Definitions Page

This page provides definitions of some commonly used terms and laws concerning many forms of sexualized violence. This is not by any means an inclusive list and definitions provided here are, themselves, only partial accountings for the sake of clarity. Although a legal framework imposes a hierarchy of greater and lesser violences, this Definitions Page is not about ranking assaults or traumas. There are many tensions between legal and social definitions – if you are confused by these definitions or feel that they don’t fit your experiences and would like to talk to a trained advocate, you can call the North Coast Rape Crisis Center, available 24 hours a day, at (707) 445-2881. Humboldt's Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS) also has a 24 hour hotline at (707) 826-3236.

ACQUAINTANCE RAPE – Rape by a non-stranger such as a friend, acquaintance, partner, family member, neighbor, co-worker.

ACTING IN CONCERT/"GANG RAPE" – Rape or other sexual assaults where two or more people act together to commit the act. See California Penal Code 264.1 for more information.

AGGRAVATED SEXUAL ASSAULT OF A CHILD – Defined by California Penal Code 269, as acts including rape, anal rape, oral copulation upon a child under the age of 14.

ANAL RAPE – See SODOMY for a legal definition. Penetration of the anus/rectum without consent.

BIAS ASSAULTS – Also known as HATE CRIMES. Attacks against an individual or group of individuals that are motivated by a hatred of the group the individual(s) belongs to.

CAMPUS SECURITY AUTHORITY (CSA) – Campus officials who have significant responsibility for student and campus activities as well as the authority and the duty to take action on behalf of Cal Poly Humboldt. The Clery Act mandates that CSAs make anonymous reports of all incidents of sexual assault to the University Police Department. 

CONSENT – (For medical informed consent, See INFORMED CONSENT)
Fully conscious, voluntary acceptance and agreement to engage in a sexual act. If force, fear, threat, coercion, incapacitation (including by alcohol or other drugs) or violence is used, consent cannot exist. Consent is absent if someone is taking advantage of another’s mental, developmental, or physical disability, or is abusing one’s position of authority. Consent cannot be inferred from a current or previous sexual, romantic, or marital relationship, nor can it be inferred from consenting to any other sexual acts. Consent can be taken away at any time.

CRIMINAL CHARGES – upon law enforcement investigation a report may be forwarded to the District Attorney’s office, which is solely responsible for the decision of whether to file criminal charges.


DATING VIOLENCE – As defined by the Violence Against Women Act of 2000 (reauthorized in 2005), dating violence is "violence committed by a person who is or has been in a social relationship of romantic or intimate nature". This violence may include the perpetration or threat of sexual assault, physical violence, verbal, mental, emotional or other forms of abuse.

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE – Also known as INTIMATE PARTNER VIOLENCE. Occurs between intimate partners (such as boyfriends, girlfriends, spouses) and includes sexual violence as well as physical, emotional, economic or other forms of abuse and/or violence.

DRUG-FACILIATED ASSAULT – Involves the use of drugs that reduce inhibitions and/or result in a person becoming physically or otherwise incapacitated and unable to give legal consent. The most commonly used drug is alcohol; other drugs used include GHB, Rohypnol, Ketamine, and Soma.

EMERGENCY CONTRACEPTION - Birth control that prevents pregnancy after sexual activity that may lead to pregnancy. It is also referred to as "the morning after pill," the "day after pill," or "morning after contraception." Emergency contraception can be used right away or up to five days after sexual intercourse or any sex act that may have resulted in conception if you think your birth control was not effective, you did not use contraception, or were forced to have sex without contraception. The sooner emergency contraception is used, the more effective it is likely to be. You can visit any pharmacy and ask for emergency contraception (Plan B One-Step and Next Choice are the most likely to be carried).

You can visit a health center or private health care provider for a prescription. If this presents any challenges for you, Planned Parenthood is available as a resource. There is also a vending machine in Nelson Hall East which has emergency contraception for $11.

The following resources provide more information:

Princeton University website on emergency contraception
Planned Parenthood page on emergency contraception

"GANG RAPE"/ACTING IN CONCERT – Rape or other sexual assaults where two or more people act together to commit the act. See California Penal Code 264.1 for more information.

HATE CRIMES – Also known as BIAS ASSAULTS. Attacks against an individual or group of individuals that are motivated by a hatred of the group the individual(s) belongs to.

INFORMED CONSENT – A process of communication between a patient and medical professional that results in the patient’s authorization or agreement to undergo a specific medical intervention, the nature and purpose of which is known to the patient. In order to give informed consent, the patient must also know the following:

  • Diagnosis, if known
  • Risks and benefits of a proposed treatment or procedure
  • Alternatives, regardless of cost and/or insurance coverage, and including the risks and benefits of these alternative treatments
  • The risks and benefits of not receiving or undergoing a treatment or procedure

INTERSECTIONAL ANALYSIS – A perspective that foregrounds the interlocking of oppressions based on race, gender, sex, sexuality, ability, age, class, and other categories of privilege/oppression. An intersectional analysis recognizes members of marginalized groups are disproportionately affected by sexualized violence, and that such violence is a predictable result of systems that perpetuate domination and subordination.

INTIMATE PARTNER VIOLENCE – a pattern of power and control that results in physical, sexual, or psychological harm, or other forms of abuse, by a person who is or has been in a social relationship of romantic or intimate nature, including spouses. This type of violence can occur among heterosexual or same-sex couples and does not require sexual intimacy.

LEWD ACTS ON A CHILD/MOLESTATION – Any "lewd or lascivious act" against a child under 14, according to California Penal Code 288. Lewd means crude or offensive; lascivious refers to feeling or revealing an overt, or often sexual, desire.

MANDATED REPORTER – See CAMPUS SECURITY AUTHORITY (CSA) for reporting requirements of non-medical personnel. In California, health practitioners are required to make a report to the local law enforcement agency when they provide medical services to a patient whom they know or reasonably suspect meets the criteria of having experienced sexual assault, domestic violence or child abuse. The law requires reporting only medical personnel are treating an illness or injury that they reasonably believe is a result of sexual assault. See California Penal Code 11160 for more information.

After assessing and interviewing a patient, if a health care provider determines that a report is required, the following procedure is followed:

  1. Inform the patient of clinician’s duty to report.
  2. Inform the patient of likely response(s) by law enforcement and what will happen to report.
  3. Make a telephone report to the appropriate law enforcement agency immediately, or as soon as is practically possible.
  4. Written report.

MOLESTATION/LEWD ACTS ON A CHILD – Any "lewd or lascivious act" against a child under 14, according to California Penal Code 288. Lewd means crude or offensive; lascivious refers to feeling or revealing an overt, or often sexual, desire.


NORMALIZING SEXUALIZED VIOLENCE – Upholding the myth that rape is inevitable, natural, and unchangeable. Normalizing comments can be very implicit, and often victim-blaming. For example, a comment such as, "That kind of thing happens when you drink too much at a party," implies that sexualized violence will just happen if the survivor isn’t careful, rather recognizing the perpetrator’s choice to perpetrate violence, as well as the root causes of sexualized violence.

ORAL COPULATION – Defined by California Penal Code 288a as oral sex (mouth to "sexual organ" or anus) without consent.

PEER COUNSELING – One-on-one counseling session with a trained person who is not a professional therapist.


PREVENTION EDUCATION – Teaching the prevention of sexualized violence, through the deconstruction of rape supportive culture and the concept of genuine consent. Effective prevention education does not simply teach about risk reduction, but addresses the issue of rape supportive culture. Prevention education also must include education for potential perpetrators about choosing not to commit sexualized violence. Ideally, prevention education creates an environment where sexualized violence is not tolerated by any member of the community.

RAPE – Legally defined as sexual intercourse without consent, and is a form of sexual assault. Rape is commonly used to refer to many forms of sexual violence.


RAPE WITH A FOREIGN OBJECT – Legally defined as penetration of the vagina or anus with anything other than a penis without consent, this includes penetration by hands and fingers as well as other body parts or objects. See California Penal Code 289 for more information.

RAPE SUPPORTIVE CULTURE – A term used to describe the way sexualized violence is normalized in everyday life. Rape supportive culture upholds myths about the inevitability of rape through institutions such as law, education, and the media. For example, stating that there will always be rapists, and that therefore individuals are responsible for keeping themselves safe, perpetuates rape supportive culture. In reality, rape is preventable through societal transformation, and all people have the right to safety.

RETALIATION – Adverse action taken against a person who has reported discrimination or harassment, has participated in an investigation / proceeding, or is perceived to have done either of these things.

RISK REDUCTION – Humboldt has invested financially in risk reduction methods, such as installing lights and police response buttons across campus. When not combined with a comprehensive prevention education program, a sole focus on risk reduction obscures the reality that over 80% of rapes are non-stranger rapes, and that the perpetrator is the only one responsible for the violence, regardless of the choices of the survivor.

SART – Stands for "Sexual Assault Response Team" and is the acronym used to refer to the "exam" or process of collecting physical evidence that may be used in a criminal prosecution. In Humboldt County, the Sexual Assault Response Team is a multidisciplinary team including trained medical providers, advocates from the North Coast Rape Crisis Team, representatives from law enforcement and the SART coordinator.

The mission of SART is to protect the victim/survivor from further harm and lessen the risk of emotional trauma. The Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) of Humboldt County is a group of local professionals committed to providing a coordinated quality response for immediate medical care, advocacy, and criminal justice services for the victims/survivors of sexual assault crimes. SART provides 24 hour response to children, adult, female, and male survivors of sexual assault. The immediate responders are law enforcement, a SART Nurse Coordinator, a medical examiner, and advocates from the North Coast Rape Crisis Team. The SART examiners have new telemedicine/second opinion capabilities with U.C. Davis Medical Center. UCD also provides Quality Assurance (QA) feedback for forensic medical exams. The SART office and exam room is located in Eureka.

SART KIT – Also known as a Rape Kit or a Sexual Assault Evidence Collection Kit. A SART kit is a set of items used by medical personnel to gather and preserve physical evidence during a SART exam. This kit includes official reporting forms as well as containers for the collection of hair, sperm and blood samples that may belong to the survivor and/or the perpetrator.

SART KIT CASE NUMBER – This refers to the number that is attached to the SART kit used to anonymously identify evidence collected during a SART examination.

SEXUAL ASSAULT– any attempted or completed sexual act without consent, including unwelcome sexual touching, oral, anal, or vaginal contact and/or penetration. A form of sexual assault, rape is legally defined as sexual intercourse without consent.

SEXUAL BATTERY – As defined by California Penal Code 243.4, sexual battery is touching "intimate parts" of the body for sexual gratification without consent.

SEXUAL HARASSMENT – unwelcome sexual advances or requests for sexual favors, indecent exposure, as well as other hostile behavior of a sexual nature, which can be verbal, nonverbal, or physical. Sexual harassment also includes hostile behavior based on sex or gender stereotypes, or one’s sexual orientation or gender identity, even if that behavior isn’t explicitly sexual. This behavior has the purpose or effect of creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working or learning environment, limiting one’s ability to participate in or benefit from the services, activities or opportunities offered by the University.

SEXUAL MISCONDUCT – May include other serious or persistent unwanted sexual contact or conduct, such as harassment, threats, intimidations, or unwanted touching or fondling.

SEXUALIZED VIOLENCE – Any physically or emotionally coercive sexual contact including, but not limited to rape, sexual battery, unwanted touching, verbal harassment, and stalking. Sexualized violence is directly connected to the eroticization of domination.

SODOMY/ANAL RAPE – According to California Penal Code 286, sodomy is defined as the following: "Sodomy is sexual conduct consisting of contact between the penis of one person and the anus of another person. Any sexual penetration, however slight, is sufficient to complete the crime of sodomy." Anal rape is sodomy without consent. While "sodomy" is the word used in the CA Penal Code, "anal rape" is a more accurate and useful term without religious connotations.

STALKING (including cyber-stalking) – Unwanted repeated or obsessive attention by an individual(s) toward another person(s). Stalking is a set of actions related to harassment and intimidation that cause a reasonable person to feel fear, and can encompass a range of behaviors, including following someone in person or otherwise monitoring them, such as through the use of social media.

STATUTORY RAPE/UNLAWFUL SEXUAL INTERCOURSE – Sexual intercourse with someone under the age of 18, according to California Penal Code 261.5. This rarely happens, but it is important to know that even if both people are under 18, someone could be charged with this crime. The likelihood of someone being charged varies from county to county; likelihood is increased with conditions of coercion, violence, presence of alcohol or other drugs, or pregnancy.

SURVIVOR-CENTERED (RESPONSE) – A framework in which the healing and safety of the survivor is central to the response to and discourse surrounding sexualized violence. A survivor-centered response to sexualized violence creates an environment in which the needs and experiences of the survivor are honored.

SURVIVOR SUPPORT SYSTEM – includes family members, friends, and on-and off-campus resources such as the North Coast Rape Crisis Team, the Emma Center, and Humboldt Domestic Violence Services.

SPOUSAL RAPE – Sexual intercourse without consent with a person who is a legally married partner.

UNLAWFUL SEXUAL INTERCOURSE/STATUTORY RAPE – Sexual intercourse with someone under the age of 18, according to California Penal Code 261.5. It is important to know that even if both people are under 18, someone could be charged with this crime.

VICTIM BLAMING – Putting blame for the occurrence of a traumatizing event on the survivor instead of blaming the perpetrator. Victim blaming can be very implicit. For example, recommendations that women not wear revealing clothing or not travel alone at night imply that such actions provoke rape. A non-victim blaming response acknowledges that perpetrators make choices to violate the bodily integrity of others. Perpetrators alone are responsible for the choices they make. By foregrounding the fact that perpetrators choose to violate another in acts of sexualized violence, we can create policies and educational programs to help prevent sexualized violence.