Sexual violence is a form of sexual harassment and refers to physical sexual acts perpetrated against a person’s will or when a person is incapable of giving consent (e.g., due to the individual’s age or use of drugs or alcohol, or because an intellectual or other disability prevents the individual from having the capacity to give consent). A number of different acts fall into the category of sexual violence, including sexual misconduct, sexual assault, sexual battery, sexual abuse, and sexual coercion.

Baylor College of Medicine defines sexual violence in the following ways:

Sexual Misconduct (Non-consensual Sexual Contact or Attempted Contact)

Includes any intentional sexual touching of a person however slight, with or without an object, that is without consent and/or by force.

Examples of non-consensual sexual contact may include but are not limited to: intentional contact with the breasts, buttocks, groin or genitals, or touching another with an of the these body parts, or making another touch you or themselves with or on any of these body parts; any intentional bodily contact in a sexual manner, though not involving contact with/of/by breasts, buttocks, groin, genitals, mouth or other orifice.

Sexual Assault (Non-consensual Sexual Intercourse or Attempted Sexual Intercourse)

Includes any sexual intercourse of a person upon another person however slight, with or without an object, that is without consent and/or by force.

Examples of non-consensual sexual intercourse include but are not limited to: vaginal or anal penetration by a penis, object, tongue or finger, and oral copulation (mouth to genital contact or genital to mouth contact), no matter how light the penetration or contact; incest; statutory rape.

Sexual Exploitation

Is non-consensual or abusive sexual advances of another that does not otherwise constitute one of the other sex-based offenses.

Examples of sexual exploitation include but are not limited to: invasion of sexual privacy, prostitution of a person, non-consensual video or audio recording of sexual activity, going beyond boundaries of sexual consent; engaging in voyeurism, knowingly transmitting an sexually transmitted infection (STI) or HIV to another person, exposing one’s genitals in non-consensual circumstances, exposing another’s genitals in non-consensual circumstances, some incidents of sex-based stalking and/or gender-based bullying.

Characteristics of a Sexual Predator

Individuals who commit sexual violence are predators. They have consistent characteristics and engage in patterns of behavior that has been developed and perfected over numerous incidents of sexual violence. Some of these characteristics include: 

  • The ability to identify vulnerability in “likely” victims. A sexual predator will test the prospective victim’s boundaries and levels of self-confidence.
  • The ability to plan and premeditate their attack using sophisticated strategies to groom or prepare their victims for attack, including isolate them physically.
  • The ability to use “instrumental” not gratuitous violence. A sexual predator exhibits strong impulse control and use only as much violence as is needed to terrify and coerce their victims into submission.
  • The ability to use psychological weapons – power, control, manipulation, and threats – backed up by physical force. A sexual predator almost never resorts to weapons such as knives or guns.
  • The ability to use alcohol deliberately to increase a prospective victim’s vulnerable to attack, or render them completely unconscious.

(adapted from research by Dr. David Lisak, University of Massachusetts)