Is it sexual violence?

Sexual Violence is a range of cultural messages and behaviors – including coercion, manipulation, pressure, and physical violence – that violates personal boundaries and/or a person’s right to choose.

Any sexual behavior or contact that occurs without consent is sexual violence. Being touched or interacted with in a way that is unwanted is never okay.

It can be physical

Any unwanted touch, groping, sexual activity while you are asleep, too intoxicated, or too young to consent is sexual violence.

It can be coercive

Any manipulation, lies, using the relationship, social pressure, gender stereotypes or threats that make you feel like you cannot say no is sexual violence.

It can be verbal

Any unwanted comments about your body, graphic sexual language, insults about orientation or sexual behavior, or threats is sexual violence.

It can happen online

Any pressure to send nudes, receiving unwanted pictures, sexual comments or DMs, leaking or sharing pictures without permission is sexual violence.

How can I support someone who has experienced sexual violence?


Let them talk without feeling judged. Many feel a sense of relief when they share their experience.


You may not want to believe that violence has happened to someone you care about or that it was done by someone you care about. Research shows that when people are believed, the long-term impacts of trauma are lessened.

Put blame where it belongs

Perpetrators use excuses about what people were doing, drinking, wearing, or where they were to try to avoid responsibility and undermine their victims. These factors did not cause the assault. The perpetrator is the only person responsible for causing the violence.

Stay connected

Ask them how they are doing and check-in if you have not heard from them in a while.

Give them time

It is really important for everyone to have the time they need to process what happened and figure out how they want to move on. It is not linear, there will be good days and bad days. Be patient.

Encourage them to do what makes them feel good

We all want and need different things that can be healing. Help identify what might be comforting and let them know they are worth it.

Talk to an advocate

Call our crisis line, 866-348-WISE, to talk with a WISE advocate about how to support someone in your life.