Skip to main content


Wellness Center
Hughes hall, Room 105

Pritma "Mickey" Irizarry
Director, Wellness Center

Wellness Center
4400 Massachusetts Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20018-8067

Sexual Violence Information


The American University Student Conduct Code defines several forms of sexual/non-sexual misconduct.

  • Rape: Any act of sexual intercourse or sexual penetration of any orifice of the body with a body part or other object that takes place against a person’s will or without consent or that is accompanied by coercion or the threat of bodily harm.
  • Sexual assault: Conduct of a sexual nature, including, but not limited to, sexual contact or physical exposure directed at another person without consent.
  • Sexual harassment: Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when: submission to such conduct is made explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of a person’s employment or academic advancement; submission to or rejection of such conduct by a person is used as the basis for employment decisions or academic decisions affecting such a person; or such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with a person’s work.
  • Stalking: Repeated, unwanted contact with any person, including contact by electronic means or by  proxy, or the credible threat of repeated contact with the intent to place a reasonable person in fear for his or  her safety or the safety of his or her family or close acquaintances.

Below are some additional definitions that are not in the Conduct Code, but may help individuals define or understand their experiences with greater clarity.

  • Acquaintance rape: Forced, manipulated, or coerced sexual contact by someone a victim knows. A survivor may have been acquainted with the perpetrator for a short period of time or may have known them for several years. Acquaintance rape is the most common form of sexual assault on college campuses.
  • Stranger rape: Unwanted sex forced on a victim by an assailant whom the victim has never met.
  • Unwanted sexual contact & misconduct: Any unwanted sex act that includes unwanted touching, gestures and/or comments. This also includes posting inappropriate pictures on websites or online profiles and voyeurism (videotaping someone without their consent).
  • Intimate Partner Violence: The Family Violence Prevention Fund defines intimate partner violence as a continuum of behaviors ranging from verbal and emotional abuse, economic exploitation, threats, sexual and physical assaults and homicide. These behaviors happen repeatedly and without proper intervention may result in death. (

A Word on Consent

The Student Conduct Code defines “consent” as follows: 

  • “Words or conduct that indicates a freely given agreement to have sexual intercourse or to participate in sexual activities. Sexual contact will be considered ‘without consent’ if no clear consent, verbal or nonverbal, is given; if inflicted through force, threat of force, or coercion; or if inflicted upon a person who is unconscious or who otherwise reasonably appears to be without the mental or physical capacity to consent.” 

Consent takes different forms in different relationships. Some attributes generally associated with consent follow. They may help you think about your own and your partner’s behavior in intimate situations or situations that might become intimate. What they have in common is that they are grounded in an attitude of respect.

  • Consent is informed and clear. Parties must be able to communicate effectively and agree on the type of sexual activities that will be shared. If a person has a sexually transmittable disease, that should be disclosed to a partner before engaging in sexual activity.
  • Consent is essential each time sexual activity occurs and/or escalates. During or prior to any sexual activity, each partner has the right to withdraw consent at any time. Consent to one type of sexual activity does not imply consent to other forms of sexual activities.
  • Consent is a free choice only if it has been granted without the use of force real or perceived, threats, intimidation, or coercion. 
  • Consent cannot be construed from a partner’s silence.
  • Consent cannot be assumed based on a previous or current sexual relationship with the person who initiates the sexual activity.
  • Consent is not implicit in a person’s manner of dress or physical appearance.
  • Consent is not implicit in acceptance of an invitation for a meal or date.
  • Consent is not achievable if a partner is or appears to be under the influence of a controlled or intoxicating substance, whether or not that substance was consumed willingly.

Common Reactions to Sexual Violence

A person who has experienced sexual assault, relationship violence, or stalking has experienced a traumatic event. We are each equipped to deal with trauma differently. No two people will process any traumatic event in the same way. In the immediate aftermath of victimization, the survivor may experience a wide range of emotions and behaviors:

  • confusion
  • fear
  • disorientation
  • anger
  • numbness
  • denial
  • avoidance
  • betrayal
  • sadness
  • depression
  • anxiety or panic
  • isolation
  • hyper-sexuality

Any of the above reactions can be considered "normal reactions to abnormal circumstances."


  • The percentage of college aged women who have experienced completed or attempted rape victimization at some point during their educational career is known to be between 20% and 25%- that is between 1 in 4 and 1 in 5.
  • In higher educational institutions 9 out of 10 survivors of rape and sexual assault knew their offender.
  • 35% of attempted dates and 12% of completed rapes occurred during a date.
  • According to The Campus Sexual Assault (CSA) Study, it is estimated that for every 1,000 women in attendance at a university, there are 35 instances of rape in during a single academic year.
  • Of survivors of completed rape, 33.7% were victimized on campus while 66.3% were victimized off campus.
  • While approximately 66% of survivors did tell another person about their experience with sexual assault, less than 5% reported their experience to law enforcement.

Fisher, B.S., Cullen, F.T. & Turner, M.G. (2000). The Sexual Victimization of College Women. National Institute of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics

For more information, please visit the National Sexual Violence Resource Center's website on campus resources.

Risk Reduction Information

To be clear: sexual assault is never the survivor's fault. While some safety strategies, such as traveling in groups and trusting your instincts, may help reduce your likelihood of being victimized, the only person that can prevent sexual assault is the perpetrator.

  • Be aware of your surroundings at all times.
  • Trust your instincts. If the situation doesn't feel right, it probably isn't. Confront the person immediately or leave.
  • Don't allow yourself to be isolated with someone you don't know or trust.
  • Know how you're getting home from a social event. If the friend or group of friends you were planning on walking with have already left call Public Safety at (202) 885-2527, and they will send a taxi for you. If you don’t have money with you at the time, your student account will be charged, or you can pay later.
  • Be cautious of fellow students that you just met or only consider an acquaintance. Unfortunately, the people we trust the most can be the most hurtful. It is important to be aware and vigilant with everyone you encounter.
  • Remember that alcohol and other drugs can interfere with your ability to communicate effectively and deal with potentially dangerous situations. Be responsible in your decision-making with regard to alcohol and drugs.
  • Think about what your sexual limits are, and be prepared to communicate them directly.
  • Be aware of sex-role stereotypes that prevent you from acting as you want to, such as a woman not being able to initiate sexual activity or a man not being able to say "no."

If you have any questions, reach out to one of the confidential victim advocates at or call (202) 885-7070.