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Key Definitions


Consent is a clear and freely given agreement for sexual contact.

  • Consent is an ongoing process – consent to kissing does not necessarily mean consent to other sexual activity.
  • Consent may be withdrawn at any time.
  • Also, consent to sexual activity on one occasion does not necessarily mean continual consent – everyone involved must give and receive consent to sexual activity every time, even when involved in a long-term relationship or marriage.
  • Saying nothing is not the same thing as consent, and non-resistance is not the same thing as consent.
  • In order for consent to exist, everyone involved must be fully conscious, aware of the situation and free of any coercion.
  • Anyone under the age of 18 is a minor, and is considered incapable of giving informed consent.


Coercion is any kind of pressure or persuasion used to influence a person’s decision to engage in sexual activity. Coercion can be physical, verbal, or emotional.

  • Physical coercion is the most recognizable kind of pressure and includes actions such as holding someone down or continued kissing or sexual activity even when being told “no” or being pushed away.
  • Verbal coercion includes behaviors like threats of physical violence, blackmailing, lying, name-calling, or asking repeatedly for sexual involvement even after being told “no.”
  • Emotional coercion is the most subtle type of pressure and includes actions like making someone feel obligated or guilty for not wanting to engage in sexual activity using peer pressure, threatening to break up, etc.
  • Sexual assault can happen to both men and women, and both men and women can be sexual assailants. It also can happen between people of the same sex.
  • Sexual assault can occur between strangers or people who know each other, even those who are in a long-term relationship or married.

Dating Violence

Violence committed by a person: a) who is or has been in a social relationship of a romantic or intimate nature with the victim; and b) where the existence of such a relationship shall be determined based on a consideration of the following factors:

  • the length of the relationship;
  • the type of relationship;
  • the frequency of interaction between the persons involved in the relationship.

Domestic Violence

Felony or misdemeanor crimes of violence committed by a current or former spouse of the victim, by a person with whom the victim shares a child in common, by a person who is cohabiting with or has cohabited with the victim as a spouse, by a person similarly situated to a spouse of the victim under the domestic or family violence laws of the jurisdiction, or by any other person against an adult or youth victim who is protected from that person's acts under the domestic or family violence laws of the jurisdiction.

Sexual Assault

Sexual assault is any sexual contact, including but not limited to intercourse (rape) that occurs without consent and/or through coercion.

Sexual assault is not about sex or an assailant’s sexual desires. It’s about exerting power and control over another person. This means that regardless of how someone dresses or acts, or where, or how, they choose to spend their time, a person who is sexually assaulted is never to blame for the assault. The only person responsible for the assault is the assailant.

Sexual Violence

Sexual violence is a non-consensual conduct of a sexual nature. Anyone can be a victim or a perpetrator, regardless of age, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, education, race, religion, or ability. Sexual violence can be committed by strangers or a person familiar to you, including an intimate partner.


Engaging in a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to:

  • fear for his or her safety, or the safety of others; or
  • suffer substantial emotional distress.



Definitions from the Campus SaVE Act: A Compliance Guide (2014).

Definitions from the Missouri Statute of Sexual Offences.

Definitions from RAINN.org.