Sexual Assault and Violence Prevention Resources

Samuel Merritt University is committed to ensuring the safety and well-being of its entire community, including responding to issues of sexual violence.

These resources aim to promote comprehensive prevention, education, advocacy, and response guidelines related to issues of sexual violence—including sexual assault, rape, domestic violence, relationship abuse, and stalking crimes, as well as to help build coordinated community awareness and response to these efforts.

We recognize that by coming together we are better able to provide compassionate and supportive treatment of survivors, their friends, and significant others, hold perpetrators accountable, foster collaborative relationships between campus and community systems, and create a culture where violence is not tolerated. We hope that you will engage in this dialogue with us to help further our collective understanding of these issues and work toward effective and compassionate solutions.

Samuel Merritt University holds that sexual violence has no place in the academic environment and the University will not tolerate it.  Additionally, under CA State and Federal laws, sexual violence (inclusive of, but not limited to: sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, dating violence, domestic violence, stalking and sexual assault of employees or students) is illegal.  Samuel Merritt University seeks to eliminate sexual violence through education and by encouraging faculty, staff, and students to report concerns or complaints.  The University takes the matter of sexual violence very seriously; indeed, the University and individual employees and/or students may be legally liable for acts of sexual violence. Therefore, any acts of sexual violence should be reported immediately to the Executive Director of Human Resources (Title IX Coordinator).  After a thorough investigation, anyone found to have violated this policy will be subject to disciplinary action—up to and including dismissal/discharge from the University. See the SMU Sexual Violence Policy for more information.

Definition of Sexual Misconduct
Sexual misconduct includes a range of behaviors used to obtain sexual contact against a person's will.  Sexual misconduct is defined as sexual contact without consent by someone you know or a stranger and includes:  intentional touching without consent, either of the victim or when the victim is forced to touch, directly or through clothing, another person's genitals, breast, groin, thighs or buttocks; rape (sexual intercourse without consent whether by someone you know or stranger); attempted rape; sodomy (oral or anal intercourse) without consent; or sexual penetration with an object without consent.

State law defines various violent and/or non-consensual sexual acts as crimes. Additionally, Samuel Merritt University has defined categories of sexual misconduct, as stated below, for which action under this policy may be imposed. Generally speaking, the University considers Non-Consensual Sexual Intercourse violations to be the most serious, and therefore typically imposes the most severe sanctions, including suspension or expulsion for students and termination for employees. However, the University reserves the right to impose any level of sanction, ranging from a reprimand up to and including suspension or expulsion/termination, for any act of sexual misconduct or other gender-based offenses, including intimate partner or relationship (dating and/or domestic) violence, non-consensual sexual contact and stalking based on the facts and circumstances of the particular complaint. Acts of sexual misconduct may be committed by any person upon any other person, regardless of the sex, gender, sexual orientation and/or gender identity of those involved.

Violations include:

  1. Sexual Harassment (as defined below)
  2. Non-Consensual Sexual Intercourse. Defined as:
  • any sexual penetration or intercourse (anal, oral or vaginal). Sexual penetration includes vaginal or anal penetration by a penis, tongue, finger or object, or oral copulation by mouth to genital contact or genital to mouth contact.
  • however slight
  • with any object
  • by a person upon another person
  • that is without consent and/or by force

 3. Non-Consensual Sexual Contact. Defined as:

  • any intentional sexual touching. Sexual touching includes any bodily contact with the breasts, groin, genitals, mouth or other bodily orifices of another individual, or any other bodily contact in a sexual manner.
  • however slight
  • with any object
  • by a person upon another person
  • that is without consent and/or by force

4. Sexual Exploitation
Sexual Exploitation refers to a situation in which a person takes non-consensual or abusive sexual advantage of another, and situations in which the conduct does not fall within the definitions of Sexual Harassment, Non-Consensual Sexual Intercourse or Non-Consensual Sexual Contact. Examples of sexual exploitation include, but are not limited to:

  • Sexual voyeurism (such as watching a person undressing, using the bathroom or engaged in sexual acts without the consent of the person observed)
  • Taking pictures or video or audio recording another in a sexual act, or in any other private activity without the consent of all involved in the activity, or exceeding the boundaries of consent (such as allowing another person to hide in a closet and observe sexual activity, or disseminating sexual pictures without the photographed person’s consent)
  • Sexual exploitation also includes engaging in sexual activity with another person while knowingly infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) or other sexually transmitted disease (STD) and without informing the other person of the infection, and further includes administering alcohol or drugs (such as “date rape” drugs) to another person without his or her knowledge or consent

Definition of Sexual Harassment
SMU Policy defines sexual harrassment as follows:

1.     The prohibition applies to all staff employees and students, and in particular to supervisors (including direct supervisory and other management staff).  A sexual advance violates this policy regardless of whether the advance is expressly related to the affected employee’s/student’s employment/academic status. It is improper to make sexual advances, ask for, demand or seek by subtle pressure sexual favors or activity from an employee/student, or to subject another employee/student to verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature where:

  • The submission to such behavior is a condition of any employment/academic opportunity, benefit, job retention, grade; or
  • The submission to or rejection of such conduct is used as a basis for employment/academic decisions; or
  • Such conduct has the purpose or the effect of unreasonably interfering with the individual’s work/academic performance; or
  • Such conduct creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work/academic environment.

2.     It is improper for an employee/student to make sexual advances or to offer or suggest sexual favors or activity in exchange or in consideration for any personnel/academic action.

3.     It is improper to retaliate against an employee/student for refusing a sexual advance or for refusing a request, demand or pressure for sexual favors or activity or to retaliate against an employee/student who has reported an incident of possible sexual harassment to the University or to any government agency.

4.     It is not possible to identify each and every act which constitutes or may constitute sexual harassment.  However, certain conduct is clearly improper and is strictly prohibited.  Persons engaging in this conduct, or other similar acts, will be subject to discipline up to and including dismissal from the University.  Such acts might include:

a.     Any unwanted, intentional touching of an employee/student by another may be sexual harassment and is prohibited.  Due to the possibility of misinterpretation of acts by other employees/students, the University discourages all roughhousing or physical contact, except that contact necessary and incidental to an employee’s job/student’s academic status. Further, certain kinds of physical conduct in the work/academic environment are particularly inappropriate and may be grounds for immediate discipline, including dismissal from the University. That conduct includes, but is not limited to:

  • Kissing or attempting to kiss an employee/student;
  • Touching or attempting to touch or pretending to touch the breasts, buttocks or genitals of an employee/student;
  • Physically restraining by force or blocking the path of an employee/student when accompanied by other conduct of a sexual nature;
  • Any other touching or attempted touching reasonably interpreted to be of a sexual nature.

b.     Sexual advances, unwelcome requests, demands, or subtle pressure for sexual favors or activity, lewd comments and sexual innuendoes are also prohibited. This conduct includes, but is not limited to:

  • Comments to an employee/student or others about the body of an employee/student which are intended to draw attention to the sex of the employee/student or can reasonably be interpreted to draw attention to the sex of the employee/student;
  • Comments to the employee/student or others about the sexual conduct, capability, or desirability of an employee/student;
  • Cat calls, whistles, or other conduct reasonably interpreted to be of a sexual nature.

c.     Sexually suggestive gestures are also prohibited.

d.     It is improper to subject employees/students to photographs, cartoons, articles, or other written or pictorial materials of a sexual nature after the employee/student has expressed his/her/hir displeasure with such activity. These materials may be offensive to the public as well and should not be on display in offices or public areas in any event.

e.     This policy is not intended to prohibit employees/students from asking other employees/students for social engagements.  However, repeated requests where prior social invitations have been refused can be interpreted as sexual harassment.  Employees/students should refrain from persistent invitations after an employee/student has indicated that such invitations are unwelcome.

Definition of Dating Violence
The term “dating violence” means violence committed by a person: Who is or has been in a social relationship of a romantic or intimate nature with the victim; and 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; and the frequency of the interaction between the persons involved in the relationship. 

Definition of Domestic Violence
The term ‘‘domestic violence’’ includes 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 cohabitating with or has cohabitated 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 receiving grant monies, 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.

Definition of Stalking
The term ‘‘stalking’’ means engaging in a course of conduct, regardless of the medium used, that is directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to— (A) fear for his/her/their safety or the safety of others; or (B) suffer substantial emotional distress.

Like other forms of sexual violence, stalking is a crime of power and control. Stalking is conservatively defined as "a course of conduct directed at a specific person that involves repeated (two or more occasions) visual or physical proximity, nonconsensual communication, or verbal, written, or implied threats, or a combination thereof, that would cause a reasonable person fear." (National Institute of Justice).   Stalking behaviors also may include persistent patterns of leaving or sending the victim unwanted items or presents that may range from seemingly romantic to bizarre, following or laying in wait for the victim, damaging or threatening to damage the victim's property, defaming the victim's character, or harassing the victim via the Internet by posting personal information or spreading rumors about the victim. 

Definition of Sexual Assault
The term sexual assault refers to sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the victim. Some forms of sexual assault include:

  • Penetration of the victim’s body, also known as rape
  • Attempted rape
  • Forcing a victim to perform sexual acts, such as oral sex or penetrating the perpetrator’s body
  • Fondling or unwanted sexual touching

What is Rape? 
Rape is a form of sexual assault, but not all sexual assault is rape. The term rape is often used as a legal definition to specifically include sexual penetration without consent. For its Uniform Crime Reports, the FBI defines rape as “penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.”

It is important to note that force doesn’t always refer to physical pressure. Perpetrators may use emotional coercion, psychological force, or manipulation to coerce a victim into non-consensual sex. Some perpetrators will use threats to force a victim to comply, such as threatening to hurt the victim or their family or other intimidation tactics.

The conduct described in this policy is strictly prohibited.  If anyone, including non-employees/non-students, engages in such conduct, it is important that the conduct be reported to the Executive Director of Human Resources.  It is not possible for the University to enforce this policy if incidents of harassment are not reported.  The procedure to follow if the student feels that they have been subjected to sexual harassment/sexual misconduct is set forth in this Catalog/Handbook.

Samuel Merritt University Policy Uses an “Affirmative Consent” Standard

  • Consent is informed and an affirmative, unambiguous, and conscious decision by each participant to engage in mutually agreed-upon sexual activity. For consent to be valid, there must be a clear expression in words or actions that the other individual consented to that specific sexual conduct.
  • Consent is voluntary.  It must be given without coercion, force, threats, or intimidation.  Consent is an expression of free will.
  • Consent is revocable.  Consent in some form of sexual activity does not imply consent to other forms of sexual activity.  Consent to sexual activity on one occasion is not consent to engage in sexual activity on another occasion.  A current or previous dating or sexual relationship, by itself, is not sufficient to constitute consent.  Even in the context of a relationship, there must be mutual consent to engage in sexual activity.  Consent must be ongoing throughout a sexual encounter and can be revoked at any time.  Once consent is withdrawn, the sexual activity must stop immediately.
  • Consent cannot be given when a person is incapacitated.  A person cannot consent if she/he/they is under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or medication, unconscious or coming in and out of consciousness. An individual who engages in sexual activity when the individual knows, or should know, that the other person is physically or mentally incapacitated has violated this policy. 
    • It is not an excuse that the individual responding party of sexual misconduct was intoxicated and, therefore, did not realize the incapacity of the other.
    • Incapacitation is defined as a state where someone cannot make rational, reasonable decisions because they lack the capacity to give knowing consent (e.g., to understand the “who, what, when, where, why or how” of their sexual interaction). This policy also covers a person whose incapacity results from mental disability, involuntary physical restraint and/or from the taking of incapacitating drugs.
    • A person cannot consent if she/he/ze is under the threat of violence, bodily injury or other forms of coercion. A person cannot consent if his/her/hir understanding of the act is affected by a physical or mental impairment.
    • In the evaluation of any allegation it is not a valid excuse to alleged lack of affirmative consent that the responding party believed that the Reporting Party consented to the sexual activity under either of the following circumstances:
      • (A) The Responding Party’s belief in affirmative consent arose from the intoxication or recklessness of the accused.

      • (B) The Responding Party did not take reasonable steps, in the circumstances known to the accused at the time, to ascertain whether the Reporting Party affirmatively consented.

  • Consent can not be given by a minor. In California, a minor (meaning a person under the age of 18 years) cannot consent to sexual activity. This means that sexual contact by an adult with a person younger than 18 years old is a crime, as well as a violation of this policy, even if the minor wanted to engage in the act.

The state definition of consent can be found here. These penal codes are applicable to criminal prosecutions for sex offenses in California but may differ from the definition used by Samuel Merritt University to address policy violations.

Personal Sovereignty

The basic principle of consent is that every person has a right to personal sovereignty—that every person has the right not to be acted upon by someone else in a sexual way unless he or she gives clear permission to do so.  Healthy sexual relations should be consensual and fun and consent means that two people (or more) decide together to do the same thing, at the same time, in the same way, with each other. Any sexual act that is initiated upon a person without their consent is against the law and is a violation of SMU Sexual Harrasment Policy.

Consent is based on choice.
Consent is active not passive.
Consent is possible only when there is equal power.
Giving in because of fear is not consent.
Going along with something because of fear is not consent.
Going along with something because of wanting to fit in with the group,
being deceived or feeling bad is not consent.
If you cannot say no comfortably then yes has no meaning.
If you are unwilling to accept a no then yes has no meaning. 
~ Source Unknown  

Elements of Consent

C = Comprehension that the act is taking place
O = Optional for both parties
N = Negotiation with partner
S = Sobriety – must have knowledge of the nature of the act
E = Engagement in the act willingly
N = Nonviolent
T = Talking about it/ communication – silence does not equal consent

Consent can only be given when intimate partners have equal power in determining the level of sexual intimacy that will or will not occur in their sexual encounters.  Consent is never the mere absence of a “no.”  It is never implied.  Consent only emerges when there is a clear “yes” about what type of sexual intimacy is wanted by both intimate partners.  And that agreement must be made without fear, threat, deceit or coercion.  By establishing consent, one respects the other person's sexual boundaries or preference to limit types of sexual involvement.

 Consent Is

  • A voluntary, sober, imaginative, enthusiastic, creative, wanted, informed, mutual, honest, and verbal agreement
  • An active agreement that is freely given and mutually agreed upon
  • Is based in choice and cannot be coerced
  • A process, which must be asked for every step of the way; if you want to move to the next level of sexual intimacy, just ask
  • Never implied and cannot be assumed, even in the context of a relationship. Just because you are in a relationship does not mean that you have permission to have sex with your partner

Consent Cannot Be Given If

  • a person is severely intoxicated, incapacitated, or unconscious as a result of any drug or intoxicant
  • a person has been purposely compelled by force, threat of force, or deception
  • a person is unaware that the act is being committed because they are unconscious or semi-conscious
  • a person's ability to consent or resist is obviously impaired because of a mental or physical condition
  • a person is coerced by supervisory or disciplinary authority
  • a person is under the legal age of consent.

Recognizing "No"
There are many verbal and nonverbal ways to communicate no. It is important for both partners to know how to read and understand the signs when someone is uncomfortable, scared, and expressing their desire to stop either verbally or nonverbally. Remember: Just because a person didn't say 'no' and/or didn't fight back, does not mean that the incident was consensual. Fear may prevent a victim from saying no and/or from fighting back. Being unconscious means you can't say no or fight back. Being conscious but incapacitated by alcohol or drugs may also mean that saying no and fighting back is not a possibility.

"No" means "No"
“Stop” means "No"
"I’m not ready” means "No"
"Not now" means "No"
"Maybe later" means "No"
Pushing you away means "No"
Screaming means "No"
"I have a boy/girlfriend" means "No"
"No thanks" means "No"
"You're not my type" means "No"
"*#^+ off!" means "No"
"I'd rather be alone right now" means "No"
"Don't touch me" means "No"
"I really like you but..." means "No"
"Let's just go to sleep" means "No"
"I don’t feel like it" means "No"
"You've/I've been drinking" means "No"
Crying means "No"
Turning away means "No"
Lying there, not participating means "No"
Five "nos" and then a "yes" (from exhaustion, coercion, giving in) means "No"
Passed out means "No"
Silence means "No"

Date rape = not understanding "No"

Flirting, Kissing, Touching Doesn't Always Need to Lead to Sex
There are different types of intimacy, like holding hands, writing love notes, kissing, hugging, massage, and actually having sex. Different people will be willing to go to different types and try different things. You might enjoy kissing, touching, but not feel ready to have sex. Or you might have had sex before with a partner, and not feel like it every time you get together. Kissing and getting intimate does not need to lead to sex. That’s why it’s important to communicate how you are feeling every time you engage in intimate or sexual activity.  It is really important that you and the person you’re with is comfortable with what’s happening. Everyone has the right to say “no” and everyone has the right to change their mind at any time regardless of their past experiences with other people or the person they are with.

Recognizing Non-Verbal Communication
There are many ways of communicating. The look on someone’s face and their body language is also a way of communicating and often has more meaning than the words that come out of their mouth.  Here are some ways body language can let you know if the person you’re with is not comfortable with what is happening:

  • Not responding to your touch
  • Pushing you away
  • Holding their arms tightly around their bodies
  • Turning away from you or hiding their face
  • Stiffening muscles
  • Freezing or shaking
  • Crying

Asking questions and being aware of body language helps you to figure out if the person you’re with is consenting and feeling comfortable, or not consenting and feeling uncomfortable. If you get a negative or non-committal answer to any of these questions, or if your partner’s body language is like any of the above examples, then you should stop what you are doing and talk to them about it.

Perks of Consent

  • Asking for and obtaining consent shows that you have respect for both yourself and your partner
  • Enhances communication, respect, and honesty, which make sex and relationships better
  • Ability to know and be able to communicate the type of sexual relationship you want
  • Knowing how to protect yourself and your partner against STIs and pregnancy
  • Opportunity to acknowledge that you and your partner(s) have sexual needs and desires
  • Identify your personal beliefs and values and respecting your partner’s personal beliefs and values
  • Builds confidence and self-esteem
  • Challenges stereotypes that rape is a women’s issue
  • Challenges sexism and traditional views on gender and sexuality
  • Positive views on sex and sexuality are empowering
  • Eliminates the entitlement that one partner might feel over another. Neither your body or your sexuality belong to someone else

How Do You Know if the Person You're With Has Given Their Consent?
The only way to know for sure if someone has given consent is if they tell you. It’s not always easy to let people know that you are not happy about something. Sometimes the person you’re with might look like they are happy doing something, but inside they are not. They might not know what to say or how to tell you that they are uncomfortable. One of the best ways to determine if someone is uncomfortable with any situation, especially with a sexual one, is to simply ask. Talking with one another while engaged in sex can be sexy and intimate.  It is the responsibility of both intimate partners to clearly give consent for each sexual act, and for each time the sexual encounter occurs.  And asking for consent is not difficult, just ASK. Here are some suggestions:

Are you ok with this?
Do you want to continue?
Can I ___  you? (kiss, touch, take your shirt off, etc.)
How are you feeling?
Do you like this? 
Is there anything you don't want to do?
Tell me to stop if you are uncomfortable.

And having “hooked-up” previously and had a satisfying sexual experience does not automatically mean a follow-up sexual encounter is acceptable.  Mutual consent is again expected and necessary.

What if the Person You're With is Too Out of it to Give Consent?
Drugs and alcohol can affect people’s ability to make decisions, including whether or not they want to be sexual with someone else. This means that if someone is really out of it, they cannot give consent. Being with them in a sexual way when they don’t know what is going on is the same as rape.

If you see a friend who is out of it and is being intimate with someone, you should pull them aside and try your best to make sure that person is safe and knows what he or she is doing. If it’s the opposite situation, and your friend is trying to engage in a sexual encounter with someone who is out if it, you should try to pull them aside and stop them from getting themselves into trouble.

Taking your time, making sure you are both comfortable, and talking about how far you want to go will make the time you spend together a lot more satisfying and enjoyable for both of you. Sometimes things move very quickly. Below are some things you can say to slow things down if you feel that things are moving too quickly.

  • I don’t want to go any further than kissing, hugging, touching.
  • Can we stay like this for a while?
  • Can we slow down?

You always have the right to say “no” and you always have the right to change your mind at any time regardless of your past experiences with other people or the person you are with. Below are some things you can say or do if you want to stop:

  • Say “No”
  • Say “I want to stop”
  • Say “I need to go to the bathroom/toilet”
  • In a situation where the other person isn’t listening to you and you feel unsafe, you could pretend you are going to vomit. (It’s amazing how quickly someone moves away from you if they think you are going to be sick).

Adapted from: Vassar College SAVP and Cabrillo College


Many people believe that sexual assault is only committed by men against women. The majority of sexual assaults are perpetrated by men, but the fact is that 1 out of every 10 men is sexually assaulted at some point in their lifetime. Because our society fails to see that men can be sexually assaulted, men often have a difficult time accepting their own victimization and delay seeking help and support. This page offers information about the sexual assault of men, talks about the barriers male survivors often face and offers a list of resources male survivors can contact to connect with a counselor or others who have been sexually assaulted.

Understanding Sexual Assault of Men
Sexual assault is any unwanted sexual contact. It can be committed by the use of threats or force or when someone takes advantage of circumstances that render a person incapable of giving consent, such as intoxication. Sexual assault of men can include unwanted touching, fondling, or groping of a male's body including the penis, scrotum or buttocks, even through his clothes. Rape of a man is any kind of sexual assault that involves forced oral or anal sex, including any amount of penetration of the anus or mouth with a body part or any other object.

Many people don't take sexual assault of men seriously. This is one of the reasons why men have a difficult time reporting what happened and why the rates of male sexual assault are thought to be significantly underreported. If a male survivor's friends think that male sexual assault is a joke, he will feel isolated and afraid to tell anyone. Sexual assault is a painful, traumatic experience for any victim.

Who can be a perpetrator of male sexual assault?
Anyone, regardless of gender or gender identity, can sexually assault a man. However, most sexual assaults against men are committed by other men, who actually identify themselves as heterosexual. It's important not to jump to the conclusion that man-against-man sexual assault only happens between men who are gay. Sexual assault is not about sexual desire or sexual orientation; it's about violence, control, and humiliation.

What are some of the feelings a male survivor may experience?
There are common feelings and effects that any survivor of sexual assault may experience, but male survivors may experience these feelings in a different way:

  • Self-blame.  It’s very easy in hindsight to review a situation and see where one may have acted differently and the outcome may have been changed. This leads to inappropriately putting the responsibility for the assault on oneself rather than on the perpetrator, where it belongs. See also Was It My Fault?
  • Disbelief.  Initially, many people become numb or go into a mild state of shock and try to ‘bury’ the incident.  This is particularly true when the victim knew the attacker in some capacity.  As the majority of sexual assault is between acquaintances, and often within a trusted relationship, this is a common response and contributes to the low reporting rate in the country.
  • Powerlessness.  During an assault, the victim has lost control of their life and body.  This feeling often carries over into other aspects of one’s life after the assault is over, leaving one feeling weak and unsafe.
  • Shame, guilt.  Men, in particular, may feel they should have been able to protect themselves and may feel that being assaulted makes him "dirty," "weak," or less of a "real man."  These feelings are in part due to societal, gender and cultural expectations we erroneously ascribe to men. 
  • Intimacy issues.  Most survivors withdraw from others for a period of time following an assault.  It is not uncommon to experience sexual difficulties with partners due to flashbacks and memories.
  • Isolation. Male survivors may feel increased pressure to deny and hide their experiences due to cultural stigma and lack of awareness of male assaults. They may also fear being blamed, judged, laughed at, or not believed.
  • Lowered self-esteem.  People often feel tainted in some way after being victimized.  They may wonder if others will want to be with them.  For those with little sexual experience, the violence of an assault is very confusing and may get tied to their future sexual development.
  • Anger.  At some point, most victims become angry.  This is a normal and appropriate response, but may get played out in self-destructive ways. 
  • Anxiety, depression.  It is normal for survivors to experience psychological challenges following an assault.  Including feeling depressed, worthless, powerless; withdrawing from friends, family, and usual activities; sleep and eating disturbances; some victims even consider suicide. Men may find it harder to seek help than women, but all survivors have a right to support and healing.
  • Physical preoccupation.  For survivors who do not seek medical treatment, (and even some who do), worry about one’s health can become obsessive.  Individuals may fear they have contracted HIV or other serious sexually transmitted infections and look for signs to confirm this. 

Additional Issues That May be Experienced by Men

  • Challenges to One’s Masculinity or Sexuality: It’s not easy to come to terms with being victimized, and this is particularly true for men who are raised to believe they should be able to protect themselves and others. This challenge to one’s masculinity goes deep and can leave one feeling inadequate at a very core level. A heterosexual man may even question his sexuality and how he is perceived by other men if he was assaulted by another man. This could result in a “homosexual panic” in which he fears the assault will change his orientation.  There is absolutely no evidence supporting this fear. Rape is primarily prompted by anger or a desire to harm, intimidate or dominate, rather than by sexual attraction or a rapist's assumption about his intended victim's sexual orientation. Because of society's confusion about the role that attraction plays in sexual assault and about whether victims are responsible for provoking an assault, even heterosexual male survivors may worry that they somehow gave off "gay vibes" that the rapist picked up and acted upon.
  • Sexual Arousal: If a man became sexually aroused, had an erection, or ejaculated during the sexual assault, he may not believe that he was raped. These are involuntary physiological reactions. They do not mean that the person wanted to be sexually assaulted, or that they enjoyed the traumatic experience. Just as with women, a sexual response does not mean there was consent.
  • Confusion if Assailant is a Woman: A man may not know how to talk about his experience if he was assaulted by a woman.  Although the majority of sexual assault is perpetrated by men, a small percentage of women are also assailants.  Often there is an age differential in these cases (older woman to a boy or adolescent), but not always. 
  • Shame, stigma and/or lack of resources for men.  Some men may find it difficult to seek support out of embarrassment, shame, fear and worry about being judged. This is also true for those who are LGBT. In addition, some rape crisis centers do not have adequate training or resources for male survivors.

Where to Go For Help
See the "What to Do If You Are Sexually Assaulted" pages in the left hand side box on this page to learn more about on and off-campus resources available to you.

Adapted From: UC Berkeley and Brown University 

Survivors who identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender or Queer/Questioning (LGBTQ+) can face not only the barriers to seeking help that all survivors face but also a range of obstacles that are unique to the LGBTQ+ community. As with opposite-sex assault, same-sex assault includes forced vaginal or anal penetration, forced oral sex, or other forced sexual activity.  Similar to heterosexual sexual assaults, LGBTQ+ assaults may also occur to anyone regardless of class, gender identity, race, or culture and can be perpetrated by strangers, acquaintances and/or within the context of an otherwise consensual relationship.

LGBTQ+ survivors experience the same effects and emotional reactions, and are in need of the same support and intervention services as opposite-sex assault survivors. However, there are also unique factors and special needs to consider for LGBTQ+ survivors, such as stigma, discrimination, societal homophobia, stereotypes about the gay community, and barriers to service.

  • ​Like all survivors, LGBTQ+ survivors often feel self-blame, shame, fear, anger, and depression. LGBTQ+ survivors may also be led to question their sexuality, or how it is perceived by others, especially if the assault was perpetrated as a hate crime, directed against the survivor’s sexual orientation or gender identity as perceived by the perpetrator. See also Was It My Fault?
  • LGBTQ+ survivors may not be “out”. Survivors who are not “out” may not want to seek counseling, legal or medical help for fear that doing so will mean disclosing their sexual orientations as well.
  • LGBTQ+ survivors may feel ostracized.  They may feel this from both mainstream society and within the LGBTQ+ community. They may also feel that their sexual orientation or gender identity is focused on more than the assault itself.
  • Transgender people may not want to seek hospital care. This is because it would mean revealing that their gender is not congruent with their biological sex, which in turn might cause discrimination.
  • LGBTQ+ survivors may feel punished for acting outside of society’s prescribed gender roles. This may increase the amount of shame that they feel as a result of an assault.
  • LGBTQ+ survivors may be reluctant to tell family and friends who do not approve of their sexuality and/or gender expression.  They may fear that it will only reinforce negative stereotypes.
  • LGBTQ+ survivors may have privacy concerns within their LGBTQ+ community.  Particularly with small and tight-knit communities, they may be reluctant to tell others about an assault or an abusive relationship, fearing that everyone will know.
  • LGBTQ+ survivors may lack support from their communities. This refers not only to the community at large, but also from the LGBTQ+ community itself. LGBTQ+ community members may not want to admit that there is sexual assault and domestic violence within the community for fear that it will only perpetuate stereotypes about LGBTQ+ people.
  • There is often heterosexism and homophobia in the systems that are designed to help survivors.  This can mean overt discrimination against LGBTQ+ survivors, or it can be the assumption that all survivors are heterosexual. The legal system may also be discriminatory and may not even recognize same-sex assault.

Gay or Bisexual Men

  • May tie the assault to his sexual orientation and view this as deserved in some way or a punishment.
  • May be reluctant to report due to the potential backlash on the LGBTQ+ community and enhanced homophobia. He may also be worried about being treated insensitively by law enforcement or health care professionals.
  • May have experienced particularly severe and damaging violence if this was a hate crime.
  • May well feel targeted and less safe within his community if the assault was perpetrated by another gay man.
  • May worry he is broadcasting his “secret sexual identity” to others if he is not yet out of the closet.


A term used to describe individuals whose gender identity and how it is expressed, to varying degrees, is different than the sex assigned at birth. Transgender identity relates to a person’s gender identity. It is often part of a hate crime with a high degree of violence that may cause serious injury.  Violence, including sexual violence, on transgender individuals continues to be on the rise. Here are some resources for further information:

How to Support a LGBTQ+ Survivor

Supporting a LGBTQ+ survivor is similar to helping any survivor; however, here are some things to consider:

  • Do not tell the survivor that abusive behavior is a normal part of LGBTQ+ relationships, or that it cannot be domestic violence because it is occurring between LGBTQ+ individuals.
  • Be alert for an abuser monopolizing support resources through manipulation of friends and family supports, and generating sympathy and trust in order to cut off these resources to the survivor. This is a particular issue to LGBTQ+ people and others living in small insular communities, where there are few community-specific resources, neighborhoods or social outlets.
  • An abuser can attempt to portray the violence as mutual and even consensual, especially if the partner attempts to defend against it, or as an expression of masculinity or some other "desirable" trait.
  • Do not depict the abuse as part of sado-masochistic (S/M) activity. Relationship violence can exist in S/M relationships, but it is not implicit nor unique to this type of relationship. Relationship violence is not S/M, nor should any non-consensual violent or abusive acts that take place outside of a pre-arranged scene or in violation of pre-determined safe words or boundaries be considered part of, or justified as, a normal S/M relationship

Common Myths About LGBTQ+ Survivors

Myth: A woman can’t rape another woman.
Reality: While the majority of perpetrators of sexual assault are male, the idea that woman-on-woman sexual assault does not occur is a product of gender role stereotypes that encourage the idea that women are never violent. This stereotype can make it less likely that women who were sexually assaulted by another woman will be believed by those around her. It can also make a survivor who has believed that women are nonviolent feel disillusioned that she has experienced violence from a woman.

Myth: Gay men are sexually promiscuous and are always ready for sex.
Reality: Men who identify as gay, like all people, have the right to say no to sex at any time and have that respected. Because of the stereotypes that many people have about gay men’s sexual availability, it may be more difficult for a gay man to convince others that he was assaulted.

Myth: Bisexuals are kinky anyway, and sexual assault for them is just rough sex that got out of hand.
Reality: Bisexuality reflects a sexual orientation, not sexual practices. Bisexuals, like heterosexuals, practice a wide range of sexual behaviors, and, for bisexuals, like for heterosexuals, rough sex and a sexual assault are two very different things. Because of stereotypes about bisexuals, they, too, may have difficulty being believed about a sexual assault.

Myth: When a woman claims domestic abuse by another woman, it is just a catfight. Similarly, when a man claims domestic abuse by another man, it is just two men fighting.
Reality: Unfortunately, domestic abuse and violence occurs in all types of intimate relationships, and people in same gender relationships may be dealing with this.  The myth that people of the same gender are "just fighting" both denies the reality of domestic violence as well as reinforcing that some types of violence are acceptable.

As with all cases of sexual assault, these myths can only be dispelled when they are replaced by truth. This requires that members of the LGBTQ+ community and heterosexual allies speak out and acknowledge sexual assault and domestic violence within the LGBTQ+ community, in order to both prevent future assaults and to provide competent and compassionate care to survivors.

Adapted from the University of Michigan Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center and the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Program


Some of the most common reactions that survivors experience following an assault are self-blame and guilt, that they “must” have done something to bring on this assault.   Survivors often ruminate on thoughts such as, "Why did I get in the car with him?", "Why did I go to that party?", "Why did I get so drunk?" This is deeply erroneous and dangerous thinking.  The bottom line is that we would not have been raped had our rapist chosen not to rape us. The fault lies solely with the perpetrator – no matter your dress, actions, level of intoxication or behavior before the assault. The buck stops with the perpetrator – always.

But Wait ... I Made Some Bad Decisions

Yes, we make hundreds of choices each day. Some are clearly good and some are perhaps not the best. We are human. The difference between a bad choice and a crime is when someone intervenes and takes advantage of our decision. For example, everyone has probably done something such as left your car running while you hopped out to grab the mail, left your front door unlocked while you ran down the street to a neighbor’s house,  or put your purse down by your chair in a busy café.  We could all say “oh my gosh, what was I thinking, that was so stupid of me, I should’ve known better”, but we would not fail to see that if someone broke in to our house or stole our car or purse that this was a crime and that the criminal was the one truly at fault. We also most likely would not hesitate for a second to call the police or report the crime.

So why is it so different for sexual assault victims? There are many reasons that survivors turn to self-blame, including:

  1. Societal culture of victim blaming: Unfortunately, heavily ingrained gender-based messages continue to exist and perpetuate the belief that the victim (usually a woman) is somehow to blame. We hear statements such as “What was she wearing?”, “Why did she go to his apartment?”, “Why did she drink so much?”, “She should’ve known better” as well as the excusing of male behavior with commonly repeated sentiments that “boys will be boys after all”.
  2. Myths and misunderstanding about rape: There are also deeply entrenched societal myths and stereotypes that rapes only happen by strangers and thus only under violent and dangerous circumstances (e.g. the man jumping out of the bushes). The reality is most assaults (over 85%) are perpetrated by someone the victim knows and often trusts to some degree – a date, a neighbor, a friend, a co-worker, a roommate, a relationship partner, spouse, parent, sibling, or other family member.
  3. Trauma Reaction/Illusion of Control: Another reason for self-blame is that it is a normal emotional and psychological reaction to trauma.  True powerlessness is a terrifying feeling and our psyches work hard to try to establish a sense of normalcy and control. Assault is by its nature a humiliating and dehumanizing experience and believing you are to blame can give survivors a sense of control, however illusory, over the trauma.  If you believe it happened because of something you are doing you can maintain a sense of control and hope for change.
  4. Societal Gender Stereotypes: Our society also has strong gender stereotypes that begin early on. Girls learn that they are supposed to be “good girls”, “sweet”, “compliant”, and boys are to be aggressive, domineering, “manly”, or a “stud”.  These gender stereotypes can trigger power dynamics that perpetuate female and male behavior to fall into a victim-perpetrator paradigm.
  5. Powerful Perpetrators:  Many survivors knew and even trusted their perpetrators and are sometimes told directly and repeatedly that they are to blame, especially in long term abusive relationships.

The bottom line is the survivor is NEVER responsible for the crime of sexual assault. Never!

Men and women have the right to dress as they wish, to walk alone at night, to flirt, to be sexy, to dance provocatively, to drink, to make out, and to say “no” or “stop” at any time. Drinking unsafely and walking alone at night likely do make a person more vulnerable, most survivors would agree with that.  But no one has the right to rape us, ever, no matter what we say or do.  Were there choices you could have made that would have protected you? Of course. We also can spend our entire lives never leaving the house. The fact is rape will not stop happening until rapists stop raping.  No one has the right to perpetrate abuse against another. No one had the right to rape you!

 Cultural Shifts

Fortunately, the tide may slowly be changing. In the past sexual assault awareness, campaigns have targeted potential victims by urging women to restrict their behavior. Research is telling us that targeting the behavior of victims is not only ineffective but also contributes to and increases self-blame in survivors.  Awareness campaigns have begun in the past decade to start shifting this focus away from victim-blaming and placing the responsibility and blame on the correct person - the perpetrator.  Other campaigns are looking at utilizing Men as Allies in sexual assault prevention work and encouraging Bystander Interventions.

While changing attitudes about sexual assault and victim-blaming will take time, one immediate step we can all take is to learn all we can and start talking about sexual violence, harassment,  and consent with those around us to help educate and reduce stigma.

Some things you can do to help

 What to Do Immediately (first 24-72 hours)

  1. Go to a safe place. IF YOU ARE IN IMMEDIATE DANGER, CALL 911.
  2. Tell someone what has occurred. This is NOT a time to be alone. You may feel ashamed or embarrassed, think no one will believe you or that you are in some way to blame for the attack. They will!  Call a friend, a family member, or someone else you trust who can be with you and give you support. They can assist you with the following steps.
  3. Do not blame yourself! Sexual assault is never the survivor's fault. See Was It My Fault?
  4. Do what you can to preserve any evidence. The first 24 - 72 hours following the assault are highly important for your physical care as well to preserve any physical (i.e. DNA) evidence of the assault, even if you are unsure or do not want to press charges. Following the assault, do not shower, bathe, douche, eat, drink, smoke, wash your hands or face, or brush your teeth until after you have had a medical examination. If you must change your clothes, place ALL the clothing you were wearing in a separate paper (not plastic) bag. Do not clean or disturb anything in the area where the assault occurred. You may not feel ready or able to make a decision about whether to report your sexual assault, but if you preserve evidence now, you will have that option later. It is best for any physical evidence to be collected immediately, ideally within 24 hours.
  5. Contact your local Sexual Assault Crisis Center Hotline
    All Crisis Hotlines are staffed by trained counselors available 24 hours a day, 7 days per week to provide immediate emotional support to survivors and their loved ones. These counselors are invaluable in helping you navigate the many options available to you.  They are experts in the field and can help refer you to support services including local SART hospitals, emergency shelters, basic needs assistance, legal assistance, temporary protective orders, counseling, and other community services. They may also offer peer support groups. Don’t hesitate to call.  In some cases support staff can also come to meet you at the hospital, police department, etc. to help support you emotionally and assist with any questions or decision-making processes you may have.

City, Local and National Sexual Assault 24 Hour Crisis Center and Support Services  

Oakland Bay Area Women Against Rape(BAWAR)
Hotline: 510-845-7273

SF Peninsula YWCA of Silicon Valley Rape Crisis Center
Hotline: 408-287-3000 or 650-493-7273

Sacramento Women Escaping A Violent Environment (WEAVE)
Hotline: 916-920-2952
866-920-2952 Toll Free

National HotlineR.A.I.N.N.
*Counselors can connect you with other centers in your area

4.  Get medical attention. 
Again, the first 24-72 hours are extremely important.  Even if you have no apparent injuries after the assault, it is still a good idea to seek medical care. While seeking medical care and discussing your assault might be difficult, is an important way for you to start taking care of yourself. You can decide what medical care you want or don't want. At the very minimum, you should be seen and treated for physical injuries and discuss the risks of STDs. Women can also discuss risks of pregnancy resulting from the assault and obtain any preventative measures available if desired. 

SART Exams: Sexual assault survivors are strongly encouraged to obtain a specialized sexual assault exam by a trained SART professional.  SART stands for Sexual Assault Response Team and is the term used to describe an evidentiary medical exam. The SART exam does two things: it provides sensitive and thorough medical care and collects evidence that may be helpful to the prosecution of your case. Whether or not you decide to go forward with the prosecution of the assailant, it is critical for any forensic evidence to be collected within 72 hours of the assault. Even if you choose not to proceed with pressing charges or an investigation,  having this evidence collected and held can help ensure you have evidence should you ever change your mind in the future.  Click here to read more about evidence collection and SART exams.

Note: Not all hospitals offer SART exams. Contact your local Sexual Assault Crisis Center (see chart with hotlines above) to find a hospital near you that offers these services.  

Even if the assault happened days, weeks, or months ago it is still a good idea to seek medical care. This can be done on campus at the SMU Health & Counseling Center, through your general practitioner, or at local clinics and hospitals.

5.  Write down as much as you can remember about the circumstances of the assault, including location, time, witnesses, events, a description of the assailant, etc. Keep any other evidence that you have connected with the event or assailant including things such as text messages, photos, phone calls, voicemails, etc.

 6.  Get information whenever you have questions or concerns. After a sexual assault, you have a lot of choices and decisions to make - e.g., about getting medical care, making a police report, and telling other people. You may have concerns about the impact of the assault and the reactions of friends and family members. You can get information by calling a rape crisis center, a hotline, or other victim assistance agencies.

 7.  Consider reporting the assault to police and university officials, whether or not you plan to file charges. Sadly, only 1 of 10 women ever reports their rape. The number of men who report is even smaller. There are many reasons why this number is so low. Survivors may…

  • feel ashamed
  • think that the pain will go away
  • not be sure if what happened was really rape
  • believe they are responsible in some way

Rarely do rapists attack one person only; they get away with it and so they continue to do it.  The decision to report is totally up to you. For many survivors having their number counted, at least, is an important step in regaining the power they lost. You can discuss your situation with any of the resources listed here before you make a decision. There are many options to explore; the most important thing is to choose the path that is most comfortable and productive towards your recovery.  Remember -- reporting a rape does not commit you to filing charges!

Reporting is best done as soon as possible after the assault, but it may be done at any time. Students can choose to make reports to City Police, University officials, or both.  If you are unsure if you want to report, we encourage you to speak with a counselor at one of the Sexual Assault Hotlines (above) or at the SMU Health & Counseling Center. These counselors can help answer questions about the reporting process and assist in helping you make the best decision for you and all discussions are confidential.

University Reporting
The University encourages victims to report incidents of sexual assault. There are several reasons for this, including supporting the victim’s recovery, community safety, and accurate reporting of crime statistics. The University will assist students who report sexual assault in obtaining medical support and information regarding available legal and judicial resources as well as counseling and support services.  The Office of Enrollment and Student Services oversees the Student Conduct Code and can take action against student behavior that violates any section of the code, including sexual assault. If you decide to go this route, make an appointment regarding “student misconduct” with an Assistant Vice President of Enrollment and Student Services at 510-869-6627.  See also How To Report A Sexual Assault

Police Reporting
Reporting an assault to the Police or other law enforcement authority does not require filing criminal charges, but it does allow all support systems to be put in place for the survivor. Filing a police report will provide the opportunity for collection of evidence helpful in prosecution and will allow the student to be connected with the appropriate support and medical resources. You can find your local police department here.   Click here to learn more about reporting sexual assault to the police.

What to Do Over the Next Few Days and Weeks

1.  Make space for healing. You have been through a trauma and need to make space for your own emotional, physical, psychological and spiritual healing. You may be overwhelmed by many different emotions - fear, grief, guilt, shame, rage. It is important to seek support. There are many different options, such as talking with a counselor at the Health & Counseling Center, seeking support through community organizations,  joining a survivors group, or talking with a friend. People who receive counseling tend to recover from their experiences faster and with fewer lasting effects than those who get no help. Recovery from rape doesn't mean that it's as if the rape never happened. Recovery does mean that, over time, the survivor is not thinking about the rape-their emotions are not dominated by it. The survivor is able to envision a future, to set goals and work to achieve them. Their life moves forward.

Counseling On Campus: 
SMU Health & Counseling Center - Oakland Campus
Open Monday - Friday between 8:00 - 5:00pm

Students at the San Francisco Peninsula and Sacramento campuses can access mental health services either on the Oakland campus or through the Sutter Employee Assistance Program (EAP) which will connect you with a provider in the community. Through EAP students will also receive up to 10 sessions per calendar year, free of charge. Please contact (800) 477-2258 to learn more about Sutter EAP.

Counseling Off Campus: 
See these resources for information about finding an off-campus mental health provider

2.  Do not blame yourself. Be compassionate with yourself. You need to be assured that you are not to blame for the rape. Even if your body responded sexually to the rapist, it does not mean you "enjoyed" the experience or that it is your fault. Even if you believe you were naïve, not cautious, or even foolish, it is not your fault. Your behavior did not cause the rape; the rapist caused the rape.

How to Report a Sexual Assault

We hope you will decide to report your attack to the police. While there’s no way to change what happened to you, you can seek justice and help stop it from happening to someone else. Click here to read more about reporting sexual assualt to the police.

Reporting On Campus

Resolution Process for complaints of Harassment, Sexual Misconduct, and other forms of Discrimination
Samuel Merritt University will act on any formal or informal report or notice of violation of the policy on Equal Opportunity, Harassment and Nondiscrimination that is received by the Title IX Coordinator or any member of the administration.  

The procedures described below will apply to all resolutions involving students, staff or faculty members with the exception that unionized or other categorized employees will be subject to the terms of their respective collective bargaining agreements/employees’ rights to the extent those agreements do not conflict with federal or state compliance obligations.  Redress and requests for responsive actions for reports made about non-members of the community are also covered by these procedures.

1.  Filing a Complaint
Any member of the community, guest or visitor who believes that the policy on Equal Opportunity, Harassment and Nondiscrimination has been violated should contact the Title IX Coordinator. It is also possible for employees to notify a supervisor, or for students to notify an administrator or faculty member, or any member of the community may contact the Assistant Vice President for Enrollment and Student Services. These individuals will in turn notify the Title IX Coordinator.  The University website also includes a reporting form at [online form link] which may serve to initiate a resolution.

All employees receiving reports of a potential violation of University policy are expected to promptly contact the Title IX Coordinator or designee, within 24 hours of becoming aware of a report or incident.  All initial contacts will be treated with the maximum possible privacy. In all cases, University will give consideration to the reporting party with respect to how the resolution is pursued, but reserves the right, when necessary to protect the community, to investigate and pursue a resolution when the reporting party chooses not to initiate or participate in a formal resolution. 

3.  Resolution Intake
Normally within two business days of receipt of notice or a report, the Title IX Coordinator (or designee) will make an initial determination as to whether a policy violation may have occurred and/or whether conflict resolution might be appropriate.  If the report does not appear to allege a policy violation or if conflict resolution is desired by the reporting party, and appears appropriate given the nature of the alleged behavior, then the report does not proceed to investigation. 

A full investigation will necessarily be pursued if there is evidence of a pattern of misconduct or a perceived threat of further harm to the community or any of its members.  University aims to complete all investigations within a 60 calendar day time period, which can be extended as necessary for appropriate cause by the Title IX Coordinator with notice to the parties.

The University’s resolution will not typically be altered or precluded on the grounds that civil or criminal charges involving the same incident have been filed or that charges have been dismissed or reduced. However, the University may undertake a short delay (several days to weeks) in its investigation or resolution process, to comply with a law enforcement request for cooperation (e.g.: to allow for criminal evidence collection) when criminal charges on the basis of the same behaviors that invoke this process are being investigated.  The University will promptly resume its investigation and processes once notified by law enforcement that the initial evidence collection process is complete.

4.  Advisors
All parties are entitled to an advisor of their choosing to guide and accompany them throughout the resolution process.  The advisor may be a friend, mentor, family member, attorney or any other supporter a party chooses to advise them. The parties may choose advisors from inside or outside the campus community.

The parties may be accompanied by their advisor in all meetings and interviews at which the party is entitled to be present, including intake and interviews. Advisors should help their advisees prepare for each meeting, and are expected to advise ethically, with integrity and in good faith.  The University cannot guarantee equal advisory rights, meaning that if one party selects an advisor who is an attorney, but the other party does not, or cannot afford an attorney, the University is not obligated to provide one. Additionally, responding parties may wish to contact organizations such as:

Reporting parties may wish to contact organizations such as:

All advisors are subject to the same campus rules, whether they are attorneys or not.  Advisors may not address campus officials in a meeting or interview unless invited to. Advisors may confer quietly with their advisees as necessary, as long as they do not disrupt the process.  For longer or more involved discussions, the parties and their advisors should ask for breaks or step out of meetings to allow for private conversation.  Advisors will typically be given an opportunity to meet in advance of any interview or meeting with the administrative officials conducting that interview or meeting.  This pre-meeting will allow advisors to clarify any questions they may have, and allows the University an opportunity to clarify the role the advisor is expected to take.

Advisors are expected to refrain from interference with the University investigation and resolution.  Any advisor who steps out of their role in any meeting under the campus resolution process will be warned once and only once. If the advisor continues to disrupt or otherwise fails to respect the limits of the advisor role, the advisor will be asked to leave the meeting.  When an advisor is removed from a meeting, that meeting will typically continue without the advisor present.  Subsequently, the Title IX Coordinator will determine whether the advisor may be reinstated, may be replaced by a different advisor, or whether the party will forfeit the right to an advisor for the remainder of the process. 

The University expects that the parties will wish to share documentation related to the allegations with their advisors. The University provides a consent form that authorizes such sharing. The parties must complete this form before the University is able to share records with an advisor. Advisors are expected to maintain the privacy of the records shared with them. These records may not be shared with 3rd parties, disclosed publicly, or used for purposes not explicitly authorized by the University. The University may seek to restrict the role of any advisor who does not respect the sensitive nature of the process or who fails to abide by the University’s privacy expectations.  

The University expects an advisor to adjust their schedule to allow them to attend University meetings when scheduled.  The University does not typically change scheduled meetings to accommodate an advisor’s inability to attend.  The University will, however, make provisions to allow an advisor who cannot attend in person to attend a meeting by telephone, video and/or virtual meeting technologies as may be convenient and available. 

A party may elect to change advisors during the process, and is not locked into using the same advisor throughout. 

5.  Investigation
If reporting party wishes to pursue a formal resolution or if University, based on the alleged policy violation, wishes to pursue a formal resolution, then the Title IX Coordinator appoints a trained investigator(s) to conduct the investigation, usually within two business days of determining that a resolution should proceed.  Investigations are completed expeditiously, normally within 10 business days of notice to the Title IX Coordinator.  Investigations may take longer when initial reports fail to provide direct first-hand information. The University may undertake a short delay (to allow evidence collection) when criminal charges on the basis of the same behaviors that invoke this process are being investigated.  The University’s resolution will not be altered or precluded on the grounds that civil or criminal charges involving the same incident have been filed or that charges have been dismissed or reduced. All investigations will be thorough, reliable and impartial, prompt and fair and will entail interviews with all relevant parties and witnesses, obtaining available evidence and identifying sources of expert information, if necessary. At any point during the investigation, if it is determined there is no reasonable cause to believe that University policy has been violated, the Title IX Coordinator has authority to terminate the investigation and end resolution proceedings.

Witnesses are expected to cooperate with and participate in the University’s investigation. Witnesses may provide written statements in lieu of interviews during the investigation and may be interviewed remotely by phone, Skype (or similar technology), if they cannot be interviewed in person.

5.  Interim Remedies
If, in the judgment of the Title IX Coordinator, the safety or well-being of any member(s) of the campus community may be jeopardized by the presence on-campus of the responding party or the ongoing activity of a student organization whose behavior is in question, the Title IX Coordinator may provide interim remedies intended to address the short-term effects of harassment, discrimination and/or retaliation, i.e., to redress harm to the reporting party and the community and to prevent further violations. These remedies may include referral to Student Health and Counseling (SHAC) or to the Employee Assistance Program, education to the community, altering the housing situation of the responding party or resident employee (or the reporting party, if desired), altering work arrangements for employees, providing campus escorts, implementing contact limitations between the parties, offering adjustments to academic deadlines, course schedules, etc. 

The University may interim suspend a student, employee or organization pending the completion of investigation and procedures. In all cases in which an interim suspension is imposed, the student, employee or student organization will be given the opportunity to meet with the Title IX Coordinator prior to such suspension being imposed, or as soon thereafter as reasonably possible, to show cause why the suspension should not be implemented. The Title IX Coordinator has sole discretion to implement or stay an interim suspension under the policy on Equal Opportunity, Harassment and Nondiscrimination, and to determine its conditions and duration. Violation of an interim suspension under this policy will be grounds for expulsion or termination. 

During an interim suspension or administrative leave, a student or employee may be denied access to the University campus/facilities/events. As determined by the Title IX Coordinator this restriction includes classes and/or all other University activities or privileges for which the student or employee might otherwise be eligible. At the discretion of the Title IX Coordinator alternative coursework or work options may be pursued to ensure as minimal an impact as possible on the responding party.

6.  Resolution of Reported Misconduct
During or upon the completion of investigation, the Title IX Coordinator will review the investigation, which may include meeting with the investigators. Based on that review, the Title IX Coordinator will make a decision on whether there is reasonable cause to proceed with the resolution process. 

If there is reasonable cause, the Title IX Coordinator will direct the investigation to continue and the allegation will be resolved through one of three processes discussed briefly here and in greater detail below:

  • Conflict Resolution – typically used for less serious offenses and only when both parties agree to conflict resolution

  • Administrative Resolution – resolution by a trained administrator

The process followed is dictated by the preference of the parties.  Conflict Resolution will only occur if selected by both parties, otherwise the Administrative Resolution Process applies. If, following a review of the investigation, the Title IX Coordinator decides by the preponderance of evidence that no policy violation has occurred, the process will end unless the reporting party requests that the Title IX Coordinator makes an extraordinary determination to re-open the investigation or to forward the matter for administrative resolution. This decision lies in the sole discretion of the Title IX Coordinator.

a.  Conflict Resolution
Conflict resolution is often used for less serious, yet inappropriate, behaviors and is encouraged as an alternative to the formal investigation process to resolve conflicts.  The Title IX Coordinator will determine if conflict resolution is appropriate, based on the willingness of the parties, the nature of the conduct at issue and the susceptibility of the conduct to conflict resolution.  In a conflict resolution meeting, designated administrator(s) will facilitate a dialogue with the parties to an effective resolution, if possible.  Sanctions are not possible as the result of a conflict resolution process, though the parties may agree to appropriate remedies.  The Title IX Coordinator will keep records of any resolution that is reached, and failure to abide by the resolution can result in appropriate responsive actions. 

Conflict resolution will not be the primary resolution mechanism used to address reports of sexual misconduct or violent behavior of any kind or in other cases of serious violations of policy, though it may be made available after the formal process is completed should the parties and the Title IX Coordinator believe that it could be beneficial.  It is not necessary to pursue conflict resolution first in order to make a formal report and anyone participating in conflict resolution can stop that process at any time and request an administrative resolution.

Both parties will be notified of the outcome of Conflict Resolution, without undue delay between the notifications. Notification will be made in writing and may be delivered by one or more of the following methods: in person; mailed to the local or permanent address of the parties as indicated in official University  records; or emailed to the parties’ University-issued email account. Once mailed, emailed and/or received in-person, notice will be presumptively delivered. 

b.  Administrative Resolution 
Administrative Resolution can be pursued for any behavior that falls within the policy on Equal Opportunity, Harassment and Nondiscrimination, at any time during the process.  The Title IX Coordinator will provide written notification to any member of University community who the responding party to an allegation of harassment, discrimination, or retaliation. Prior to meeting with University investigators, the parties will be provided with a written description of the alleged violation(s), a description of the applicable procedures and a statement of the potential sanctions/responsive actions that could result.  This notice will include the time, date and location of the interview and a reminder that attendance is mandatory, superseding all other campus activities. If the responding party does not appear at the scheduled meeting, the meeting will be held in their absence.

The Administrative Resolution process consists of a prompt, thorough and impartial investigation, a finding on each of the alleged policy violations, and sanctions for findings of responsibility. Once the investigation described above is complete, the Title IX Coordinator will meet with the responding party to review the findings and the investigation report. The responding party may bring an advisor of their choosing to the meeting.  The responding party may elect not to attend or participate, but the Administrative Resolution will proceed regardless.

During the meeting, the Title IX Coordinator reviews the investigation report with the responding party and will render a finding utilizing the preponderance of the evidence standard, based on the information provided by the investigation. The Title IX Coordinator in consultation as appropriate will also determine appropriate sanctions or remedial actions.

The Title IX Coordinator will prepare a written report detailing the finding, the information supporting that finding and any information excluded from consideration and why. This report typically does not exceed two pages in length.

The Title IX Coordinator will inform the responding party and the reporting party of the final determination in writing within 3 business days of the Administrative Resolution. The final determination letter, incorporating the report described above, will be made in writing and will be delivered either:

  1. In person, or
  2. Mailed to the local address of the respective party as indicated in official University records. If there is no local address on file, mail will be sent to the party’s permanent address.
  3. Emailed to the SMU email address of the respective parties

Where the responding party is found not responsible for the alleged violation(s), the investigation will be closed. Where a violation is found, the University will act to end the discrimination, prevent its recurrence, and remedy its effects on the victim and the university community. In cases involving sexual misconduct, sexual harassment, stalking and/or intimate partner violence, the written notification includes the finding, any resulting responsive actions, and the rationale for the decision.  This written notification of final decision is delivered to the parties without undue delay between the notifications, and is considered a final determination.  No appeal is provided. 

e.  Sanctions

Factors considered when determining a sanction/responsive action may include:

  • The nature, severity of, and circumstances surrounding the violation
  • An individual’s disciplinary history
  • Previous reports or allegations involving similar conduct
  • Any other information deemed relevant in the Administrative Resolution.
  • The need for sanctions/responsive actions to bring an end to the discrimination, harassment and/or retaliation
  • The need for sanctions/responsive actions to prevent the future recurrence of discrimination, harassment and/or retaliation
  • The need to remedy the effects of the discrimination, harassment and/or retaliation on the reporting party and the community

 i.  Student Sanctions
The following are the usual sanctions that may be imposed upon students or organizations singly or in combination:

  • Warning: A formal statement that the behavior was unacceptable and a warning that further infractions of any University policy, procedure or directive will result in more severe sanctions/responsive actions.
  • Probation: A written reprimand for violation of the Code of Student Conduct, providing for more severe disciplinary sanctions in the event that the student or organization is found in viola­tion of any University policy, procedure or directive within a specified period of time. Terms of the probation will be specified and may include denial of specified social privileges, exclusion from co-­curricular activities, non-contact orders and/or other measures deemed appropriate.
  • Suspension: Termination of student status for a definite period of time not to exceed two years, and/or until specific criteria are met.  Students who return from suspension are automatically placed on probation through the remainder of their tenure at University.
  • Expulsion: Permanent termination of student status, revocation of rights to be on campus for any reason or attend University-sponsored events. 
  • Withholding Diploma. University may withhold a student's diploma for a specified period of time and/or deny a student participation in commencement activities if the student has a complaint pending, or as a sanction if the student is found responsible for an alleged violation.
  • Revocation of Degree. University reserves the right to revoke a degree awarded from University for fraud, misrepresentation or other violation of University policies, procedures or directives in obtaining the degree, or for other serious violations committed by a student prior to graduation.
  • Organizational Sanctions.  Deactivation, de-recognition, loss of all privileges (including University registration), for a specified period of time.
  • Other Actions: In addition to or in place of the above sanctions, University may assign any other sanctions as deemed appropriate.

 ii.  Employee Discipline
Responsive actions for an employee who has engaged in harassment, discrimination and/or retaliation include warning, required counseling, demotion, suspension with pay, suspension without pay and termination.

f.  Withdrawal or Resignation While Charges Pending 
Students: Should a student decide to leave and not participate in the investigation and/or hearing, the process will nonetheless proceed in the student’s absence to a reasonable resolution and that student will not be permitted to return to the University unless all sanctions have been satisfied.  

Employees: Should an employee resign while charges are pending, the records of the Title IX Coordinator will reflect that status, as will University responses to any future inquiries regarding employment references for that individual.  The Title IX Coordinator will act to promptly and effectively remedy the effects of the conduct upon the reporting party and the community.

h.  Failure to Complete Sanctions/Comply with Discipline
All responding parties are expected to comply with conduct sanctions/discipline/corrective actions within the time frame specified by the Title IX Coordinator. Failure to follow through on conduct sanctions/discipline/corrective actions by the date specified, whether by refusal, neglect or any other reason, may result in additional sanctions/discipline/corrective actions and/or suspension, expulsion and/or termination from University and may be noted on a student’s official transcript. A suspension will only be lifted when compliance is achieved to the satisfaction of the Title IX Coordinator.  

i.  Records 
In implementing this policy, records of all allegations, investigations, and resolutions will be kept by the Title IX Coordinator. 

j.  Statement of the Rights of the Parties

Statement of the Reporting Party’s rights:

  • The right to investigation and appropriate resolution of all credible reports or notice of sexual misconduct or discrimination made in good faith to university officials;
  • The right to be informed in advance of any public release of information regarding the incident;
  • The right of the reporting party not to have any personally identifiable information released to the public, without his or her consent.
  • The right to be treated with respect by university officials;
  • The right to have university policies and procedures followed without material deviation;
  • The right not to be pressured to mediate or otherwise informally resolve any reported misconduct involving violence, including sexual violence. 
  • The right not to be discouraged by university officials from reporting sexual misconduct or discrimination to both on-campus and off-campus authorities.
  • The right to be informed by university officials of options to notify proper law enforcement authorities, including on-campus and local police, and the option to be assisted by campus authorities in notifying such authorities, if the student so chooses.  This also includes the right not to report, if this is the victim’s desire;
  • The right to have reports of sexual misconduct responded to promptly and with sensitivity by campus law enforcement and other campus officials.
  • The right to be notified of available counseling, mental health, victim advocacy, health, legal assistance, student financial aid, visa and immigration assistance, or other student services for victims of sexual assault, both on campus and in the community;
  • The right to a campus no contact order (or a trespass order against a non-affiliated 3rd party) when someone has engaged in or threatens to engage in stalking, threatening, harassing or other improper behavior that presents a danger to the welfare of the reporting party or others;
  • The right to notification of and options for, and available assistance in, changing academic and living situations after an alleged sexual misconduct incident, if so requested by the victim and if such changes are reasonably available (no formal report, or investigation, campus or criminal, need occur before this option is available).  Accommodations may include:
    • Exam (paper, assignment) rescheduling;
    • Taking an incomplete in a class;
    • Transferring class sections;
    • Temporary withdrawal;
    • Alternative course completion options.
  • The right to have the institution maintain such accommodations for as long as is necessary, and for protective measures to remain confidential, provided confidentiality does not impair the institution’s ability to provide the accommodations or protective measures.
  • The right to be fully informed of campus policies and procedures as well as the nature and extent of all alleged violations contained within the report;
  • The right to ask the investigators to identify and question relevant witnesses, including expert witnesses;
  • The right to be informed of the names of all witnesses who will be called to give testimony, at least two business day prior to the hearing, except in cases where a witness’ identity will not be revealed to the responding party for compelling safety reasons (this does not include the name of the alleged victim/reporting party, which will always be revealed);
  • The right not to have irrelevant prior sexual history admitted as evidence in the resolution process;
  • The right to regular updates on the status of the investigation and/or resolution.
  • The right to have reports heard by investigators who have received at least eight hours of annual sexual misconduct training;
  • The right to preservation of privacy, to the extent possible and permitted by law;
  • The right to meetings, interviews that are closed to the public;
  • The right to petition that any investigator be recused on the basis of demonstrated bias;
  • The right to bring a victim advocate or advisor of the reporting party’s choosing to all phases of the investigation and resolution proceeding;
  • The right to provide evidence by means other than being in the same room with the responding party;
  • The right to make or provide an impact statement in person or in writing to the investigators following determination of responsibility, but prior to sanctioning;
  • The right to be informed of the outcome and sanction of the resolution process in writing, without undue delay between the notifications to the parties, and usually within 1 business day of the end of the process;
  • The right to be informed in writing of when a decision of the university is considered final, any changes to the sanction to occur before the decision is finalized, to be informed of the finding and sanction of the resolution process;
  • The right of the Reporting Party or any witness in an investigation of sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, or stalking not to be subject to disciplinary sanctions for a violation of the University’s student conduct policy at or near the time of the incident, unless the institution determines that the violation was egregious, including, but not limited to, an action that places the health or safety of any other person at risk or involves plagiarism, cheating, or academic dishonesty.

Statement of the Responding Party’s rights:
The rights of the responding party should also be prominently indicated.  These should include, among others particular to your university:

  • The right to investigation and appropriate resolution of all credible reports of sexual misconduct made in good faith to university administrators;
  • The right to be informed in advance, when possible, of any public release of information regarding the report.
  • The right to be treated with respect by university officials;
  • The right to have university policies and procedures followed without material deviation;
  • The right to be informed of and have access to campus resources for medical, health, counseling, and advisory services;
  • The right to be fully informed of the nature, policies and procedures of the campus resolution process and to timely written notice of all alleged violations within the report, including the nature of the violation and possible sanctions;
  • The right to a hearing on the report, including timely notice of the hearing date, and adequate time for preparation;
  • The right to be informed of the names of all witnesses who will be interviewed, except in cases where a witness’ identity will not be revealed to the responding party for compelling safety reasons (this does not include the name of the reporting party, which will always be revealed);
  • The right not to have irrelevant prior sexual history admitted as evidence in a campus resolution process;
  • The right to have reports addressed by investigators who have received at least 8 hours of annual training;
  • The right to petition that any investigator be recused on the basis of demonstrated bias;
  • The right to meetings and interviews that are closed to the public;
  • The right to have an advisor of their choice to accompany and assist in the campus resolution process.
  • The right to a fundamentally fair resolution, as defined in these procedures;
  • The right to make or provide an impact statement in person or in writing to the investigators following any determination of responsibility, but prior to sanctioning;
  • The right to a decision based solely on evidence presented during the resolution process.Such evidence shall be credible, relevant, based in fact, and without prejudice;
  • The right to be informed of the outcome and sanction of the resolution process in writing, without undue delay between the notifications to the parties, and usually within 1 business day of the end of the process;
  • The right to be informed in writing of when a decision of the university is considered final, any changes to the sanction to occur before the decision is finalized, to be informed of the finding and sanction of the resolution process.

The University has a compelling obligation to address allegations and suspected instances of discrimination, harassment, and misconduct, including sexual violence.  The following procedures are designed to allow for prompt and equitable resolution of sexual violence complaints.  The Title IX Coordinator (Executive Director of Human Resources) is responsible for investigating all complaints of sexual violence.  The University will take immediate steps to prevent reoccurrence of any sexual violence and to correct its discriminatory effects on the complainant and others, if appropriate.

The person should let the offending person know immediately and firmly that he/she/ze is rejecting the advance or invitation and/or finds the conduct offensive. The person should report the matter to the Title IX Coordinator (Executive Director of Human Resources) or to the Title IX Investigator (Assistant Vice President of Enrollment and Student Services). The Title IX Coordinator will assign a Title IX Investigator to conduct a complete investigation.  It is important that the person report everything to the investigator so a thorough investigation can be made, including providing witnesses and/or documentation from individuals who have first-hand knowledge of the situation.

Those who participate in the investigation of sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, or stalking, either as a complainant or a third-party witness, will not be subject to disciplinary sanctions for violations of the University’s code of conduct at or near the time of the incident if the violations did not place the health or safety of any other person at risk.

The person has the right to file a criminal complaint with the appropriate local police department.  The University can assist the person with this process.

To the extent possible, the complaint and investigation will remain confidential.  If a complainant insists that his/her name or other identifiable information not be disclosed to the accused, the University’s ability to respond to the complaint may be limited.

Retaliation is prohibited.  The University will take steps to prevent retaliation and also strong responsive action if it occurs.  If the person feels that a retaliatory action has been taken because he/she/ze has filed a complaint, that action should be reported as well.

The Title IX Investigator will investigate the matter promptly, thoroughly, and impartially.  The University will not delay conducting its own investigation because of a pending criminal complaint as the University has a responsibility to protect the person in their educational setting.

During the investigation, both parties will have an opportunity to present witnesses and other evidence.

Both the accused and the complainant may have an advisor/advocate of his/her/hir choice present for their portion of the procedures.  The complainant and/or the accused student is responsible for presenting his/her/hir own information, and therefore, advisors are not permitted to speak or to participate directly in any meeting or complaint procedure.  The standard of proof to be used shall be the preponderance of evidence standard (“more likely than not”).

Appropriate sanctions/discipline up to and including termination or dismissal from the University will be imposed if warranted.  Any incidents of further harassment or retaliation should be reported immediately to the Title IX Coordinator (Executive Director of Human Resources).

Both parties will be informed of the outcome of the complaint in writing.  Both parties can grieve the final decision of the Title IX Investigator by requesting a review in writing to the Title IX Coordinator (Executive Director of Human Resources) within five (5) working days of the decision.

The decision of the Title IX Coordinator (Executive Director of Human Resources) is final.

Samuel Merritt University Title IX Coordinator
Maria Salas
Interim Director of Human Resources
Samuel Merritt University
3100 Telegraph Avenue
Oakland, CA 94609
510-879-9200 X 7339

Campus Sex Offenses 
Students, faculty, and staff are required to report sex offenses to the Assistant Vice President of Enrollment and Student Services.  As required by the Higher Education Amendments of 1992, the University provides an annual report of campus crime statistics, including all sex offenses.  See Campus Security Act of 1990 in the Federal and State Regulatory Policies section.

Sexual violence incident reporting and Title IX reporting

Title IX Coordinator

Craig Elliott, Ph.D.
Deputy Title IX Coordinator
Assistant Vice President Enrollment
& Student Services

Student Health Services 
Confidential medical services

Angelina Leong Chau, DNP, FNP-C.
Director of Health & Counseling

Nina Lavorini, FNP-C, FNP-BC
Family Nurse Practitioner

Student Counseling Services
Confidential counseling and
mental health services

Jeanne Zeamba, Psy.D. &
Anglyn Sasser, Psy.D.
Staff Psychologists

Campus Security

Oakland Campus: Ext. 5555 on campus; 510.869.5555

SF Peninsula Campus: None on-site; Call 911

Sacramento Campus: 916.486.5800 (4-10pm); 916.870.1073 (after hours)

Off-Campus Resources

Sexual Assault 24 Hour Crisis Center & Support Services  


Bay Area Women Against Rape(BAWAR)
Hotline: 510-845-7273

SF Peninsula

 YWCA of Silicon Valley Rape Crisis Center
Hotline: 408-287-3000 or 650-493-7273


 Women Escaping A Violent Environment (WEAVE)
Hotline: 916-920-2952
866-920-2952 Toll Free

San Francisco

San Francisco Women Against Rape
Hotline Phone: 415-647-RAPE (7273)
Business Phone: 415-861-2024

Trauma Recovery Center / Rape Treatment Center
Business Phone: 415-437-3000

National Hotline

*Counselors can connect you with other centers in your area."

See an additional list of Bay Area Rape Crisis Centers Here
And a comprehensive Bay Area Referral Guide  here

City Police Departments

Oakland City Police
250 Frank H Ogawa Plaza
Oakland, CA

Emergency (using landline) 9-1-1
Emergency (using cell phone) (510) 777-3211
Non-Emergency (510) 777-3333
OPD Sexual Assault Tip Line (510) 637-0298

SF Peninsula
San Mateo City Police
200 Franklin Parkway
San Mateo, CA 94403

Emergency 9-1-1
Non-Emergency Police Assistance: (650) 522-7700
General Information and Records: (650) 522-7710

Sacramento Police
5770 Freeport Blvd, Suite 100
Sacramento, CA 95822

Emergencies- Crimes in Progress 9-1-1 or 916-732-0100
Non-Emergency 916-264-5471

Other Cities

Click here to find other City Police Departments

Other Bay Area Resources

Emergency Medical Care
*including SART exams

Highland Hospital
1411 E. 31st Street, Oakland

Sexual Assault Hotline: (510) 534-9290
Emergency: (510) 437-4557

Survivor Advocacy: women of all sexual orientations
Women, Inc.
333 Valencia St. Suite 450, San Francisco
(415) 864-4777

Survivor Advocacy: gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender people
CUAV (Community United Against Violence)
427 South Van Ness Ave., San Francisco
(415) 777-5500
(415) 333-4357 safety line

Survivor Advocacy: under-represented communities
Asian Pacific Island Legal Outreach
Legal advocacy, cultural and linguistic support for API families dealing with domestic violence.

Asian Women’s Shelter
Shelter program, language advocacy program, crisis line, case management, and programs in support of underserved communities such as queer Asian survivors and trafficked survivors.
(877) 751-0880

La Clínica de la Raza
East Bay-based assessment and safety planning services for domestic violence and child abuse, support groups, treatment groups, violence evaluations and referral services.
(510) 535-4000

Advocacy, support, information, and referrals for survivors of domestic violence in the South Asian community- Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and diasporic communities.
(800) 215-7318

Native American Health Center 
Medical and family services in Oakland and San Francisco, groups in San Francisco for Native American families dealing with abuse.
(415) 621-1170

Referrals for shelter, legal services, counseling, interpretations, citizenship/legal residency for Korean-community survivors of domestic violence and their families.
Help Line (510) 547-2360 Monday-Friday: 9:30am - 5:30pm

Sexual assault is a crisis, and we all handle crises in different ways. Though each person and situation is unique, the following list summarizes the range of reactions to sexual assault that may help you know what is normal to expect.  Some express their emotions while others prefer to keep their feelings inside. Some may tell others right away what happened, others will wait weeks, months, or even years before discussing the assault, if they ever choose to do so. It is important to respect each person’s choices and style of coping with this traumatic event. Whether an assault was completed or attempted, and regardless of whether it happened recently or many years ago, it may impact one's emotional state and daily funcitoning. Some common emotional, psychological and physical reactions follow.

Short Term (Acute) Effects

Immediately following an incident (days to weeks), many survivors report feeling:

  • Shame: Survivors thinking they are bad, wrong, dirty, or permanently flawed.
  • Guilt: Survivors feeling that the abuse was their fault. It is very difficult for survivors to place the blame on the offender. Often the abuser was a person close to them that they want to protect, or it may be that by placing the blame on the offender, they then feel an utter helplessness in the abuse.
  • Denial: Survivors saying, “It wasn’t that bad.” “It only happened once.” “I am fine, I don’t need anything.”
  • Minimizing: Survivors thinking that their abuse was not as bad as someone else’s. Minimizing the assault is a coping strategy.  Sexual assault counselors should validate the impact of the abuse and that it is appropriate that the survivor is upset, traumatized, or hurting from it.
  • Boundaries: Survivors can be unfamiliar with boundaries, not knowing when or how to set them or that they have a right to do so. Many survivors need support developing and practicing establishing healthy boundaries.
  • Trust: Sexual assault is a betrayal of trust. Most survivors find it difficult to trust other people as well as themselves and their own perceptions. On the other hand, they may place an inappropriate level of trust in everyone.
  • Safety: Often survivors have an unrealistic sense of safety, assess unsafe situations as safe, and perceive safe situations as dangerous. It is important to check whether a survivor is now in a safe environment by asking specific questions: “Is anyone hurting you or asking you to do things you do not want to do?” 
  • Isolation: This is a big issue for adult survivors. Many feel that they do not deserve support, that they are tainted, and that others will not want to be their friends or lovers. Often, survivors from marginalized communities do not want to expose their experiences for fear of bringing further judgment and attack on their community. Many survivors have been shunned from their families and/or communities.
  • Amnesia: A survivor may not remember what happened.  In the long-term, if it happened before the development of language, the survivor may not have a verbal memory.
  • Dissociation: A survivor may have dissociated during the sexual assault incident(s). They may describe “floating up out of their body” or “looking over their own shoulder” during the abuse. Dissociation can happen even when the survivor is not being assaulted/abused; an event or memory can bring up emotions which trigger dissociation. 
  • Anesthesia: The body is where the sexual abuse took place, and many survivors feel betrayed by their bodies in various ways. They may have tried to numb/dissociate from their bodies in order not to experience the feelings brought on by the abuse.
  • Physical: Survivors may have somatic (body) complaints, eating disturbances, changes in sleep patterns, concerns about their safety, increased startle response, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, concerns about STDs or pregnancy, and physical symptoms related to areas on their body affected by assault.
  • Emotional: Survivors may be very expressive (anger, sadness), disoriented (disbelief, denial), or controlled (distant, calm).  Common emotions felt after an assualt include guilt, shame, self-blame, embarrassment, fear, distrust, sadness, vulnerability, isolation, lack of control, anger or numbness.
  • Cognitive: Survivors may be unable to block out thoughts of the assault, or alternately forget entire parts of it. They may constantly think about things they should have done differently; emotion and intellect may be conflicted.  Nightmares are common. Survivors may also have thoughts of being in a similar situation and “mastering” the traumatic event.
  • Psychological: Survivors may experience nightmares, flashbacks, depression, difficulty concentrating, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), anxiety, eating disorders, substance use or abuse, phobias, low self-esteem.

Other related issues that may emerge are eating disorders, sexual difficulties, physical changes, substance abuse, self-harm, suicidality, anger, and mood disorders such as depression and post-traumatic stress.        

It is important for you to know that any of the above reactions are normal and temporary reactions to an abnormal event. The fear and confusion will lessen with time, but the trauma may disrupt your life for a while. Some reactions may be triggered by people, places or things connected to the assault, while other reactions may seem to come from "out of the blue."  Remember that no matter how much difficulty you're having to deal with the assault, it does not mean you're "going crazy" or becoming "mentally ill." The recovery process may actually help you develop strengths, insights, and abilities that you never had (or never knew you had) before.

Talking about the assault will help you feel better, but may also be really hard to do. In fact, it's common to want to avoid conversations and situations that may remind you of the assault. You may have a sense of wanting to "get on with life" and "let the past be the past." This is a normal part of the recovery process and may last for weeks or months.  Eventually, you will need to deal with fears and feelings in order to heal and regain a sense of control over your life. Talking with someone who can listen in understanding and affirming ways, whether it's a friend, family member, hotline staff member or counselor, is a key part of this process.

Long Term Effects

  • Long term reactions include healthy and unhealthy coping mechanisms, which may be beneficial (social support) or counterproductive (self-harm, substance abuse, eating disorders).
  • Immediate reactions may persist and change the survivor’s lifestyle. This adjustment stage (months or years) may include:
  • continuing anxiety                     
  • poor health                    
  • sense of helplessness
  • persistent fear                           
  • depression          
  • mood swings
  • sleep disturbances                     
  • flashbacks                      
  • dissociation
  • panic attacks                              
  • phobias                           
  • relationship difficulties
  • withdrawal/isolation                  
  • paranoia                         
  • localized pain    

What to Do?

Make space for healing. You have been through a trauma and need to make space for your own emotional, physical, psychological and spiritual healing. You may be overwhelmed by many different emotions - fear, grief, guilt, shame, rage. It is important to seek support. There are many different options, such as talking with a counselor at the Health & Counseling Center, seeking support through community organizations,  joining a survivors group, or talking with a friend. People who receive counseling tend to recover from their experiences faster and with fewer lasting effects than those who get no help. Recovery from rape doesn't mean that it's as if the rape never happened. Recovery does mean that, over time, the survivor is not thinking about the rape-their emotions are not dominated by it. The survivor is able to envision a future, to set goals and work to achieve them. Their life moves forward.

Counseling On Campus: 
SMU Health & Counseling Center - Oakland Campus
Open Monday - Friday between 8:00 - 5:00pm

Students at the SAN FRANCISCO PENINSULA and SACRAMENTO learning centers can access mental health services either on the Oakland campus or through the Sutter Employee Assistance Program (EAP) which will connect you with a provider in the community. Through EAP students will also receive up to 10 sessions per calendar year, free of charge. Please contact (800) 477-2258 to learn more about Sutter EAP.

Counseling Off Campus: 
See these resources for information about finding an off-campus mental health provider

Do not blame yourself. Be compassionate with yourself. You need to be assured that you are not to blame for the rape. Even if your body responded sexually to the rapist, it does not mean you "enjoyed" the experience or that it is your fault. Even if you believe you were naïve, not cautious, or even foolish, it is not your fault. Your behavior did not cause the rape; the rapist caused the rape.

Learn all you can about sexual assault and its effects. Here are a few resources for more information

R.A.I.N.N. Comprehensive Guide
Impact of Sexual Violence Fact Sheet
Rape Trauma Syndrome

If someone has told you that they have been sexually assaulted, it’s likely to have been one of the hardest things they have ever had to tell you. It may have taken them weeks or even years to feel able to talk to anyone about what has happened. Respect the huge step they've taken and the trust they have put in you.

Most people have little experience of helping someone through a traumatic event such as a sexual assault, so it’s normal to feel unsure of what to do. What is important is that you care enough about that person to want to help.

Sexual violence affects not only the survivor of the violence but also those close to her/him—friends, family members, co-workers. If someone you know has been sexually assaulted, you may experience many of the same emotions as the victim. What your friend or loved one needs most right now is your love, support, and understanding.  

1. Express care and concern. 
Let your friend know right away that you believe them, care and want to help. Three of the most important and basic messages that sexual assault survivors most need to hear from you are:

 I believe you.
The assault was not your fault.
Help is available.  You are not alone.

Listen to your friend without judging them. The survivor likely came to you because they consider you to be a person of they can trust. Remember to reassure them and validate their feelings. Tell them that you believe them and reinforce that they are not to blame for what happened.

2.  Believe the survivor. 
Make it clear to the survivor you believe the assault happened and that the assault is not her/his fault. Do not ask “why” questions which may make the survivor defensive, such as “Why were you wearing that?” and “Why were you alone?” 

3.  Give them the time and space that they need.
Let the survivor tell you how they feel. Try to resist asking them about the details of the experience as they might not feel ready, and therefore may feel pressured. Don’t take it personally if your friend doesn’t want to talk to you or to talk right now. Part of being a good listener is letting them know that you’ll be ready to listen if and when they are ready to talk.

Remember, it takes courage to talk about sexual assault with other people. Many survivors remain silent because they feel ashamed and/or they fear that they will be disbelieved or blamed if they tell other people about what happened to them. Allow the survivor to cry, scream, and express themselves however they need to at that moment.  Remember, the survivor is angry with the assailant and the situation, not at you. Just be there to listen. 

4.  Let them know that they do not have to go through this alone. 
Crisis intervention counselors, as well as other mental health professionals, are available in the community 24/7. Reassure the survivor that they are cared for. Ask them if you can help them contact your local Rape Crisis Center’s 24-hour hotline and trained professionals can help you access local medical attention, resources available, and support you both in the many questions you may have. These professionals are INVALUABLE!  Do not hesitate to contact them, even for a "consultation".

Bay Area and National Rape Crisis Hotline Centers

Bay Area Women Against Rape (BAWAR)
24/7 Hotline: 510-845-7273

Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Center of Yolo County
24/7 Hotline: (530) 662-1133

Women Escaping A Violent Environment(WEAVE)
24/7 Hotline: (916) 920-2952

SF Peninsula
YWCA of Silicon Valley Rape Crisis Center
24/7 Hotline at (408) 287-3000 or (650) 493-7273

National Hotline
*Counselors here can connect you with other centers in your area

 5.  Help to educate them about their options.
There are many difficult decisions that may need to be made following an assault, some that are time sensitive. The survivor may want to seek medical care (STD testing, pregnancy testing/prevention, physical checkup, evidence collection, etc.), talk to a counselor, or report the assault to authorities.  As a friend, you don’t need to be an expert on all the options that are available. Again, this is where the Rape Crisis professionals can be indispensable in helping educate both you and the survivor.

6.  Encourage immediate medical attention. 
It is vital that sexual assault survivors seek emergency medical care at a local hospital as soon as possible, within the first 24-36 hours is best.  A person who has been sexually assaulted may not realize that s/he has sustained serious injuries (including closed head injury).   In addition, hospital staff are trained to collect, preserve and document physical evidence of the assault.  Emergency Department staff can also provide counseling and treatment related to sexually transmitted infections (including HIV) and pregnancy which may have resulted from the sexual assault. 

Even if the assault happened a while ago and even if your friend does not appear to have any physical injuries it is important to encourage that they seek medical care. The SMU Health & Counseling Center can also provide medical care and follow up.

7.  Give the survivor control.
All control has been stripped from the survivor during the assault. Empower the survivor to make decisions about what steps to take next, but do not tell her/him what to do. For example, let your friend decide if she or he wants to notify the police or contact a rape crisis center. But, do what you can to assist your friend in getting information about these and other options so she or he can make informed decisions. 

8.  Maintain confidentiality.
Respect your friend’s privacy. Ask your friend what, if any, information it is OK for you to share with others. Ask how to manage others’- floor mates, classmates, club members, friends- questions and concerns. Should they be directed to ask your friend directly or are there ways you can respond and still respect your friend’s privacy?

    9.  Taking care of yourself and recognizing your own limitations. 
    If someone you know is raped, you may feel upset and overwhelmed.  Recognize that hearing about a sexual assault can be difficult and that you are going to have your own feelings about what has happened to your friend, and some of them like sadness and anger may even be similar. It is normal and okay for you to experience your own reactions. You may even feel confused about how to best support your friend.  This is not a failure on your part, there is a reason we have trained professionals to work with survivors – it is very hard to listen to trauma.

    Even if your friend doesn't want to talk to a counselor, you can get support for yourself and find healthy ways to deal with your feelings. Talking to a counselor can help you understand your own reactions to what has happened and enable you to support your friend more effectively. You can contact the SMU Counseling Center for support at 510-869-6629.

    10.  Be patient and understanding.
    The trauma of a sexual assault does not go away quickly. It may take a while for your friend to recover. Sometimes friends and family members expect sexual assault victims to be "over it" in a few weeks. Understand that the pain the survivor feels, and the symptoms, may last for a long time.

    Some Tips on What Not to Do

    Don’t pry for details about what happened.

    • Remember to respect the survivor's privacy.
    • Don’t insist that the survivor talk about the incident if she or he would rather not.

    Don’t question the survivor's account.

    • Don’t judge the survivor's behavior before, during, or after the assault. 
    • Remember that no one deserves to be violated or mistreated under any circumstances.

    Don’t disagree with the course of action the survivor chooses to follow.

    • Allow the survivor to take control of her or his own life. 
    • While your advice may be sound, the survivor knows what is the best way for her or him to heal.

    Don’t become so emotionally involved that you can’t help the survivor.

    • Don’t assume that you know how someone else feels. 
    • Don’t expect that you’ll be able to make the survivor feel better. 
    • Don’t make the survivor deal with your own responses to the situation, such as anger or grief.

     Don’t use words or comments like these, which blame or impose your own feelings on the survivor. 

    • "You're lucky that nothing else happened.  You could have been killed!"
    • “Why were you ...?  Why did you ...?"
    • "You shouldn’t have ..."
    • "It’s not a big deal."
    • "Calm down!"
    • "I know how you feel."
    • “If I were you ..."

    Adapted from: College of the Holy Cross

    There will undoubtedly come a time when you are faced with a situation in which you can intervene and help stop a potentially dangerous situation - stopping someone from driving drunk, eliminating bullying behavior, or preventing a sexual assault from occurring.  Traditionally sexual assault prevention work has focused on encouraging (mainly) women to protect themselves - don't walk alone at night, don't drink too much, etc.  While these efforts can be helpful, they do not effectively stop crimes from occurring, and they place the duty and responsibility solely on the victim. As a friend, partner, classmate, family member, etc. you are in a unique position to do something about abuses you see. Learn how to be an effective bystander and how to confront abuses when they occur.

    The Bystander Effect

    Increasingly, it is being recognized that the solution to health and social justice problems requires that we engage bystanders – individuals who observe a problem and want to do something but don’t. Despite the importance of this issue and the fact that most people want to “do the right thing” there is a phenomenon called "bystander apathy" or the "bystander effect" that can be described as a diffusion of responsibility which suggests that the more people there are present to witness an event, the less each individual feels personally responsible for doing something. Several variables help to explain why the bystander effect occurs. These variables include:

    1. Ambiguity: the more ambiguous the situation the less likely people will intervene  
    2. Group Cohesiveness: the need to behave in correct and socially acceptable ways, thus when other observers fail to react, individuals often take this as a signal that a response is not needed or not appropriate and
    3. Diffusion of responsibility. This can be an obstacle for people to realize there is a need to intervene.

    One of the most famous cases of this occurred in 1964 with the rape and murder of Kitty Genovese.  While a man attacked, raped, and killed this young woman for over half an hour, 38 men and women witnessed the assault and did nothing to help. The shock and confusion surrounding this single event captured the country’s attention and launched a substantial debate into how caring people could watch such an attack, and yet do nothing. This one event launched new research and programs about the ‘bystander effect’. This one event also marked the beginning of an approach by programs and researchers to move bystanders to act more responsibly.

    With this new perspective or approach, people might intervene in less extreme situations, such as saying something at a party when a man is harassing a woman, or supporting a family member when confronting an abusive relative. This expanded  approach includes a broad range of opportunities to intervene that can be as simple as a word here or there or more involved behaviors that let people know that you will take action.

    Bystander Intervention

    Bystander intervention is a philosophy and strategy for the prevention of various types of violence, including bullying, sexual harassment, sexual assault, and intimate partner violence.  Bystander Intervention is based on the fact that people make decisions and continue behaviors based on the reactions they get from others.

    What makes this approach different from previous approaches to sexual assault prevention?  The bystander approach offers several clear benefits:

    1. Discourages victim blaming: Breaking the silence around sexual violence is a critical strategy in prevention. Yet, often the ensuing dialogue includes questions to the victim like “How could YOU let this happen?” or “Why didn’t YOU say anything?” With bystanders as active participants, the sense of responsibility shifts away from victims and toward the family, friends and the whole community. The questions then become, “How could WE let this happen in our community?” and “How can WE learn to say something?”
    2.  Offers the chance to change social norms: With more bystander intervention, society’s collective responsibility takes on a new role. Studies show that social norms can play a significant role in violence prevention, especially in communities such as college campuses (Banyard et al., 2004). Just as Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), for example, shifted social norms of our society with their slogan, “Friends don’t let friends drive drunk,” a similar shift is also possible for sexual violence: “Friends don’t let friends hurt others.”
    3.  Shifts responsibility to men and women: In previous decades, rape prevention programs focused almost exclusively on the dynamic of men as perpetrators and women as victims of sexual violence. Child sexual abuse programs began as programs teaching children to say “no” and teaching adults to listen. The bystander approach shifts this framing and engages adults as agents of change – both men and women become equals in prevention. In support of this promising practice, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has funded a number of sites to develop programs to shift the responsibility of preventing child sexual abuse to the adults.

    "It's On Us" Campaign

    In 2014, President Obama and Vice President Biden joined leaders from universities, media companies, the sports world, and grassroots organizations to launch the "It’s On Us" campaign against sexual assault on college campuses.  IT'S ON US is a cultural movement aimed at fundamentally shifting the way we think about sexual assault. IT’S ON US is a rallying cry inviting everyone to step up and realize that the solution begins with us. It’s a declaration that sexual assault is not only a crime committed by a perpetrator against a victim, but a societal problem in which all of us have a role to play.

    The campaign hopes to inspire everyone to see it as their responsibility to do something, big or small, to prevent sexual violence.  To create an environment, be it a dorm room, a party, a club or a sports team, or the greater college campus, where sexual assault is unacceptable and survivors are supported. It’s on us to realize we all have a role to play in preventing sexual assault. It’s on us to embrace the responsibility we have to stand up for the safety of those around us—to challenge each other to do everything we can to make our college campuses safe.

    Raising awareness. Holding ourselves and each other accountable. Looking out for someone who cannot consent.

    If you haven’t already, join the movement, spread the word, and take the pledge at

    How to Be an Active Bystander 

    There are many ways that you can help. Be an intervener! Stop potential incidents before they occur, educate yourself and others, talk to and support your friends so that they will intervene as well! The best way bystanders can assist in creating an empowering climate free of interpersonal violence is to diffuse the problem behaviors before they escalate. The following are examples of the range of language that individuals and groups can use to message what they and their members can do about sexual assault.

    • Recognize that if someone doesn’t or can’t consent to sex, it’s sexual assault
    • Educate yourself and others about interpersonal violence, gender inequality and the causes of gender violence.
    • Confront friends who make excuses for other people's abusive behavior
    • Speak up against racist, sexist, and homophobic jokes, music, remarks, etc.
    • Refuse to purchase any magazines, videos or music that portray women in a degrading manner or include violence against women.
    • Confront abusive behavior by not remaining silent.
    • Understand how our own attitudes and actions (including jokes, music you listen to, etc.) may perpetuate sexism and violence and work toward changing them.
    • Gently offer our support if we suspect that someone close to us is being abused or has been sexually assaulted or stalked.
    • Take responsibility for our actions and your inaction
    • Realize we have a role to play in stopping sexual assault
    • Create an environment where men and women feel, and are, safe
    • Step in if a friend is doing something that could lead to sexual assault
    • Get someone home safely if he or she needs help
    • Hold our friends accountable
    • Tell our friends if what they are doing is wrong.
    • Never blame the victim
    • Be more than a bystander
    • Stop a sexual assault any way we can
    • Keep an eye on someone in a vulnerable situation
    • Not look the other way
    • Do something to get in the way of a sexual assault
    • Step up and say something
    • Let our friend’s know what is and is not acceptable
    • Not give our friends a pass
    • Help a victim report a sexual assault if he or she wants to
    • Look out for someone who has had too much to drink
    • Get in the way if we see something happening
    • Stand up to those who tell us it’s not our business
    • Say something when our friends are being stupid
    • Call non-consensual sex what it is—Rape
    • Act when we think someone is in trouble
    • Do something
    • Be part of the solution, not part of the problem
    • Always be on the side of the victim
    • Make sexual assault unacceptable
    • Take reports of sexual assault seriously
    • Stop someone from doing something we know is wrong

    For more Information on Bystander Responsibility in Sexual Violence Prevention, please see:

     Adapted from: NSVRC Engaging Bystanders


    Prevention, at its core, is about changing social norms and beliefs that make violence acceptable in society. Sexual violence is connected to all forms of oppression, but sexism (or the belief that women and girls are less valuable than men and boys), is one of the strongest forces. Although the anti-sexual violence and feminist movements have done tremendous work and education around sexism and how harmful it is to women and girls, men and boys have not historically been part of this conversation.

    Traditionally, many rape prevention programs and sexual assault crisis centers have not actively recruited or engaged men as volunteers and staff members. Recently, however, there has been an evolution of sorts that has added a progression toward prevention education in new and innovative ways. These efforts have been better able to address some of the problems surrounding peer and male/female relationships, and have begun to show anti-sexual violence advocates that change is possible. Ending sexual violence means transforming a culture of rape and effecting true social change. It means raising male awareness and actively challenging men to examine what it means to be masculine. In order to successfully transform and change societal attitudes, rape can no longer be seen as solely a “women’s issue”, but instead as an issue that affects both genders. Together with women and men have the power to end rape.

    As men, you can begin to look critically at how your own behaviors and attitudes might contribute to a campus culture that tacitly supports sexism and violence, and challenge each other to pursue a full, healthy vision of masculinity.  Men at SMU can help stop rape and sexual assault by educating themselves about the facts of these crimes and serving as allies with women in preventing rape and other forms of violence.

    Men's Pledge To End Sexual Violence

    I pledge to end sexual violence because ...

    • I understand that what I do and say can either encourage or discourage stereotypes that can lead to sexual violence.
    • I believe that rape will not end until men become part of the solution.
    • I take pride in myself as a man.
    • I understand that real men do not use their power to rape.
    • I care about the women in my life.
    • I am angry that people I know have been hurt.
    • I know that a woman is raped every 3 minutes in this country.
    • I understand that rape is a crime of violence against victims’ bodies, emotional well-being, and right to do with their bodies what they choose.
    • I recognize that men and women will not be equal until rape ends.
    • I know that happiness between men and women is difficult in a world where rape exists.
    •  I accept my responsibility to assist in making this a safer world.

    Thus, I promise to ...

    • To take a stand and never commit, condone, accept, or stay silent about sexual violence
    • To challenge other men to recognize that they can be powerful without making others powerless
    • To encourage all men to work together with women, using their collective voices and resources
    • Speak my anger about rape
    • Talk with other men about rape
    • Look at how we create a culture where rape is possible by the way men are raised
    • Interrupt rape or sexist jokes
    • Support laws that encourage men to take responsibility for ending rape
    • Listen to women friends’ fears and concerns for their safety
    • Pay attention to cries for help
    • Challenge images of violence against women in advertising and pornography
    • Encourage women to be strong and powerful
    • Recognize that cooperation is power
    • Change whatever I am doing that helps create a culture where rape is possible
    • Support women and men working to end rape.
      * Original version of this statement by the California Anti-Sexist Men’s Political Caucus.

    Bystander Responsibility

    Become a responsible Bystander and learn how to speak up, create awareness and prevent potentially harmful situations.

    • Realize how other men's uncaring or wrong behavior might affect your own life. Some woman or man that you care about may have been raped. Understand that this person might need your support but might be unable to enter into a relationship at the present time. Also realize that some women who have been raped might feel distrustful of men in general.
    • Confront other men's rape jokes and remarks; relate to others why these jokes are not funny and the harm they can cause.
    • Confront other men's harassment--verbal or physical--of women. Most women don't consider it flattery but rather a reminder of their vulnerability to rape.
    • Educate other men about what rape really is. Help them to clear up any misconceptions they might have.
    • Confront potential rape scenes. When you see a man verbally harassing a woman, stand by to see if she needs help. If a man is hitting or holding a woman against her will, do something immediately to help her.
    • When walking in groups of men or alone be conscious as you approach a woman. Be aware of how afraid she might feel, and give her space on the street if possible.
    • Be supportive of women's actions to control their own lives and make their own decisions. Don't be afraid to express these ideas.
    • Be aware of campus resources and help direct others in need of professional assistance. If someone you know has expressed violent feelings or demonstrated violent behavior in a particular relationship with someone, try to help him find an appropriate person with which to talk. See the On & Off-Campus Resource Page

    Alternatives to Coerciveness

    • Listen carefully. Take the time to hear what the woman is saying. If you feel she is not being direct or is giving you a "mixed message", ask for clarification.
    • Don't fall for the common stereotype that when a woman says "No" she really means "Yes". "No" means "No". If a woman says "No" to sexual contact, believe her and stop.
    • Remember that date rape is a crime. It is never acceptable to use force in sexual situations, no matter what the circumstances.
    • Don't make assumptions about a woman's behavior. Don't automatically assume that a woman wants to have sex just because she drinks heavily, dresses provocatively, or agrees to go to your room. Don't assume that just because a woman has had sex with you previously she is willing to have sex with you again. Also, don't assume that just because a woman consents to kiss or other sexual intimacies she is willing to have sexual intercourse.
    • Be aware that having sex with someone who is mentally or physically incapable of giving consent is rape. If you have sex with a woman who is drugged, intoxicated, passed out, incapable of saying "No", or unaware of what is happening around her, you may be guilty of rape.
    • Be especially careful in group situations. Be prepared to resist pressure from friends to participate in violent or criminal acts.
    • "Get involved" if you believe someone is at risk. If you see a woman in trouble at a party or a male friend using force or pressuring a woman, don't be afraid to intervene. You may save the woman from the trauma of sexual assault and your friend from the ordeal of criminal prosecution.
    • Realize how other men's uncaring or wrong behavior might affect your own life. Some woman that you know may have been raped. Understand that this person might need your support but might be able to enter into a relationship at the present time. Also realize that some women who have been raped might feel distrustful of men in general. This is not an abnormal reaction to such a traumatizing experience.
    • Be aware of suspicious characters.  In dormitories or other residences, men can also help by paying attention to strangers who appear to be wandering around the building. Ask them who they are looking for, and report suspicious behavior to University Police.

    How to Be a Responsible Partner

    • Consider your partner's feelings.  Think about whether you really want to have sex with someone who doesn't want to have sex with you; how will you feel afterward if your partner tells you s/he didn't want to have sex.
    • If you are getting a double message from a woman, speak up and clarify what she wants. If you find yourself in a situation with a woman who is unsure about having sex or is saying "no," back off. Suggest talking about it.
    • Be sensitive to women who are unsure whether they want to have sex. If you put pressure on them, you might be forcing them.
    • Do not assume you both want the same degree of intimacy. She might be interested in some sexual contact other than intercourse. There may be several kinds of sexual activity you might mutually agree to share.
    • Stay in touch with your sexual desires. Ask yourself if you are really hearing what she wants. Do not let your desires control your actions.
    • Communicate your sexual desires honestly and as early as possible.
    • Do not assume her desire for affection is the same as a desire for sex.
    • Don't take offense.  A woman who turns you down for sex is not necessarily rejecting you as a person; she is expressing her decision not to participate in a single act at that time.
    • No one asks to be raped. No matter how a woman behaves, she does not deserve to have her body used in ways she does not want.
    • Alcohol or drugs are not an excuse. The fact that you were intoxicated is not a legal defense to rape. You are responsible for your actions, whether you are drunk or sober.
    • Be aware that a man's size and physical presence can be intimidating to a woman. Many victims report that the fear they felt based on the man's size and presence was the reason why they did not fight back or struggle.

    National Organizations

    International Organizations

     Adapted from: Men Against Sexual Violence

    Many myths surround the issue of violence against women, and the perpetration of these myths — especially those that excuse the perpetrator and blame the victim — reinforces behavior which contributes to sexual assault, domestic violence, and stalking. Separating the myths from the facts is an important first step in acknowledging the problem and working to eliminate it.

    Myth: Sexual assault is an expression of passion and lust.
    Fact: Sexual assault is a crime that uses power and control to dominate, humiliate and punish.

    Myth: Rape is an impulsive, uncontrollable act of sexual gratification.
    Fact: Most rapes are planned and motivated by aggression, dominance, and hatred, not sex.

    Myth: If a woman is being stalked, and she just ignores the unwanted behavior, it will go away.
    Fact: This is not necessarily the case. It is important to stop the stalker as soon as possible. The sooner action is taken, be it a police caution, warning or arrest, the greater the chance of stopping the stalking.

    Myth: College students do not have to worry about becoming victims of dating or domestic violence.
    Fact: Dating and domestic abuse is a problem on college campuses and often an indication of abuse in subsequent relationships and marriages.

    Myth: Violent relationships only happen in marriages.
    Fact: An abusive or violent relationship can happen to anyone in an intimate relationship regardless of marital status. Domestic and relationship violence can begin when adolescents start dating. Relationship violence among teenagers exists and can include physical, sexual and emotional abuse. And, not all domestic partners can be or are married.

    Myth: Jealousy is a sign of love.
    Fact: When a person continually accuses their partner of flirting or having an affair and is suspicious of everyone in their partner's life, it is possessing and controlling behavior, not love.

    Myth: When their partner hits someone, they must have provoked the behavior in some way.
    Fact: No one deserves to be hit. Whether or not there may have seemed to be a provocation, violence is always wrong. It never solves problems, and it often silences the victim.

    Myth: People in abusive relationships stay because they enjoy being abused.
    Fact: People who are abused by their dating or domestic partner do not stay in the relationship because they like being bullied. Most victims want to improve their relationship rather than end it. Violence is often cyclical in abusive relationships. Consequently, an apology and promise to end the behavior will often follow an episode of abuse which contributes to the attitude that the behavior may change. Unfortunately, without the will to change and the appropriate psychological assistance, the abuse will not end. The victim may stay for practical or emotional reasons including love, fear of reprisal such as more injury or ultimately death, social isolation or shame.

    Myth: "Name calling" doesn't hurt anyone.
    Fact: Emotional abuse is often considered harmless "name calling". But name calling hurts; that's why people do it. Emotional abuse lowers the victim's self-esteem, sometimes permanently. For many victims, it is the most damaging aspect of abusive relationships.

    Myth: I can tell if someone is going to be a "hitter" just by looking at the person.
    Fact: Abusers come in all sizes and shapes. They are not the stereotypical muscle-bound men portrayed in the media. They are women and men; they are in the classroom, in your neighborhood, or a friend of a friend.

    Myth: Dating or domestic violence will never happen to you.
    Fact: Dating violence can happen to you. It is not limited to a particular social class, sexual orientation, gender or any single ethnic or racial group. Some people are victimized on their first date while others are assaulted after dating a long time.

    Myth: A relationship is not abusive if there is no physical abuse.
    Fact: Perpetrators of violence maintain control over the victim by using physical or sexual violence or by using emotional violence or the threat of physical or sexual violence. In some relationships, the threat of violence is enough to keep the abuser in control. The threat of violence and emotional violence can be just as hurtful or painful as physical violence.

    Myth: Rapists are strangers who hide in dark alleys waiting to attack women late at night.
    Fact: Most rapes are committed by someone the victim knows. Rape can occur at any hour of the day, and half of all rapes occur in the victim’s residence.

    Myth: Battered women can always leave — and the situation can’t be that bad, or they would.
    Fact: It may be difficult for a woman to leave her partner. Women stay in violent relationships for both emotional and practical reasons, including love, economic dependence, fear of reprisal, social isolation, and shame.

    Myth: Women are to blame for putting themselves into situations that lead to sexual assault: staying out late, drinking, using drugs, going out alone, talking to strangers.
    Fact: Most victims of sexual assault are attacked in places they thought were safe by someone they thought they could trust.

    Myth: Cyberstalkers are not dangerous.
    Fact: If a cyberstalker takes the harassment offline, a woman may begin to receive harassing snail mail or phone calls. In addition, the stalker may know where she lives.

    Myth: Sexual harassment is a part of life. Such behavior is usually just harmless flirtation or a way to compliment a woman.
    Fact: Sexual harassment is conduct that makes women (and men) feel uncomfortable, humiliated, distressed, or fearful. This behavior is both unacceptable and illegal.

    Adapted from the CALCASA Campus Violence Prevention Resource Guide

    Dating and Domestic Violence

    Dating and domestic violence, also referred to as relationship or intimate partner violence, is the use of power by one person to control another within an intimate relationship.  Signs of an abusive relationship include jealousy, possessiveness, isolating and controlling behavior, threats and intimidations, put-downs and name-calling, yelling, breaking things, physical and sexual assault, and financial coercion or control.  The rate of dating/domestic violence among undergraduate and graduate students is about the same rate as in the general population.  Abuse occurs in same-gender relationships as often as in relationships between people of different genders.

    In a healthy relationship, your partner respects you and your individuality.

    • You are both open and honest.
    • Your partner supports you and your choices even when they disagree with you.
    • Both of you have equal say and respected boundaries.
    • Your partner understands that you need to study or hang out with friends or family.
    • You can communicate your feelings without being afraid of negative consequences.
    • Both of you feel safe being open and honest.
    • Click to see a chart of Healthy vs. Unhealthy Relationship Characteristics

    Hurting someone is never a sign of love!!! When a relationship is violent or abusive, the people involved need to either seek professional help to make the relationship work without abuse/violence or get out of it. You don’t have to settle for an abusive relationship, and you don’t have to continue to behave in abusive ways. Both of you deserve better.

    Common feelings people experience when in abusive and/or unhealthy relationships can include:

    • Low Self-Esteem; Lack of Self-Confidence
    • Feeling angry, sad, lonely, depressed or confused
    • Feeling helpless to stop the abuse
    • Feeling threatened or humiliated
    • Inability to Concentrate
    • Academic or Work Difficulties
    • Lack of Motivation
    • Fear
    • Trouble with Trust
    • Difficulty in Relationships
    • Problems with Sex
    • Guilt and Self-Blame; Self-Doubt
    • Feelings of Isolation
    • Feeling anxious
    • Not knowing what might happen next
    • Feeling like you can't talk to family and friends
    • Being afraid of getting hurt more seriously
    • Feeling protective of your boyfriend/girlfriend

     Remember, you're not alone

    • 43% of dating college women report experiencing violent and abusive dating behaviors including physical, sexual, tech, verbal or controlling abuse.
    • Nearly 1 in 3 (29%) college women say they have been in an abusive dating relationship.
    • 52% of college women report knowing a friend who has experienced violent and abusive dating behaviors including physical, sexual, tech, verbal or controlling abuse.
    • Nearly 1 in 3 (29%) college women say they have been in an abusive dating relationship.
    • 52% of college women report knowing a friend who has experienced violent and abusive dating behaviors including physical, sexual, tech, verbal or controlling abuse.
    • More than half (57%) of college students who report experiencing dating violence and abuse said it occurred in college.
    • 58% of college students say they don’t know what to do to help someone who is a victim of dating abuse.
    • 38% of college students say they don’t know how to get help for themselves if they were a victim of dating abuse.
    • More than half of all college students (57%) say it is difficult to identify dating abuse.
    • Source: and 2011 College Dating Violence & Abuse Poll

    If you think you are in an abusive relationship, get help immediately. Don't keep your concerns to yourself. Talk to someone you trust like a parent, teacher, counselor or medical professional.  On campus you can contact the SMU Student Health & Counseling Center for confidential counseling.


    Stalking is a pattern of repeated and unwanted attention, harassment, contact, or any other conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear, and/or threaten her or his safety, mental health, or physical health. These collection of behaviors, at one time in the recent past, tended to be excused or minimized by society. Now, it is generally understood that this pattern of behaviors causes anxiety and impacts the survivor’s ability to pursue his/her education and live a whole and healthy life.  More than half of all stalking survivors are between 18 and 29 years old and most stalkers are an acquaintance, such as a former dating partner.

     Stalking behaviors or activities may include, but are not limited to, the following:

    • Non-consensual communication, including face-to-face communication, telephone calls, voice messages, e-mails, text messages, written letters, gifts, or any other communications that are undesired and place another person in fear.
    • Use of online, electronic, or digital technologies, including:
      • Posting of pictures or information in chat rooms or on Web sites
      • Sending unwanted/unsolicited email or talk requests
      • Posting private or public messages on internet sites, social networking sites, and/or school bulletin boards
      • Installing spyware on a victim’s computer
      • Using Global Positioning Systems (GPS) to monitor a victim
    • Pursuing, following, waiting, or showing up uninvited at or near a residence, workplace, classroom, or other places frequented by the victim
    • Surveillance or other types of observation including staring, “peeping”
    • Trespassing
    • Vandalism
    • Non-consensual touching
    • Direct verbal or physical threats
    • Gathering information about an individual from friends, family, and/or co-workers
    • Threats to harm self or others
    • Defamation—lying to others about the victim