Sexual assault is any sexual contact without consent. Acts may include unwanted sexual touching, fondling, harassment, exposing or flashing, or forcing a person to pose for sexual pictures. Rape is non-consensual sexual intercourse, including vaginal, anal, or oral penetration by a body part or an object. Sometimes, sexual assault and rape are used as interchangeable terms.
Consent is a knowing, voluntary, and mutual decision among all participants to engage in sexual activity. Consent can be given by words or actions, as long as those words or actions create clear permission regarding willingness to engage in the sexual activity. Silence or lack of resistance, in and of itself, does not demonstrate consent. Consent CANNOT be given as a result of coercion, if the person is not of legal age to consent, or if the person is incapacitated.
Consent should be enthusiastic and can be sexy! It's as easy as asking, "Is this okay?" or "What do you want?" Also see our Consent FAQ Factsheet.
Rape and sexual assault often involve one person taking advantage of another who is under duress or incapacitated and, therefore, incapable of making a decision (including being under the influence of alcohol, drugs, and/or prescription medications). Rape and sexual assault are crimes motivated by power and control, and perpetrators use rape and sexual assault as a weapons to hurt and dominate others. It is never a survivor's fault that they were sexually assaulted!
If you think you may have experienced a sexual assault:
- Know that it is not your fault.
- You do not have to make a decision to report the incident before accessing counseling, medical services, or an advocate.