Sexual violence occurs when an individual or group engages in activities that violate another’s sexual boundaries. Communicating boundaries and practicing affirmative consent are critical parts of sexual intimacy. For this reason, Sarah Lawrence College adheres to an affirmative consent standard:

Sarah Lawrence College maintains an affirmative consent standard consistent with New York State Education Law: 

Affirmative 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. The definition of consent does not vary based upon a participant's sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.  

Sarah Lawrence College adheres to the following guiding principles regarding Affirmative Consent: 

  • Consent to any sexual act or prior consensual sexual activity between or with any party does not necessarily constitute consent to any other sexual act. 
  • Consent is required regardless of whether the person initiating the act is under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol. 
  • Consent may be initially given but withdrawn at any time. Consent cannot be given when a person is incapacitated, which occurs when an individual lacks the ability to knowingly choose to participate in sexual activity. Incapacitation may be caused by the lack of consciousness or being asleep, being involuntarily restrained, or if an individual otherwise cannot consent. Depending on the degree of intoxication, someone who is under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or other intoxicants may be incapacitated and therefore unable to consent. 
  • Consent cannot be given when it is the result of any coercion, intimidation, force, or threat of harm. 
  • When consent is withdrawn or can no longer be given, sexual activity must stop. 

Note: The affirmative consent standard may differ from, and be more specific than, definitions of consent under relevant criminal or civil laws. For a definition of consent under New York State law, see the SLC Student Handbook, Appendix 1.

Sexual Harassment{expander}

Sexual harassment is defined as unwelcome sexual advances or requests for sexual favors or other unwelcome verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when submission to or rejection of such advances, requests, or conduct is made, either explicitly or implicitly, (i) a term or condition of educational benefits, privileges, or placement services or as a basis for the evaluation of academic achievement of a student or (ii) a term or condition of employment or a basis for employment decisions concerning any employee.

Sexual harassment is also defined as unwelcome sexual advances or requests for sexual favors or other unwelcome verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature that are so severe or pervasive that they have the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with a student’s education or an employee’s work performance or of creating an intimidating, hostile, humiliating, or sexually offensive educational, living, or working environment, when judged by the standards of a reasonable person.

Sexual harassment does not refer to compliments or other behavior of a socially acceptable nature. It does not refer to discussions of material with a sexual component which might offend some but which was introduced in class or conference for intellectual purposes.

Sexual Assault{expander}

Sexual assault is defined as having sexual contact or sexual intercourse with another individual without consent.

Sexual contact includes intentional contact with the intimate parts of another, causing another to touch one’s intimate parts, or disrobing or exposure of another without permission. Intimate parts may include the breasts, genitals, buttocks, groin, mouth, or any other part of the body that is touched in a sexual manner. Sexual contact also includes attempted sexual intercourse.

Sexual intercourse includes vaginal or anal penetration, however slight, with a body part (e.g., penis, tongue, finger, hand, etc.) or object, or oral penetration involving mouth to genital contact.

Intimate Partner Violence{expander}

IPV is a pattern of behavior used to establish power and control over another person. It can include physical abuse, emotional abuse, psychological abuse, economic abuse, and/or sexual abuse. Abusers use threats, intimidation, isolation, excessive jealousy, and/or possessive behavior to gain and maintain power over the target of their abuse. There are two types of intimate partner violence (IPV) that are apart of the College's definitions for prohibited conduct of sexual violence, domestic violence and dating violence.

Domestic Violence, sometimes called battering or family violence, is violence committed by a current or former spouse, persons who share a child in common, or a person of whom there is/was currently or previously cohabitation.

Dating Violence is violence committed by a person who is or has been in a social relationship of an intimate nature with the victim.  It can involve any person with whom one has an intimate relationship, such as a partner, ex-partner, boyfriend, girlfriend, friend, or any other individual.



Stalking is a pattern of repeated and unwanted attention, harassment, contact, violence, or any other conduct directed at another person that makes them feel afraid or in danger.  A person can be stalked by someone they know, someone they have dated, or by a stranger. Stalking is serious, and can escalate over time, and sometimes become violent.

Stalking can include:

  • Repeated, unwanted, intrusive, and/or frightening communications by phone, text, mail, and/or email
  • Repeatedly leaving or sending unwanted items, presents, or flowers
  • Following or spying on a person at places such as home, school, work, or on the street
  • Showing up unwanted at a person’s home, school, or job
  • Threatening a person or someone close to that person
  • Vandalizing or threatening to vandalize a person’s property
  • Cyberstalking—unwanted posting, presence, or monitoring of a person’s presence on the Internet
  • Using technology like hidden cameras or global positioning systems (GPS) to track where a person goes
  • Obtaining personal information by accessing public records, using Internet search services, hiring private investigators, or going through a person’s garbage

There are many misconceptions about to whom, what, and how how sexual violence occurs. However, many of our preconceived notions are untrue. Disspelling such judgements and beliefs are important for understanding the gravity of what sexual violence is and how it impacts our community.

Women are not the only survivors of sexual assault and rape.{expander}

Sexual assault and rape can happen to anyone and be perpetrated by anyone, regardless of gender or sexuality. 

Rape and assault can occur even if the survivor did not fight back. {expander}

If a survivor did not consent, the act was assault. Consent cannot be obtained through fear or threats of violence

Consent must be acquired for each sexual act, every time.{expander}

The fact that a person has consented to something once before does not mean they always give consent. It is possible for a spouse or significant other to perpetrate assault. Sex workers can also be violated; being paid for sexual acts does not prevent them from sexual assault or deny them rights.  

No one is ever "asking for it."{expander}

Rape and sexual assault are acts of violence and degradation, an unwanted violation of one's body. The idea that survivors were "asking for" such violence is a tactic of rape culture, intended to blame survivors for violence directed at them. 

Rape is not a product of uncontrollable lust.{expander}

Rape is not sex. Rape is an act of violence, domination, and control. Rape is not a way to show affection, attraction, love, or desire.

Rape is not only perpetrated by a stranger.{expander}

Rape is not always committed by an anonymous attacker wielding a weapon. While rape may be perpetrated by a stranger, it is far more common for the survivor to know the person who assaulted them. Moreover, the U.S. Department of Justice reports that 80 percent of all rapes and cases of sexual assault do not involve a weapon.  

Being assaulted or raped is not an indicator of the sexuality of the victim or the perpetrator. {expander}

For example, men who rape and assault other men may identify as straight. Rape in such instances is not about sexual attraction; it is about power.

An orgasm does not equal consent.{expander}

Nor does it represent a positive emotional response. 

There are several factors to consider when discussing sexual violence. The following concepts are provided to help give you a more in-depth perspective on how attitudes and thoughts concerning sexual violence pervade our society.


When thinking about identity and sexual violence, it is important to understand that gender identity is not the same as biological sex. Gender is a spectrum, and individuals can choose to identify in endless ways. Nonetheless, people are categorized by those around them, sometimes in terms that are at odds with how they see themselves. People who identify as "cis-gender"—those whose gender identity matches the sex they were assigned at birth—may experience this less as a problem. Transgender individuals are often subjugated through intentional misidentification, even being described as "it." This mis-gendering and un-gendering is closely linked with heteronormativity—the assertion that only a male gender and a female gender exist.


Heteronormativity is the normative claim recognizing only two genders: male and female. This restrictive perspective asserts that people only fall into either of those categories and that relationships—as well as sex—only occur between cis-gendered men and women.


When considering risk in the context of sexual and gendered violence, it is important to acknowledge that it is not the survivor's duty to eliminate risk. Therefore, it is not the survivor's responsibility to change their behavior; their behavior is not the problem.

We can reduce risk through increased awareness of sexual violence, by educating ourselves and others about healthy sexual practices like affirmative consent, and by being accountable for our actions in relation to sex and consent.

Rape Culture{expander}

A rape culture encourages, condones, or ignores sexual aggression and gendered violence. Many people believe that in the West today we live in a culture of violence that, when expressed in relation to sex and gender, manifests as rape culture. Because we live in a culture where sexual assault and discrimination is excused, brushed off, or ignored, survivors of sexual violence are often blamed for their abuse.

 It is important to remember that rape and sexual assault can happen to anyone: men or women (cis-gender or transgender) as well as those who are gender queer or gender nonconforming. Sex workers can be rape victims. Someone can be raped or assaulted regardless of their race or socioeconomic status, their sexual orientation, the clothing and makeup they are wearing, their sexual past, or their relationship to the perpetrator. No one is ever "asking for it."

It is important to remember that not all perpetrators are masked men hiding in bushes. Although rape can be perpetrated by a stranger, it is far more common for a survivor to know the person who assaulted them. This is commonly referred to as "acquaintance rape." The Rape, Assault, and Incest National Network (RAINN) estimates that 73 percent of all sexual assaults were perpetrated by a non-stranger.

Survivor Blaming & Slut Shaming{expander}

Rape culture characterizes assault as a natural consequence of provocation. This flawed perspective perpetuates the myth that sexual violence is the survivor's fault and is expressed in behavior as "survivor blaming." One of the most common forms of survivor blaming is known as "slut shaming," which is characterized by comments such as "they deserved it or were asking for it because they were…"

  • Walking around late at night]
  • In a relationship with their rapist
  • Not fighting back
  • Alone
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Making eye contact with an attacker
  • The individual's self-presentation - clothing and make up - and sexual history are often used to explain and excuse assault.

Hypermasculinity & Violence{expander}

Hypermasculinity is an exaggeration of stereotypical male behavior emphasizing physical strength and aggression. Hypermasculinity is often a factor in acts of gender-related and sexual violence. Research has found that hypermasculinity is associated with sexual and physical aggression, particularly towards women and feminine people.


The notion of intersectionality recognizes how power in society stems from multiple and interconnected gender, class, and race-based subordination. Rather than a "single-axis" framework in which race, gender, class, and ability are treated as mutually exclusive categories of experience, intersectionality takes into account the overlap in identities that make discrimination and suppression more acute.

 Intersectionality is important when thinking about sexual violence. It shapes the survivor’s experience of violence and their response (and often the response of those in positions of power), and because it represents a factor of risk of sexual violence. That is, some marginalized identities increase an individual's risk of assault, and the more of those identities a person carries, the greater the risk of sexual violence.