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Health & Wellness Services Division of Student Affairs

Get the facts! Violence myths vs. reality

Inaccurate beliefs about sex- and gender-based violence are common. Let’s talk about some of these myths, and more importantly – let’s find out what’s really going on.

Myth: Violence like sexual assault, relationship violence, and stalking doesn’t happen that often.

Reality: College students across the country experience violence every day, and many will experience violence before they even get to college.  

Myth: People make bad decisions and put themselves in situations where sexual assault might happen.

Reality: Someone is making a choice to harm another person who is vulnerable (if they’ve been drinking, for example). If you or someone you know experiences sex- and gender-based violence, know it’s not your fault and there are people on this campus and in our community who can help.

Myth: You can’t be victimized by your partner.

Reality: Sexual assault can happen within any relationship, whether people have been together for years or if they’ve just started seeing each other. Sex without consent is sexual assault, even if two people have had consensual sex in the past.

Myth: It’s unlikely that anyone I know would sexually assault someone.

Reality: Anyone, regardless of their gender, race, ethnicity, age, or other characteristics, can perpetrate violence. Sometimes they’re our friends, our family, or the people we sit next to in class.

Myth: Most people are sexually assaulted by strangers.

Reality: Sexual assault most often occurs between people who know each other. Situations involving strangers committing sexual assault do happen, but they’re rare on college campuses. Most of the time, sexual assault occurs between people who know each other, and in situations where people feel like they are safe (apartments, residence halls, houses, parties, etc.)

Myth: Violence is inevitable, and there’s nothing we can do to prevent it.

Reality: Everyone can do something to prevent violence! For example, you can:

Stay tuned this semester to learn more about how you can make our community safer. You can also subscribe to receive email updates about our collaborative prevention efforts.

Get tools to help prevent violence

This semester, we’ll be posting regularly about the role you play in keeping our campus safe. Sexual assault, domestic violence, and stalking impact members of our community every day, just like on other campuses across the country.

Right now, many of us look the other way when violence happens. We might not know how to help, or we might feel like it’s not our responsibility to intervene. But deciding to stay neutral is really a decision to do nothing, and ignoring a potentially dangerous situation allows the violence to continue.

By working together, we can take steps to bring the rates of violence down. It’s simple: when more Cougs take action, less violence happens.

Here’s what you can do right now:

Our posts this semester will focus on giving you the tools you need to stop violence before it happens. Stay tuned to learn about concrete steps you can take to help keep our community safe!

Sexual assault within relationships

Sex should always be a positive, healthy and consensual experience for everyone involved. Remember: sex without consent is sexual assault.

Sexual assault is common on college campuses. In most instances, the two people involved know each other. Victims may even be in a relationship with the person who is taking advantage of them.

It’s not always easy to identify sexual assault within the context of a relationship. When we think about sexual assault, we tend to think about behaviors that are obviously violent or forceful. But sexual assault in a relationship doesn’t always appear this way. Plus, it’s hard to imagine our partner would hurt us.

So what does sexual assault within a relationship look like? Here are some questions to ask yourself to determine whether this might be happening to you or someone you care about.

Has your partner ever…

  • Pressured you to engage in sexual acts you weren’t comfortable with?
  • Had sex with you when you were unable to voluntarily consent after drinking?
  • Made you watch or imitate pornography without your consent?
  • Asked repeatedly to have sex even when you’ve told them no?
  • Acted annoyed or whiny when you turn down sex?
  • Called you selfish or made you feel guilty for not wanting sex?
  • Threatened to cheat on you if you refuse sex?
  • Become verbally or physically abusive if you don’t want to have sex?
  • Refused to use condoms, or blocked access to contraception?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, you may be seeing signs of an unhealthy or abusive relationship. Keep in mind that sexual assault is prohibited at WSU, and there are many resources available to help if you or someone you know needs them.

Remember, consent must be present every time sexual activity occurs, even in relationships.

You should never feel obligated or pressured to engage in any sexual activity. It’s not your fault if someone hurts you. It’s normal to feel betrayed, hurt, angry and confused.

Everyone has the right to feel safe and supported in a relationship. For more information on creating and maintaining healthy relationships, request a workshop for your group.

Understanding gender-based violence

Group of students hugging

It’s important to talk about violence because it can happen to anyone. Violence impacts students of all sexes, races and ethnicities. Victims and perpetrators can be people of any gender. And violence can happen in same-sex or opposite-sex relationships.

Gender-based violence includes intimate partner violence, stalking and sexual assault. Sometimes these types of violence are hard to spot. Understanding them can help us identify violence and respond. By learning more about violence, we can all help create a safer campus community and ensure every student has a healthy and safe experience at WSU.

Intimate partner violence is when someone uses power to gain or maintain control over another person. Intimate partner violence can take on many names – dating violence, domestic violence and partner violence – but it’s all the same thing: a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship. Many people initially think of physical abuse. But intimate partner violence can include emotional, psychological, sexual or financial abuse.

Someone who is trying to gain or maintain power and control over their partner might minimize the abuse and that person’s response to it. They might say things like “you’re being too sensitive,” or “it’s not that big of a deal.” In 2015, 7.7 percent of Cougs said they were in an emotionally abusive intimate relationship in the past year (ACHA-NCHA, 2015). Some examples of intimate partner violence include:

  • Threats or intimidation
  • Possessiveness
  • Harassment
  • Humiliation
  • Limiting independence
  • Isolation

Stalking is a pattern of repeated and unwanted attention, harassment or any other course of conduct that causes a reasonable person to feel afraid. People are most likely to be stalked by someone they know, such as a friend, current or former partner, acquaintance, or someone they met online. 3.9 percent of Cougs reported being stalked in the past year (ACHA-NCHA, 2015). Some examples of stalking include:

  • Repeated/unwanted emails, texts, phone calls, DMs
  • Showing up where someone is because they know that person’s schedule
  • Monitoring emails, texts, phone calls, social media accounts
  • Sending unwanted gifts to someone
  • Contacting or posting about someone on social media
  • Using friends and/or family to get information about someone

Sexual assault is any sexual activity lacking consent. 9 percent of Cougs reported being touched sexually without their consent in the past year (ACHA-NCHA, 2015). Sexual assault includes a wide range of behaviors such as:

  • Any non-consensual physical contact
  • Sharing nude photos
  • Filming someone
  • Groping, touching
  • Making sexual comments (incl. catcalling, sexting, comments on social media)
  • Attempted or completed rape

As Cougs, we play an active role in helping reduce violence on our campus. And we want to support our friends when they reach out to us for help.

If you or someone you know has experienced gender-based violence, there are a number of confidential and non-confidential resources on campus and in the community that can help. The Office for Equal Opportunity can help with implementing personal safety measures and/or making a report.

WSU doesn’t tolerate any forms of violence. If you experience any of these forms of violence, know that it’s not your fault, and we’re here to help.

WSU’s ACHA-NCHA statistics are comparable to universities nationwide. If you want more information on statistics pertaining to gender-based violence, ACHA has a position statement which includes nationwide figures.

Do you want more information on how to make our campus safer? Sign up to receive the latest news and updates on how we can end violence in our community.