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Definitions of Sexual Violence

Violence impacts us all in society, directly and indirectly.  Three forms of interpersonal violence that occur with unfortunate frequency on all college campuses include sexual assault, dating and domestic violence, and stalking.  These crimes can impair or destroy one's sense of safety, trust, community and well-being.  Samuel Merritt University is committed to ensuring a safe environment for our campus and community.  These forms of interpersonal violence are crimes and violations of CA law as well as the SMU Sexual Misconduct Code and we strongly encourage any Student, Staff and Faculty members who believe they have been the victim of harassment, violence or stalking to report these incidents. See the Reporting Page for more information.


Sexual Assault & Rape

In its simplest definition, sexual assault is any unwanted sexual contact. Sexual assault includes the act of rape (oral, anal, or vaginal intercourse without consent) or forced penetration by a foreign object (including a finger). It also includes non-penetrating acts such as touching an unwilling person’s sexual parts (e.g. breast, buttocks, genitalia), naked or through clothing, or forcing an unwilling person to touch another’s sexual parts.

Under California law, rape is an act of sexual intercourse against the will of the victim that can occur under a variety of circumstances, including when:

  • the victim is prevented from resisting due to alcohol or drug intoxication.
  • the assailant uses physical force or the threat of force to over-power and control the victim.
  • the victim fears that she or he or another will be injured if the victim does not submit.
  • the victim is at the time unconscious of the nature of the act, and this is known to the assailant.
  • the victim is incapable of giving legal consent due to a mental disorder or developmental or physical disability, and this is known or reasonably should be known to the assailant.
  • the act is accomplished by threatening to use the authority of a public official to incarcerate, arrest, or deport the victim or another person.
  • the assailant uses duress, such as a direct or implied threat of hardship or retribution, to coerce the victim.
  • the assailant uses force, fear, or threats to accomplish sexual intercourse against the will of the spouse. (This provision of the law is known as the "spousal rape law.")

It should be highlighted that consent can be withdrawn at ANY TIME during a sexual act. If one partner withdraws consent and the other continues, this is considered rape.

Despite common societal misconceptions, it is not true that most sexual assaults

  • are most often perpetrated by a stranger
  • involve a weapon
  • produce visible physical injury to the survivor.

Sexual assaults are committed by both strangers AND people the victim knows. In fact, the vast majority of rapes and sexual assaults are committed by someone the victims knows, ranging from friends and acquaintances to dates, romantic partners, and spouses or domestic partners. Although people often think of rape as something that only happens to women, this is not the case. Both men and women are sexually assaulted, as are people of every ethnicity, age, culture, religion, economic background, or sexual orientation.

Stranger rape: These includes assaults/rapes in which the attacker is unknown. These assaults account for fewer than 25% of all adult rapes.  Contrary to media coverage, the vast majority of women and men who are raped know their attackers.

Non-stranger or Acquaintance rape:  These assaults occur by someone who is known to the victim in some capacity  - an intimate partner, occasional hook-up companion, friend, roommate, family member, co-worker, team member, neighbor, etc.  These account for the vast majority (over 75%) of sexual assaults/rapes.  

The existence of a sexual relationship between the assailant and the person assaulted or raped should be recognized as the norm rather than the exception.  And, because of the personal connection to the rapist, many survivors are less likely to perceive and define what has happened to them as rape.  It isn’t uncommon for the person assaulted to decide that “things just got out of hand for a bit” and blame herself or himself for the assault.
Although these definitions seem clear, people are often confused as to whether they have been sexually assaulted or not, or even if they have been raped or not. This is particularly true when the survivor knows their assailant, as they may often feel that they somehow led the person on, or that they are in some way responsible for the assault. In many cases, survivors may feel that because they were not seriously hurt physically, it wasn’t really rape. This is not true. ANY sexual contact forced upon you by someone against your will is illegal, against the SMU Student Code of Conduct and against SMU Policy. It is illegal and wrong, even if you have been sexual with that person in the past or are currently being sexual, but don’t wish to go past certain limits. See Was It My Fault?

The absence of informed consent distinguishes a crime from a sexual encounter. Every person possesses the right to decide whether and when to be sexual. Consent signifies active participation; this cannot be inferred or assumed.

 For more information about Sexual Assault see these resources:


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 here to see 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. 

Type of Abuse/Violence

What It Means

How It Works

Early Warning Signs

Physical Abuse

  • Any intentional unwanted contact with the other person’s body.
  • Physical abuse does not have to leave a mark or a bruise.


  • Slapping; Hitting
  • Scratching; Pinching
  • Choking; Strangling
  • Pushing; Shoving
  • Grabbing
  • Kicking
  • Pinching
  • Hair pulling
  • Biting
  • Throwing objects at a person
  • Using weapons
  • Explosive temper
  • Going into a rage when disappointed or frustrated
  • History of violence
  • Severe mood swings
  • Teasing, tripping, or pushing
  • Threatening to injure
  • Intimidating physical behavior (getting in your face)

Verbal, Psychological and Emotional Abuse

  • Saying or doing something to the other person that causes the person to be afraid, have lower self-esteem, or cause psychological or emotional distress
  • Manipulating or controlling the person’s feelings or  behaviors.
  • Behavior that causes harm with words or actions
  • Insults, Put-downs, Name-calling
  • Embarrassing or humiliating you in front of your friends or family 
  • Threats, intimidation
  • Telling the person what to do (how to dress, act, behave)
  • Telling a person’s secrets; spreading rumors
  • Jealousy, possessiveness
  • Isolating a person from friends, family
  • Destroying gifts, clothing, letters
  • Damaging a car, home, or other prized possessions
  • Hurting or threatening to hurt pets or  loved ones
  • Following, tracking, calling often to see where you are
  • Having to be with you all the time
  • Extreme jealousy or possessiveness
  • Teasing that includes insults
  • Pouting when you spend time with your friends
  • Threatening to leave you in an unsafe location
  • Trying to control what you do
  • Not letting you hang out with your friends
  • Calling or texting you frequently to find out where you are, who you're with, and what you're doing



Sexual Abuse

  • Any sexual behavior that is unwanted or interferes with the other person’s right to say “no” to sexual advances.
  • Any sexual behaviors that make a person feel uncomfortable
  • Any sexual behavior that is manipulative or coercive
  • Unwanted kissing to touching
  • Unwanted rough or violent sexual activity
  • Forcing or manipulating someone to go further sexually than he or she wants to
  • Insisting (physically or verbally) that you have sex, even when you have said no
  • Using coercion, guilt and manipulation to have sex
  • Taking advantage of you while you are intoxicated (drink or high) and not able to say no
  • Forced sex
  • Not using or not letting you use birth control for pregnancy and STD protection (condoms, birth control pills)
  • Using emotional blackmail to talk you into having sex (“If you loved me, you would...”)
  • “Everyone else is doing it, come on, what’s wrong with you?”
  • “I won’t use condoms” (forcing you not to use them)

Abuse of Male Privilege:
 “It’s a Guy Thing”

  • Behavior that assumes that boys have more power than girls and that boys have special privileges in relationships with girls
  • The guy makes all decisions for the couple
  • The guy expects his girlfriend to wait on and pamper him
  • The guy treats his girlfriend as if she is property he owns
  • Expecting you to be available to them at all times; while they may only be available to you when they feel like it
  • Acting overly macho with friend
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.  

For more information about Dating and Domestic Violence see these resources:



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

For more information on stalking, see these resources:


Sexual Harassment

The only threshold a student must meet to receive assistance from the Title IX/SHO is if you are the target of uninvited or unwelcome or unsolicited or unwanted conduct which is being directed at you because of your sex (male or female). The following lists some behaviors which could be construed as sexual harassment.

  • Sexual advances or requests for sexual favors
  • Physical, verbal, or nonverbal behavior that is sexual in nature, is hostile, demeaning,
    or intimidating
  • Terms of endearment
  • Sabotaging a person's work or academic standing
  • Withholding information
  • Exclusion from informal meetings/social events
  • Sexual jokes, comments, or innuendoes
  • Cartoons or visuals that ridicule or denigrate a person's gender
  • Employment or academic decisions that are based solely or partially on a person's sex

SMU believes that sexual harassment has no place in the academic environment. SMU strives to provide a place of work and study, free of sexual harassment, intimidation or exploitation. It is expected that students, faculty and staff will treat one another with respect. Additionally, under state and federal laws sexual harassment of employees/students is illegal. In order to educate its employees/faculty/students and others using the facilities of the University, to improve the work environment, and to comply with the law, SMU is issuing this policy, together with a procedure for investigating allegations of sexual harassment. SMU takes the matter of sexual harassment very seriously; the University, individual staff, faculty and students may be legally liable for acts of harassment.

Any acts of sexual harassment should be reported immediately to the Director of Human Resources at (510) 869-6739. If a student is involved, the HR Director will work with the Director of Student Affairs to ensure that a thorough investigation is conducted. Reports of sexual harassment are taken seriously and will be dealt with promptly. Human Resources will conduct a thorough investigation of any allegations of sexual harassment. The specific action taken, in any particular case, depends on the nature and gravity of the conduct reported and may include intervention, mediation and the initiation of disciplinary action up to and including dismissal from the University. You can learn more about the SMU Sexual Harassment Policy here