Key Terms and Definitions

Adapted from the Northern Illinois University
Policy Statement on Sexual Assault, Prohibited Sexual Contact, Stalking, Dating and Domestic Violence 

Sexual Assault  

  • When a person commits an act of sexual penetration 1) by the use of force or threat of force, or 2) when the accused knew that the victim was unable to understand the nature of the act or was unable to give knowing consent. Rape is a form of sexual assault.
  • Rape is a form of sexual assault. Rape is another word for penetration (oral, anal, or vaginal) that is forced on another person through threats to harm that person or another, intimidation, coercion, or lack of consent.
  • Acquaintance Rape is a sex crime committed by someone who knows the victim/survivor. The perpetrator could be a friend, classmate, relative, or co-worker. As a sex crime, acquaintance rape includes forced, manipulated, or coerced sexual contact.
  • Among women, rape includes vaginal, oral, or anal penetration by a male using his penis. It also includes vaginal, oral, or anal penetration by a male or female using their fingers or an object.
  • Among males, rape includes oral or anal penetration by a male using his penis. It also includes oral or anal penetration by a male or female using their fingers or an object.  

Domestic Violence 

  • Physically, sexually, and/or psychologically abusive behavior against a family member or household member is considered domestic violence. Such behavior may arise in the form of a direct violent act, or indirectly as acts that expressly or implicitly threaten violence. Family or household members include: spouses or domestic partners, former spouses, parents, children, stepchildren, and other persons related by blood or by prior marriage.
  • This definition also includes persons who share or formerly shared a common residence (including residence hall roommates), persons who have or allegedly have a child in common, persons who share or allegedly share a blood relationship through a child, and between persons with a disability and/or with personal assistants.  
    • Physical Abuse: Hitting, slapping, shoving, grabbing, pinching, biting, hair pulling, etc., are types of physical abuse. This type of abuse also includes denying a partner medical care or forcing alcohol and/or drug use upon him or her.
    • Sexual Abuse: Coercing or attempting to coerce any sexual contact or behavior without consent. Sexual abuse includes, but is certainly not limited to, marital rape, attacks on sexual parts of the body, forcing sex after physical violence has occurred, or treating one in a sexually demeaning manner.
    • Emotional Abuse: Undermining an individual's sense of self-worth and/or self-esteem is abusive. This may include, but is not limited to, constant criticism, diminishing one's abilities, name-calling, or damaging one's relationship with his or her children.
    • Economic Abuse: Defined as making or attempting to make an individual financially dependent by maintaining total control over financial resources, withholding one's access to money, or forbidding one's attendance at school or employment.
    • Psychological Abuse: Elements of psychological abuse include - but are not limited to - causing fear by intimidation; threatening physical harm to self, partner, children, or partner's family or friends; destruction of pets and property; and forcing isolation from family, friends, or school and/or work.
  • Domestic violence can happen to anyone regardless of race, age, sexual orientation, religion, or gender. Domestic violence affects people of all socioeconomic backgrounds and education levels. Domestic violence occurs in both opposite-sex and same-sex relationships and can happen to intimate partners who are married, living together, or dating (USDOJ: Office on Violence Against Women: Crimes of Focus: Domestic Violence)

Dating Violence 

  • A form of domestic violence that includes persons who have or have had a dating relationship. Dating violence occurs when one partner attempts to maintain power and control over the other through one or more forms of abuse, including sexual, physical, verbal, and emotional abuse. Dating violence affects both females and males, and does not discriminate by racial, social, or economic background.


  • A pattern of behavior directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear for his or her safety. A person commits stalking when he or she knowingly engages in a course of conduct directed at a specific person, and he or she knows (or should know) that this course of conduct would cause a reasonable person to fear for his or her safety or the safety of a third person or suffer other emotional distress.
  • A person commits stalking when he or she knowingly and without lawful justification on at least two separate occasions follows another person or places the person under surveillance of any combination thereof, and at any time transmits a threat of immediate or future bodily harm, sexual assault, confinement, or restraint, and the threat is directed towards that person or a family member of that person.
  • Cyberstalking is when a person knowingly and without lawful justification on a least two separate occasions intimidates, torments, or terrorizes another person or that person’s family members through the use of electronic communication, and transmits a threat of future bodily harm, sexual assault, confinement, or restraint; or creates and maintains an Internet website or webpage accessible to one or more third parties for a period of at least 24- hours containing harassing statements toward another person or their family members. Examples include e-mail, voicemail messages, text messages, instant messages, GPS, and cell phone software applications.