sexual contact with someone who has already refused.” 5,6 Think of sexual coercion as a spectrum or a range. It can vary from someone verbally egging you on to someone actually forcing you to have contact with them. It can be verbal and emotional, in the form of statements that make you feel pressure, guilt or shame. You can also be made to feel forced through more subtle actions. For example, your partner might:
- Make you feel like you owe them
- Give you compliments that sound extreme or insincere as an attempt to get you to agree to something
- Badger you, yell at you or hold you down
- Give you drugs and alcohol to loosen up your inhibitions
- Play on the fact that you’re in a relationship, saying things such as: “Sex is the way to prove your love for me” or “If I don’t get sex from you I’ll get it somewhere else”
- React negatively (with sadness, anger or resentment) if you say no or don’t immediately agree to something
- Continue to pressure you after you say no
- Make you feel threatened or afraid of what might happen if you say no
- Try to normalize their sexual expectations: ex. “I need it, I’m a guy.” 5,7
Means a person has given voluntary permission to participate in a particular activity. Consensual sexual activity means that everyone involved has actively agreed to what they are doing, without being forced, coerced, or under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. Without this active, verbal agreement, any sexual activity is considered sexual violence/assault. A few things to know:
- Yes means yes. Consent is not the absence of a no. It is the presence of a clear, affirmative, expression of interest, desire, and wants. Consent involves all parties, with each person setting their boundaries or sharing their desires. Consent is respectful, mutual decision-making.
- Drugs and alcohol impact decision-making and blur consent. When drugs and alcohol are involved, clear consent cannot be obtained. An intoxicated person cannot give consent.
- Consent needs to be clear. Consent is more than not hearing the word “no.” A partner saying nothing is not the same as a partner saying “yes.” Don’t rely on body language, past sexual interactions, or any other nonverbal cues. Never assume you have consent. Always be sure you have consent by asking.
- Consent can be fun. Consent does not have to be something that “ruins the mood.” In fact, clear and enthusiastic consent can enhance sexual interactions. Not only does it allow one to know that their partner is comfortable with the interaction, it also lets both partners clearly express what they want.
- Consent is specific. Just because someone consents to one set of actions and activities does not mean consent has been given for other sexual acts. Similarly, if a partner has given consent to sexual activity in the past, this does not apply to current or future interactions. Consent can initially be given and later be withdrawn, even within a short span of time.
Controlling, abusive, and aggressive behavior in a romantic relationship. It can happen in straight or LGBTQ relationships. It can include verbal, emotional, physical, or sexual abuse, or a combination.
The use of technologies such as texting and social networking to bully, harass, stalk or intimidate a partner. Often this behavior is a form of verbal or emotional abuse perpetrated online. You may be experiencing digital abuse if your partner:
- Tells you who you can or can’t be friends with on Facebook and other sites.
- Sends you negative, insulting or even threatening emails, Facebook messages, tweets, DMs or other messages online.
- Uses sites like Facebook, Twitter, foursquare and others to keep constant tabs on you.
- Puts you down in their status updates.
- Sends you unwanted, explicit pictures and demands you send some in return.
- Pressures you to send explicit video.
- Steals or insists to be given your passwords.
- Constantly texts you and makes you feel like you can’t be separated from your phone for fear that you will be punished.
- Looks through your phone frequently, checks up on your pictures, texts and outgoing calls.
- Tags you unkindly in pictures on Instagram, Tumblr, etc.
Emotional abuse within a relationship is when one partner exerts control over another in a non-physical way. This includes:
- Calling you names, insulting you or continually criticizing you
- Refusing to trust you and acting jealous or possessive
- Trying to isolate you from family or friends
- Monitoring where you go, who you call and who you spend time with
- Demanding to know where you are every minute
- Punishing you by withholding affection
- Threatening to hurt you, the children, your family or your pets
- Humiliating you in any way
- Blaming you for the abuse
- Accusing you of cheating and being often jealous of your outside relationships
- Serially cheating on you and then blaming you for their behavior
- Engaging in, or threatening to engage in, behaviors intended to hurt you
- Seeking out other sexual interests or activities to prove that they are more desired, worthy, etc. than you are
- Attempting to control your appearance: what you wear, how much/little makeup you wear, etc.
- Telling you that you will never find anyone better, or that you are lucky to be with a person like them
A form of emotional abuse that causes a victim to question their own feelings, instincts, and sanity, which gives the abusive partner a lot of power. Often, this behavior begins gradually. Once an abusive partner has broken down the victim’s ability to trust their own perceptions, the victim is more likely to stay in the abusive relationship. There are a variety of gaslighting techniques that an abusive partner might use7:
- Withholding: the abusive partner pretends not to understand or refuses to listen, e.g., “I don’t want to hear this again,” or “You’re trying to confuse me.”
- Countering: the abusive partner questions the victim’s memory of events, even when the victim remembers them accurately, e.g., “You’re wrong – you never remember things correctly.”
- Blocking/Diverting: the abusive partner changes the subject and/or questions the victim’s thoughts, e.g., “Is that another crazy idea you got from [friend/family member]?” or “You’re imagining things.”
- Trivializing: the abusive partner makes the victim’s needs or feelings seem unimportant, e.g., “You’re going to get angry over a little thing like that?” or “You’re too sensitive.”
- Forgetting/Denial: the abusive partner pretends to have forgotten what actually occurred or denies things like promises made to the victim, e.g., “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” or “You’re just making stuff up.”11
According to author and psychoanalyst Robin Stern, Ph.D., the signs of being a victim of gaslighting include12:
- You constantly second-guess yourself.
- You ask yourself, “Am I too sensitive?” multiple times a day.
- You often feel confused and even crazy.
- You’re always apologizing to your partner.
- You can’t understand why, with so many apparently good things in your life, you aren’t happier.
- You frequently make excuses for your partner’s behavior to friends and family.
- You find yourself withholding information from friends and family so you don’t have to explain or make excuses.
- You know something is terribly wrong, but you can never quite express what it is, even to yourself.
- You start lying to avoid the put downs and reality twists.
- You have trouble making simple decisions.
- You have the sense that you used to be a very different person – more confident, more fun-loving, more relaxed.
- You feel hopeless and joyless.
- You feel as though you can’t do anything right.
- You wonder if you are a “good enough” partner.
A healthy relationship involves:
- both partners accept responsibility for their own behavior and mistakes,
- they can disagree with each other safely, and
- they value each other’s opinions.
- partners communicate directly, with no manipulation or intimidation,
- partners listen to each other, actively trying to understand what the other person is saying,
- decisions are made together, and
- conflict is dealt with openly.
- partners support each other’s goals,
- they celebrate successes, and
- assist the other(s) during difficulty.
- Trust and Honesty
- honesty is important and valued,
- partners feel safe and comfortable with each other, and
- they work consistently with each other.
- each partner is confident in their own worth,
- independence and alone time are valued, and
- personal growth is encouraged and supported by the other partner(s).
- Fairness and Equality
- partners are accountable for their own behavior and don’t blame the other(s),
- forgiveness is essential,
- conflict ends in equal and fair compromise, and
- partners give and receive equitably in the relationship.
Healthy sexual relationships involve the characteristics listed above, but also include healthy communication about sex. This means that all partners can and do speak openly about sexual boundaries, desires, likes and dislikes. This conversation should occur prior to any sexual activity and should happen during the activity as well. Healthy sexual activity also includes consent, where partners respect the boundaries put in place, as well as respect, and follow any changes in boundaries, even during the sexual activity. If partners are unable to discuss sex with each other, the relationship may not be healthily prepared for sexual activity.
Brett Sokolow, a lawyer and risk management consultant, defines incapacitation in the following way: “In order to consent effectively to sexual activity, you must be able to understand Who, What, When, Where, Why and How with respect to that sexual activity. Any time sexual activity takes place where the victim did not understand any one of these six conditions, incapacity is an issue. An awareness of all six must be present. This is another way of stating the law’s expectation that consent be informed, and any time it is not, consent cannot be effective. To be more precise, an incapacitated person cannot give a valid consent. They could be stark naked, demanding sex, but if they are incapacitated at the time, and that is known or knowable to the accused, any sexual activity that takes place is misconduct, and any factual consent that may have been expressed is irrelevant.” Incapacitation includes, but is not limited to being drunk or inebriated, and these terms are not always mutually exclusive. Please note that the TU Policy on Sexual Violence, Domestic Violence, Dating Violence, and Stalking Pertaining to Students15 states that when person is “unable to give consent with a clear affirmative yes due to the use of drugs, alcohol, intellectual deficiency or other disability”, that any sexual act that occurs is considered a violation of said Policy. Therefore, a person does not need to be incapacitated in order for a sexual act to be considered sexual violence.
Oppression (___ prejudice + institutional power=___ism)16
The combination of prejudice and institutional power which creates a system that discriminates against some groups (often called “target groups”) and benefits other groups (often called “dominant groups”). Examples of these systems are racism, sexism, heterosexism, ableism, classism, ageism, and anti-Semitism. These systems enable dominant groups to exert control over target groups by limiting their rights, freedom, and access to basic resources such as health care, education, employment, and housing.
Four Levels of Oppression/”isms” and Change:
- Personal: Values, Beliefs, Feelings
- Interpersonal: Actions, Behaviors, Language
- Institutional: Rules, Policies, Procedures
- Cultural: Beauty, Truth, Right
Psychological abuse refers to acts such as:
- Degradation, humiliation, intimidation and threats of harm;
- Intense criticizing, insulting, belittling, ridiculing, and name calling that have the effect of making a person believe they are not worthwhile and keep them under the control of the abuser;
- Verbal threats of abuse, harm, or torture directed at an individual, the family, children, friends, companion animals, stock animals, or property;
- Physical and social isolation that separates someone from social support networks; extreme jealously and possessiveness, accusations of infidelity, repeated threats of abandonment, divorce, or initiating an affair if the individual fails to comply with the abuser’s wishes;
- Monitoring movements, and driving fast and recklessly to frighten someone.
Physical abuse occurs when a person exerts control over their partner by using physical force. Physical abuse can be a single occurrence or happen repeatedly, and can include any of the following tactics of abuse:
- Pulling your hair, punching, slapping, kicking, biting or choking you
- Forbidding you from eating or sleeping
- Damaging your property when they’re angry (throwing objects, punching walls, kicking doors, etc.)
- Threatening to hurt or actually hurting you with weapons
- Trapping you in your home or keeping you from leaving
- Preventing you from calling the police or seeking medical attention
- Harming your children
- Abandoning you in unfamiliar places
- Driving recklessly or dangerously when you are in the car with them
- Forcing you to use drugs or alcohol (especially if you’ve had a substance abuse problem in the past)
Non-consensual sex with another person obtained by force or the inherent threat of force. Rape involves unwanted penetration which includes penile-vaginal, mouth on your genitals, mouth on someone else’s genitals, penile-anal, digital-vaginal, digital-anal, object-vaginal, and object-anal penetration.18
One of the most important considerations with rape has to do with consent. Rape is when the sexual act occurs without the consent of one of the individuals and can include the use or threat of force.19 Rape can also occur with a person who is substantially incapacitated and therefore cannot give consent. A person who is intoxicated or under the influence cannot legally give consent.19
Rape myths are defined as stereotypical beliefs about rape and/or rape victims that work in a way to blame the victim for the rape and excuse the rapist.20
Examples of Rape Myths include21:
- Myth: Rape is sex.
- Truth: Rape is more than unwanted sex. Rape is an act of violence. Sexual attraction may play a role, but power and control are considered more primary motives.
- Myth: Men can’t be raped.
- Truth: Rape can happen to anyone. Gender, age, ethnicity, or social class do not determine who is a victim of rape or attempted rape.
- Myth: Rape and sexual assault/violence usually occurs between strangers.
- Truth: Rape can happen between strangers, but it is more common to happen amongst acquaintances or even people who each other. It is estimated that over 70% of victims know their attackers. Rape can occur between people who are married or have been in a relationship for a long time.
- Myth: A victim should be discouraged from dwelling on the rape. He or she should “forget it”.
- Truth: Being told how one “should” feel can be particularly harmful. Every survivor should have the opportunity to talk about their experience with someone they feel close to or a qualified professional if they choose to do so.
Rape myths can be particularly harmful to the survivor of the sexual assault/violence. The more a person believes these rape myths, the more likely they are to attribute blame to the survivor and not the offender who is the only person responsible.22 Endorsing these myths is also damaging in that they promote false ideas about rape in our society.
“Acts of reprisal, revenge and retribution are all considered retaliation and a violation of Title IX and University policy.”2 Retaliation can occur from the perpetrator/accused, friends/peers/family of either party, coworkers/supervisors, or any other individual who may have knowledge of the act. This can include, but is not limited to: spreading rumors, verbal abuse/bullying, online harassment/abuse, physical harm, being excluded/ostracized, being demoted/fired, unjustified grade reductions, and destruction of property. Retaliation does not include petty slights or annoyances. Retaliation against a victim and/or the person reporting an act of sexual violence is prohibited by law and university policy. This means that the perpetrator/accused, the university, supervisors and other members of the community are forbidden from retaliation and such acts would be in violation of Title IX, EEO laws, and University policy.
A safety plan is a personalized, practical plan that includes ways to remain safe while in a relationship, planning to leave, or after you leave. Safety planning involves how to cope with emotions, tell friends and family about the abuse, take legal action, and more.
Sexually abusive methods of retaining power and control include an abusive partner:
- Forcing you to dress in a sexual way
- Insulting you in sexual ways or calling you sexual names
- Forcing or manipulating you into to having sex or performing sexual acts
- Holding you down during sex
- Demanding sex when you’re sick, tired or after hurting you
- Hurting you with weapons or objects during sex
- Involving other people in sexual activities with you against your will
- Ignoring your feelings regarding sex
- Forcing you to watch pornography
- Purposefully trying to pass on a sexually transmitted disease to you
Sexual Assault/Sexual Violence2
Any act of non-consensual touching of another with an element of sexual gratification for the offender. This can include sexual coercion, sexual harassment, and other forms of non-consensual sexual contact. Rape is one of the more commonly known forms of sexual assault/violence.
Drug-facilitated sexual assault can occur when someone is given a drug without their knowledge so that an offender can take advantage of them. It can also include when a person has voluntarily taken a drug and the offender takes advantage of the person in their incapacitated state. The use of drugs to facilitate sexual assault is not limited to typical “date-rape drugs” and may include any substance that creates an experience of incapacitation.24
Any physical contact of a sexual nature. This can include any touching of a person’s genitals or other private areas of the body by another person, any other touching of a person’s body in a sexual way (e.g. pinching, squeezing, slapping arms, legs, head, etc. with an implied or explicit sexual purpose and/or the use of sexual objects or one’s own genitals to touch another person), penetration of another person (including a person’s mouth, vagina, anus, or other orifice for a sexual purpose/gratification). Sexual contact can include the use of one’s mouth, hands/digits, penis, or other body parts as well as any object for the purpose of touching another person in a sexual way or for one’s own, or the other person’s, sexual gratification. Sexual contact can be consensual or non-consensual. When non-consensual, sexual contact is considered an act of sexual violence.
Sexual harassment can include a number of unwanted sexual advances from another person, including: gender harassment, verbal sexual remarks, verbal sexual requests, non-verbal sexual displays, seductive behavior, sexual bribery, and can escalate into sexual coercion or sexual assault.25,26 Sexual harassment is more commonly discussed as a concern in the workplace, but it is a concern in various other settings including college campuses and social settings.
A repeated pattern of unwanted contact that is harassing or threatening which causes the victim to be fearful or concerned about their safety or the safety of someone close to them.27 This could include:
- Unwanted calls, text messages, or voicemails
- Unwanted emails or contact through social media
- Unwanted cards, letters, flowers or presents
- Showing up in places where the victim lives, works, or goes to school
- Sneaking into the victim’s home or car
Sexual/Domestic Violence Survivor Advocate is a person specifically trained to support and advocate for survivors of violence. Advocates can assist the survivor by being present during SANE exams, filing police/university reports, during court proceedings, and more. There are also hotlines available that survivors can call to speak to an advocate for support, guidance, and validation. In Tulsa, DVIS (Domestic Violence Intervention Services) has an Advocate hotline that survivors can call any time 918.7HELP.ME (918.743.5763). DVIS can also provide advocates to be present during reporting, medical exams, and court procedures. Please visit https://dvis.org/ for more information.
Victim blaming is a devaluing act that occurs when the victim(s) of a crime or an accident is held responsible — in whole or in part — for the crimes that have been committed against them.29 This blame can appear in the form of negative social responses from legal, medical, and mental health professionals30, as well as from the media and immediate family members and other acquaintances. Some victims of crime receive more sympathy from society than others. Often, the responses toward crime victims are based on the misunderstanding of others. This misunderstanding may lead them to believe that the victim deserved what happened to them, or that victims may be individuals with low self-esteem who seek out violence. As a result, it can be very difficult for victims to cope when they are blamed for what has happened to them. Some examples of victim blaming related to sexual violence include:
- “She was asking for it”
- “She didn’t say no”
- “She shouldn’t have been in that place/at that party/out late at night/etc.”
- “She’s just trying to ruin his life”
- “I don’t believe her. She just wants attention.”
These statements are problematic because it may make victims question what happened to them and less likely to report the violence and/or seek support. It also enables a culture that supports the perpetrator and provides both explicit and implicit approval for acts of sexual violence.
Definitions above are taken and/or adapted from sources cited. Citations within the definitions attempt to cite the specific portions of the definitions taken or adapted from that source. Citations following the initial term mean that the entire definition is taken or adapted from that source. We have attempted to correctly cite from sources taken; however, if an error is found, please contact us so we can appropriately attribute authorship to the content. See citations below.
The University of Tulsa’s Alcohol Policy (2015). The University of Tulsa. Retrieved from
The TU Sexual Violence Prevention and Educational Programming Committee, The University of Tulsa Institute of Trauma, Adversity, and Injustice (TITAN) and The Office of Student Affairs (2014). The VIBe Booklet. The University of Tulsa. Retrieved from https://utulsa.policystat.com/policy/11821708/latest
McMahon, S., & Banyard, V. L. (2012). When Can I help? A Conceptual Framework for the Prevention of Sexual Violence Through Bystander Intervention. Trauma, Violence & Abuse, 13(1), 3-14. doi:10.1177/1524838011426015
Orchowski, L. M., Untied, A. S., & Gidycz, C. A. (2013). Social Reactions to Disclosure of Sexual Victimization and Adjustment Among Survivors of Sexual Assault. Journal Of Interpersonal Violence, 28(10), 2005-2023. doi:10.1177/0886260512471085
Struckman-Johnson, C., Struckman-Johnson, D, & Anderson (2003). Tactics of Sexual Coercion: When Men and Women Won’t Take No for an Answer. Journal of Sex Research, Feb; 40(1): 76-86. P. 76
Bulletins for Teens: Dating Violence. The Naitonal Center for Victims of Crime. Retrieved from
Sokolow, Brett. The Typography of Sexual Misconduct Complaints. White Paper. National Center for Higher Education Risk Management, 2005. pp. 10-11.
American Medical Association. Diagnostic and treatment guidelines on domestic violence. Archives of Family Medicine; 1992: 1, 39-47.
Fisher B, Cullen F, & Turner, M. The sexual victimization of college women (NCJ 182369). Washington, DC: Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice; 2000.
Kilpatrick DG, Edmunds CN, Seymour AK. Rape in America: A Report to the Nation. Arlington, VA: National Victim Center; 1992.
Bohner G, Reinhard MA, Rutz S, Sturm S, Kerschbaum B, Effler D. Rape myths as neutralizing cognitions: Evidence for causal impact of anti-victim attitudes on men’s self-reported likelihood of raping. European Journal of Social Psychology; 1998: 28: 257-268.
Hamlin J. List of Rape Myths The University of Minnesota; 2001.
Frese B, Moya M, Meigas J. Social perception of rape: How rape myth acceptance modulates the influence of situational factors. Journal of Interpersonal Violence; 2004: 19: 143-161.
Kilpatrick DG, Resnick HS, Ruggiero K, Conoscenti LM, McCauley J. Drug-facilitated, incapacitated, and forcible rape: A national study (NIJ 219181). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice; 2007.
Gruber JE. A typology of personal and environmental sexual harassment: Research and policy implications for the 1990’s. Sex Roles. 1992; 26: 447-464.
Till F. Sexual harassment: A report on the sexual harassment of students. Washington, DC: National Advisory Council on Women’s Educational Programs; 1980.
The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey. U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice and Center for Control and Prevention; 1998.
Coatesa, L., Richardson, C., & Wade, A. (2006, May). Reshaping responses to victims of violent crime. Presented at Cowichan Bay, B.C., Canada.