Defining sexual assault, relationship violence, and stalking

Everyone has the right to respectful and healthy interactions with their friends, partners, and members of our community. At WSU, we strive to create an environment of safety and accountability. Even so, sex- and gender-based violence like sexual assault, relationship violence, and stalking are as common here as they are on any other college campus.

People experience these forms of violence regardless of sex, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, race, ethnicity, age, or disability. There are some groups that experience violence at rates higher than others, but it can happen to anyone.

State law and campus policy prohibit all forms of sex- and gender-based violence. Plain language definitions are listed below.

Relationship violence is harm or threat of harm in an intimate relationship. It can also be called domestic violence or dating violence. This can include (but is not limited to) physical, emotional, and sexual abuse.

Stalking is a course of conduct directed toward an individual that would cause a reasonable person to feel afraid. Stalking can occur in person or through technology. Most victims are stalked by someone they know, such as a current or former partner.

Stalking interactions can mirror behaviors that many of us engage in every day, with one major difference: these interactions are unwanted and intimidating, and cause someone to fear for their safety or the safety of people around them.

Sexual assault is any sexual activity lacking clear, knowing, and voluntary consent. This can include nonconsensual sexual intercourse or other physical contact. Sexual assault most frequently occurs between people who know each other. They may be friends, romantic partners, co-workers, roommates, classmates, or casual acquaintances. They may have just met at a party or online.

While a significant portion of sexual assault on college campuses includes the presence of alcohol or other substance, sexual assault can also occur outside of a typical party scene.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month

Options for support and reporting

If you or someone you know experiences these types of violence, we’re here to support you and provide options for emotional support, medical care, and reporting. There are confidential and other resources available to you.

Confidential resources like victim advocates at Alternatives to Violence of the Palouse and Counseling and Psychological Services are not required to report to law enforcement or the university. There are minimal exceptions to confidentiality, such as reporting child or elder abuse or other imminent harm. If you choose to access these services, your visit and the information you share will be confidential.

Medical care at Cougar Health Services is also a confidential resource. Regardless of whether you want to make a police report, a health care provider can help assess your wellbeing and personal safety, provide any necessary medical treatment, and help connect you with other resources.

University resources include the Compliance and Civil Rights (CCR). CCR can take a report of your experience, start an investigation, help you identify campus safety options, and connect you to local support services, medical care, and counseling. CCR investigation process is separate from any criminal process and can be pursued alone or simultaneously.

Keep in mind that, with limited exceptions, most university employees have an obligation to report sex- and gender-based violence to the university. If you choose to disclose your experience to a university employee, they will share that information with the Title IX Coordinator at CCR. CCR will follow up with you to offer support and let you know about resources and options that are available to you. They will also give you the option of pursuing an investigation.

This reporting requirement is designed to keep our community safe and ensure that victims and survivors receive the support they need. If CCR contacts you, it’s your choice whether or not to provide details or pursue any of the options they provide.

If you would like to pursue criminal investigation and possible legal action, you can report to WSU Police or Pullman Police.

For a comprehensive list of confidential and other resources at WSU and in the community, visit CCR’s website.

Supporting a friend

Students are more likely to talk with a friend about their experience of violence before anyone else. A supportive response can make a significant difference to someone coping with the impact of sexual assault, relationship violence, or stalking.

Helpful things to say to a victim or survivor:

  • It’s not your fault.
  • It’s not okay that this happened.
  • I believe you.
  • You’re not alone.
  • Do you want to talk to someone?
  • What can I do to support you?
  • If you don’t want to talk about it, that’s okay.