Stop Abuse @ Virginia Tech


Sexual Assault


    What is sexual assault?

    Sexual assault is a broad term that encompasses any sexual activity that occurs without the victim's consent. These behaviors include, but are not limited to, unwanted kissing and fondling; forcible vaginal, oral, or anal sex; and forcible vaginal, oral or anal penetration with an object or a finger.  These behaviors violate the Student Code of Conduct and Virginia law.

    Sexual assault is about exerting power and control over someone else, not about out-of-control sexual desire. The perpetrator makes a choice to meet his or her needs at the expense of the other person's needs.

    Society perpetuates a number of myths about sexual assault that can make it difficult to understand the true dynamics of sexual assault. These beliefs are culturally formulated, socially transmitted, and factually unfounded. Myths about sexual assault deny the violent, hostile, and demeaning nature of these crimes and often shift the blame from the abuser to the victim.

    • Myth: Sexual assault is caused by miscommunication or uncontrollable sexual desire.
    • Fact: Sexual assault is motivated by the perpetrator's need for power and control. Unlike animals, humans are capable of controlling how they choose to act on or express sexual urges. Perpetrators commit sexual assault when they make choices to ignore what the other person wants and put their desires over the other person's desires.
    • Myth: Sexual assault happens to people who "ask for it" by dressing provocatively.
    • Fact: Sexual assault is about power and control, not how someone dresses or acts. This type of victim-blaming is harmful and takes the focus off of the perpetrator's actions and choices. We all see attractive people every day, and most of us make choices to control our actions and desires.
    • Myth: When someone says "no" to sex, they really mean "maybe" or "yes".
    • Fact: When someone says "no," they mean NO. No answer also means no. Any response besides yes means no. Sexual intercourse without consent is rape. A person has the right to control her/his own body.
    • Myth: Only women can be sexually assaulted.
    • Fact: Any person of any gender identity can be sexually assaulted.  Women and transgendered people have the highest rates of sexual assault, but men are also sexually assaulted.
    • Myth: Most sexual assaults are committed by strangers.
    • Fact: Most sexual assaults are committed by someone the victim knows.
    • Myth: Spouses, boyfriends, girlfriends, and partners cannot sexually assault each other.
    • Fact: Spouses, boyfriends, girlfriends, and partners can and do sexually assault each other. Being in a relationship or marriage does not give either partner the right to have sex without their partner's consent.

    Is sexual assault a problem at Virginia Tech?

    Sexual assault does happen at Virginia Tech, although most Virginia Tech students are not sexually assaulted and do not perpetrate sexual assault. Since sexual assault is an extremely underreported crime, no one knows exactly how many sexual assaults occur at Tech each year; national research estimates that 350 rapes or attempted rapes occur each year within a campus population similar to Virginia Tech. Sexual assaults occur both on and off campus, most often in the residence hall, apartments, or home of either the victim or the perpetrator. Numbers of sexual assaults reported to the Virginia Tech Police Department for Clery Act purposes can be found here. It is also important to remember that other departments on campus work with survivors of sexual assault who have chosen not to report their assault to the police, so this number is likely much lower than the actual number of assaults.

    What are some common reactions of sexual assault survivors?

    Every person reacts differently to traumatic experiences; there is no "right" reaction to a sexual assault. Below are examples of possible reactions to sexual assault.

    • Shock, disbelief, numbness, withdrawal
    • Preoccupation with thoughts and feelings about the assault
    • Unwanted memories, flashbacks, and/or nightmares
    • Intense emotions: anger, fear, anxiety, depression
    • Physical symptoms: sleep disturbance, headaches, stomach aches
    • Inability to concentrate, lower grades
    • Loss of interest in sex
    • Fears about safety
    • Feelings of guilt and shame



Grant statement: This project was supported by grant # 2005-WA-AX-0020 awarded by the Violence Against Women Office, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. Points of View in this document are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.



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Women's Center

206 Washington Street (0270)
Blacksburg, VA 24061
(540) 231-7806 (8am-5pm, M-F)

After hours, call the WRC 24-hour hotline at (540) 639-1123

Student Conduct

New Hall West Suite 141 (0428)
Blacksburg, VA 24061
(540) 231-3790 (8am-5pm, M-F)

VT Police Dept

Sterrett Facilities Complex (0523)
Blacksburg, VA 24061
(540) 231-6411 (24 hrs)

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