The following are terms and definitions relevant to the topics discussed on this site. Here is our executive order that governs csu-wide definitions - you may notice a difference in language within safer's definitions below. the executive order provides a baseline definition, and as advocates, we tend to broaden terms to encompass a wider range of experiences.
Terms & Definitions
Safer's Campus Advocates are extensively trained on the dynamics of gender- and power-based violence and survivor-centered empowerment & healing. All our full-time professional staff are certified through the state of California for sexual assault & domestic violence crisis intervention, support & advocacy, through a 65+ hour training.
- Safety planning
- Accompaniments to health centers, law enforcement interviews, university administrative appointments, faculty office hours, etc.
- Information on and guidance throughout various reporting processes (law enforcement, Title IX, etc.) if the survivor chooses to report
- Assistance with necessary accommodations to the living and learning environment
- Not Anymore alternative training accommodations
- Connection to resources on campus & in the community
We strive to be a safe place to discuss your experience on your own terms. We do not provide therapy services. We are here to listen, empower & support you, as well as help facilitate decision-making. If you are interested in long-term therapy, your Advocate can help facilitate referrals.
You are the expert on your own experience. We will not tell you what to do or make decisions on your behalf – we are here to help you navigate resources available to you and empower you on your path to healing.
You can schedule a confidential appointment with an Advocate here.
Confidential Advocacy is a legal right for any survivor of sexual violence - read the California Evidence Code here.
“Boundaries are a life enhancing system of ‘yes and ‘nos’. They are stop signs and borders you install to protect yourself, so that it is clear you own your life, make good choices, and pursue the authentic expression of who you are in the way you live, love, give and relate.”
-Self Help Alliance
There are many types of boundaries, including but not limited to: physical, sexual, relational, spiritual, mental, digital, etc. Boundaries are deeply personal, and allow us to learn about ourselves, remain autonomous, self-advocate for your own personal needs, set healthy limits about what behavior we accept, and bolster our assertiveness skills.
Some notes about boundaries:
- Having boundaries and allowing others to express and navigate theirs with you is crucial for healthy relationships.
- Boundary-setting allows those in relationships to understand one another’s needs better, limiting unhealthy habits around making assumptions or guilting.
- Boundary-setting and consent are both skills that need to be practiced. Both skills require keen and deep listening, and thoughtful responses – something that we should be comfortable with long before the bedroom.
- Establishing boundaries is an act of respect, empathy, and trust - not the opposite, as we’ve been led to believe.
Coercion is defined as pressuring, manipulating, or persuading someone to do something they don’t want to do. This may or may not include threats or force.
This might look like a “no” that eventually turns into a “yes” or “fine” or silence after persistent pressure. This is not affirmative consent.
Safer is a confidential resource, meaning we do not (and cannot) share any of your information with the University without your explicit consent. What is said to a Safer Advocate will not be shared with law enforcement officers, medical personnel, parents, friends, or any on or off-campus department or agency unless specifically requested by the survivor.
Information, including personally identifiable information (e.g., name, address, etc.), you share with a confidential Campus Advocate will be kept confidential and will not be shared without your written consent except where disclosure is required or permitted by law. For example, such information may be disclosed when:
- There is a serious concern that you or another individual will likely cause serious physical harm to yourself or others;
- The information concerns conduct involving suspected abuse or neglect of a minor under the age of 18; or
- The Advocate is required to disclose information by a subpoena, search warrant, court order, or other legal process, including a lawful discovery request.
Only a small portion of individuals are considered confidential on campus: Safer staff and Counseling staff. All other employees (professors, coaches, staff members, etc) are considered mandated reporters for any instance of gender- & power-based violence. Read more below about their requirements.
Affirmative consent is a freely given, reversible, informed, enthusiastic, specific, and ongoing decision among all participants to engage in any activity - not just sexual!
Think of times in our lives where we negotiate consent in non-sexual situations: “Can I borrow your pen?” “Can I come over?” “Can you pick me up from the airport?” “Can I have some of your fries?” All of these are examples of consent – so we’re used to it! We just have to extend that same expectation of communication into our sexual experiences.
Planned Parenthood's acronym, FRIES, simplifies what affirmative consent looks like:
- Freely given. Consenting is a choice you make without pressure, manipulation, or under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
- Reversible. Anyone can change their mind about what they feel like doing, anytime. Even if you’ve done it before, and even if you’re both naked in bed.
- Informed. You can only consent to something if you have the full story. For example, if someone says they’ll use a condom and then they don’t, there isn’t full consent.
- Enthusiastic. When it comes to sex, you should only do stuff you WANT to do, not things that you feel you’re expected to do.
- Specific. Saying yes to one thing (like going to the bedroom to make out) doesn’t mean you’ve said yes to others (like having sex).
Remember: this is the baseline expectation for all sexual experiences! All of us deserve autonomy, agency and decision-making power in our lives, especially in the most intimate moments. A key feature of any consensual sexual experience is communication; get used to having these conversations, normalize talking about sex and boundaries, and accept when other people set boundaries with you.
Making sure you have consent doesn't need to be uncomfortable, embarrassing, or awkward. It can be as simple as asking, "Do you like this?" "Does this feel good?" "What do you want?" - and respecting any answer.
To be clear, the following things do not constitute or imply consent for sex: silence, intoxication, "sure," "I guess," being naked, having had sex before, making out, being in a relationship, etc.
Healthy sex = communication; talk it out.
This is a form of emotional abuse and manipulation where the abusive partner makes a survivor question their own reality. This could take the form of:
- Lying to you about what happened (“You’re making this up,” “I never said that”)
- Discrediting you (“You’re crazy,” “You don’t know what you’re talking about”)
- Changing the subject to avoid confronting responsibility
- Minimizing your experience (“You’re overreacting,” “You’re so sensitive”)
- Shifting blame (“If you didn’t ___ to me, I wouldn’t have ___ to you”)
- Denying wrongdoing (“I never did that!” “I would never say that to you.”)
- Using compassionate words as weapons (“You know how much I love you – I would never hurt you.”)
- Rewriting history (“I didn’t hit you, you knocked into me!”)
Per our CSU Executive Order, harassment is defined as:
Unwelcome verbal, nonverbal or physical conduct engaged in because of an individual Complainant's Protected Status.If a Complainant is harassed because of their Protected Status, that means that the Complainant's Protected Status is a substantial motivating reason (but not necessarily the only reason) for the conduct.
Harassment may occur when:
- Submitting to, or rejecting, the verbal, nonverbal or physical conduct is explicitly or implicitly a basis for:
- Decisions that adversely affect or threaten employment, or which are being presented as a term or condition of the Complainant's employment; or
- Decisions that affect or threaten the Complainant's academic status or progress, or access to benefits and services, honors, programs, or activities available at or through the university.
- The conduct is sufficiently severe or pervasive so that its effect, whether intended or not, could be considered by a reasonable person under similar circumstances and with similar identities, and is in fact considered by the Complainant as creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive work or educational environment that denies or substantially limits an individual's ability to participate in or benefit from employment and/or educational, services, activities, or other privileges provided by the CSU.
Harassment includes, but is not limited to, verbal harassment (e.g., epithets, derogatory comments, or slurs), physical harassment (e.g., assault, impeding or blocking movement, or any physical interference with normal work or movement), and visual forms of harassment (e.g., derogatory posters, cartoons, drawings, symbols, or gestures.). Single, isolated incidents will typically be insufficient to rise to the level of harassment.
Per our CSU Executive Order,incapacitation is defined as:
Affirmative Consent cannot be given by a person who is incapacitated. A person is unable to consent when asleep, unconscious, or incapacitated due to the influence of drugs, alcohol, or medication so that the person could not understand the fact, nature, or extent of the sexual activity. A person is incapacitated if the person lacks the physical and/or mental ability to make informed, rational decisions. A person with a medical or mental disability may also lack the capacity to give consent.
Whether an intoxicated person (as a result of using alcohol or other drugs) is incapacitated depends on the extent to which the alcohol or other drugs impact the person's decision-making ability, awareness of consequences, and ability to make informed judgments. A person's own intoxication or incapacitation from drugs or alcohol does not diminish that person's responsibility to obtain Affirmative Consent before engaging in sexual activity.
Sexual activity with a minor (a person under 18 years old) is not consensual, because a minor is considered incapable of giving consent due to age.
It shall not be a valid excuse that a person affirmatively consented to the sexual activity if the Respondent knew or reasonably should have known that the person was unable to consent to the sexual activity under any of the following circumstances:
- The person was asleep or unconscious
- The person was incapacitated due to the influence of drugs, alcohol, or medication, so that the person could not understand the fact, nature, or extent of the sexual activity
- The person could not understand the fact, nature, or extent of the sexual activity, or was unable to communicate, due to a mental or physical condition
It shall not be a valid excuse that the Respondent believed that the person consented to the sexual activity under either of the following circumstances:
- The Respondent's belief in Affirmative Consent arose from the intoxication or recklessness of the Respondent;
- The Respondent did not take reasonable steps, in the circumstances known to the Respondent at the time, to ascertain whether the person affirmatively consented.
Institutional Betrayal was coined by researcher Jennifer Freyd to describe “wrongdoings perpetrated by an institution upon individuals dependent on that institution, including failure to prevent or respond supportively to wrongdoings by individuals (e.g. sexual assault) committed within the context of the institution.” The failure of many colleges and judicial courts to respond to sexual assault accusations in ways that protect and support the survivor is a form of institutional betrayal and can both re-traumatize and disillusion the survivor. Read more here.
Intimate Partner Violence
A pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another partner. There are several forms of violence:
- Physical (hitting, scratching, choking, hair pulling, throwing items, threatening to use a weapon/force, preventing your movement, damaging your property, etc.)
- Sexual (unwanted kissing/touching, coercion, stealthing, assault, restricting access to contraception/birth control, etc.)
- Emotional/Psychological (gaslighting, calling you names, intentionally embarrassing you in front of others, isolating you from family/friends, etc.)
- Economic/financial (giving you an allowance, obtaining loans with your name, damaging your credit score, stealing your money, etc.)
- Digital (Tracking your phone/social media/app usage, sharing your private information online, stealing your passwords, etc.)
- Spiritual (prohibiting you from joining your faith/spiritual communities, tampering with spiritual objects, interfering with practices, forcing conversion, etc.)
All forms of abuse are serious, and no one deserves to experience violence in their relationships. The Power and Control Wheel below illustrates ways in which a perpetrator may use violence against their partner.
Most people affiliated with the university are designated as mandated reporters. This means that, if they hear a disclosure of any gender- & power-based violence experience, they must share any information they learn with Title IX through the Civil Rights and Compliance Office.
Mandated reporters are not investigators. They should not pry for any additional information other than what is offered by the student. They simply report any information that was given to them.
After Title IX receives this report, the student simply receives an email outlining their rights and options. The student may choose to:
- Not reply
- Reply and let them know they are uninterested in moving forward
- Reply and ask clarifying questions
- Pursue an investigation
- Request an informal resolution
We encourage all students to get connected to a Safer Advocate early to explain all of these options in a safe space!
In public health models of violence prevention, there are tiered approaches to creating a culture of anti-violence:
- Primary prevention:
- Prevent violence from happening in the first place - this is done by setting expectations & examples of pro-social norms, engaging active bystanders at the roots of violence, and shifting to a culture of equity and anti-violence. If we all focused our energy on primary prevention, the enormous rates of survivorship and victimization would not exist.
- Secondary prevention:
- Intervening immediately during/after violence has occurred with the goal of protecting the survivor and preventing the problem from worsening (i.e. being an active bystander imminently before a potential assault, or crisis counseling for survivors in the response to the trauma).
- Tertiary prevention:
- Long-term intervention once violence has already occurred in hopes of containing the problem or reducing symptoms (i.e. long-term counseling for survivors, rehabilitation for perpetrators).
All tiers are important for holistic community care and culture change. Our Advocates offer Tertiary prevention, caring for people who have already been harmed; while our Prevention Team works from a primary lens, hoping to shift the culture so these instances of harm never happen in the first place.
Sexual violence is an umbrella term encompassing any non-consensual sexual act. This may include sexual touching, kissing, bodily contact, fondling, and/or penetration, and may or may not include coercion, threat of force, violence, threat of retaliation, and/or use of substances as a tool to facilitate the assault.
Rape and Sexual Assault are defined below:
- Rape is an act of non-consensual sexual intercourse with penetration that may or may not involve coercion, the threat of force, violence, immediate and unlawful bodily injury or threats of future retaliation and duress.
- Sexual assault is broader in definition than rape. Any non-consensual sexual act may be sexual assault - this may include unwanted oral intercourse, penetration of the anus or vagina with a foreign object, unwanted touching on an intimate area of a person’s body, or unwanted kissing or bodily contact that is sexual in nature.
Sexual violence is rooted in power and control.
Actual or attempted abuse of a position of vulnerability, power, or trust, for sexual purposes, including, but not limited to, profiting monetarily, socially or politically from the sexual exploitation of another.
The CSU Executive Order defines it as:
“Sexual Exploitation means a person taking sexual advantage of another person for the benefit of anyone other than that person without that person's consent, including, but not limited to, any of the following acts:
- The prostituting of another person.
- The trafficking of another person, defined as the inducement of a person to perform a commercial sex act, or labor of services, through force, fraud, or coercion.
- The recording of images, including video or photograph, or audio of another person's sexual activity or intimate parts, without that person's consent.
- The distribution of images, including video or photographs, or audio of another person's sexual activity or intimate parts, if the individual distributing the images or audio knows or should have known that the person depicted in the images or audio did not consent to the disclosure.
- The viewing of another person's sexual activity or intimate parts, in a place where that other person would have a reasonable expectation of privacy, without that person's consent, for the purpose of arousing or gratifying sexual desire.”
Stalking is a repeated pattern or course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a person to feel fear.
Stalking may happen in the context of a relationship or could be perpetrated by someone the victim or survivor does not know, although this most commonly occurs between previous partners. Regardless, if the actions make you feel unsafe, it could be stalking.
Examples of stalking may include:
- Following someone or tracking their location (SnapMaps, FindMyFriends, etc)
- Watching from afar
- Continuous/excessive phone calls or texts
- Delivering unwanted items or gifts to a person’s residence, work site, etc.
- Using other people to make contact
- Cyberstalking; social media, e-mail, etc.
- Property damage
Stalking is often romanticized and celebrated in media; but when left unchecked, stalking behaviors can become precursors to more egregious forms of violence. Take it seriously when you see it.
Stealthing is the act of removing a condom without consent during sexual intercourse.
What otherwise may be a consensual activity becomes non-consensual once a boundary like this is crossed; it’s a violation of affirmative consent.
Remember: Consent is defined as INFORMED – as circumstances change throughout the sexual experience, that must be communicated and mutually agreed upon.