Definition of Sexual Assault
Definition of Sexual Assault:
The New School defines sexual assault in two ways. The first is physical: committing nonconsensual sexual acts such as oral-genital contact; anal or vaginal penetration (intercourse); or other forms of sexual touching. The second is sexual exploitation: taking nonconsensual abusive sexual advantage over another person through acts such as tampering with birth control or knowingly transmitting sexually transmitted infections or diseases (STIs or STDs), including HIV.
Legal definitions of sexual assault vary by state and may differ slightly from the university definition. The legal definition of sexual assault in by New York State can be read here.
In some legal and university definitions, the term sexual assault is used interchangeably with rape. Sexual assault can refer to nonconsensual contact that stops just short of rape (i.e. forced intercourse). The New School uses the terms interchangeably: both are covered by the New School Sexual Assault Policy.
Alcohol and drugs can diminish your capacity to consent to sexual activity. Because the New School defines consent as an active process during which both parties must be coherent and sober, sexual assault that is facilitated through the use of drugs and alcohol is a violation of the New School Sexual Assault Policy and may be a violation of New York State Law.
If you are assaulted while under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol, you are not to blame. Leaving a party with someone does not constitute consent to sexual activity.
While no one can ever truly prevent themselves and others from being assaulted, there are some ways to act as an empowered bystander while drinking:
- Keep an eye on your drinks and the drinks of friends
- Refuse alcohol from common, open containers
- Go out as a group, leave as a group. Watch out for your friends.
- If you do decide to leave with someone, let your friends know where you’re going, when you’ll be back, and who you’re going with.
- If you suspect that a friend has been drugged, call 911 immediately and be explicit with doctors in order to ensure proper medical care.
While anonymous sex often occurs in the context of “hooking up” at a club or party, it can also occur in the context of pick ups. Pick ups (also known as cruising) occur when two or more strangers arrange to meet up, usually for sex. Generally, they meet online or in a public area before engaging in sexual activity. Sometimes, pick-ups occur in the context of recreational sex or sex work. Pick ups usually happen without incident, but sometimes people pick up or cruise others with the intent to harm.
Pick up crimes are one of the least discussed forms of violence committed against LGBTQI communities and sex workers because pick ups commonly happen between folks who are LGBTQI identified and/or sex workers and clients. Survivors of pick up crimes often feel ashamed and fear reporting out of concern that they will be discriminated against or prosecuted for engaging in anonymous sex or sex work. As with any instance of sexual assault, pick up crimes are never the victim's fault.
Regardless of one’s relationship with a perpetrator of sexual violence, rape is rape. Frequently, a perpetrator may be an acquaintance, friend, client, spouse, or partner. Sexual assault is defined by the absence of consent, not the relationship.