Sexual Assault

If you are not on or near the UW-Madison campus, you may call one of these 24-hour hotlines to be connected to resources in your area:

  • National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1−800−799−SAFE (7233) or TTY 1−800−787−3224
  • National Sexual Assault/RAINN Hotline: 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).
  • Sexual assault is any sexual contact made without consent. Consent must be freely given with overt words or actions that clearly communicate an individual’s desire to engage in sexual activities. Consent is a clear yes, not the absence of a no. Consent cannot legally be obtained if an individual is incapacitated due to alcohol or other drugs, is unconscious or asleep, or has limited mental capacity.

    Examples of sexual assault include unwanted touching, kissing, fondling, or penetration of the mouth, vagina, or anus with a finger, penis or object.

    Though sexual assault can be perpetrated by a stranger, it is more commonly committed by someone the victim knows, such as a friend, boyfriend, girlfriend, partner, or acquaintance.

    Although some sexual assaults are facilitated by drugs, alcohol is the most popular “date rape drug” used by perpetrators.

    Sexual assault is always the fault of the perpetrator and not the fault of the victim! Whether or not the victim has been drinking is irrelevant. The victim’s previous sexual activities, behaviors, actions, and/or dress is irrelevant. No one deserves to be the victim of sexual assault.

    If you have been victimized, you are not alone. There are resources available to help you.

    Click on each topic to learn more:

    What to do after a Sexual Assault

    After a sexual assault, it is important to remember that you have choices about how to take care of yourself. There is no one right way to ensure your self-care.

    EVOC brochure

    Listed below are several options, offering you suggestions on how to meet your physical safety and emotional needs, how to obtain medical attention, and options for filing a report to trigger an investigation.

    Reports can be filed with the law enforcement agency in which the incident occurred or with a campus office designated by UW-Madison for sexual violence/Title IX investigations. These offices are the Dean of Students Office and the Office for Equity and Diversity. If you choose to report, you can bring a victim advocate or support person with you to do so.

    For more about the services, both on- and off-campus, available to survivors of sexual assault, see the UHS Resources for Victims of Sexual assault , Dating/Domestic Violence or Stalking webpage. You can get confidential help without reporting.

    Click here for the Rape Crisis Center's "After A Sexual Assault" booklet.

    Remember, there are many paths to healing, and only you know what you need.

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    Responsible Action Guidelines

    UW-Madison has adopted the Responsible Action Guidelines, which state the following:

    - In those cases where a student has been a victim of sexual assault and/or a violent crime while under the influence of alochol, neither the Dean of Students, University Housing, nor UW-Madison Police will pursue disciplinary actions against the student victim (or against a witness) for his or her improper use of alcohol (e.g., underage drinking). Read more >>>

    2015 Wisconsin Act 279 >>>

    Please don't let underage drinking keep you from getting help or helping a friend!

    Alcohol and Drug-facilitated Sexual Assault

    Alcohol is more commonly used by perpetrators to facilitate sexual assault than other drugs, making it the most common “date rape drug.” Most "date rape drugs" leave the body within 24 to 72 hours, so it is important to get a drug test as soon as possible after the assault has occurred. If you aren’t able to get tested in time, you can still file sexual assault charges if you wish. There may be other evidence that indicates you were sexually assaulted, regardless of whether you can prove you were drugged at the time.

    For drug testing and/or examination after a sexual assault, contact:
    UnityPoint Health- Meriter’s Forensic Nurse Examiner program
    202 S. Park Street
    Emergency room entrance

    There are drugs that can incapacitate you and make you an easier target for sexual assault. Most drugs used for rape fall under
    one of these categories:

    • sedatives: make you feel weak or knock you unconscious
    • dissociative drugs: make you feel disconnected from or unable to control your body
    • hallucinogens: make you hallucinate and feel disoriented
    • drugs that cause amnesia

    These drugs take away your control so that the perpetrator is the one in charge of the situation. In certain doses, any drug can leave you helpless. In other words, any drug can be used in a sexual assault, including alcohol, marijuana, Ecstasy, and other drugs, as well as “traditional” rape drugs such as GHB, Rohypnol, Clonazepam, ketamine, and chloral hydrate.

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    For Male Victims of Sexual Assault

    According to RAINN: Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, as many as one in 33 males will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime. These numbers may sound startling because the problem of sexual assault against males isn't discussed very often.

    Sexual assault is any form of unwanted sexual contact obtained without consent and/or obtained through the use of force, threat of force, intimidation, or coercion. It can range from unwanted sexual contact over the clothes, like touching someone’s buttocks or genitals, to rape.

    "Consent” is a clear and freely given yes--not the absence of a no.

    No matter how it occurs, sexual assault is a violation of a person's body and his free will, and it can have lasting emotional consequences.

    Myth vs. Reality

    There are many mistaken beliefs about the sexual assault of males.

    Myth Reality
    Males can’t be sexually assaulted. Any man can be sexually assaulted regardless of size, strength, appearance, or sexual orientation.
    Gay males are more likely to be assaulted. Heterosexual, gay, and bisexual males are equally likely to be sexually assaulted. Regardless of a male's sexual orientation, a sexual assault is never his fault.
    Gay males are more likely to sexually assault other males. According to the Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault, most males who sexually assault other males identify themselves as heterosexual. This fact helps to highlight the reality that sexual assault is about violence, anger, and control over another person, not lust or sexual attraction.
    Males cannot be sexually assaulted by women. Males can be sexually assaulted by women. Many people have difficulty understanding how a female could sexually assault a male. It may help to remember that sexual assault does not always involve penetration, but includes any unwanted contact, such as being grabbed, fondled, groped, or kissed. However, most perpetrators are male.
    Erection or ejaculation during a sexual assault means the male being assaulted “really wanted it” or gave consent. These physiological responses may result from mere physical contact or even extreme stress. They do not imply that the male wanted or enjoyed the assault and do not indicate anything about the male’s sexual orientation. If a perpetrator is aware of how these responses can confuse a victim of sexual assault, they may manipulate their victims to the point of erection or ejaculation to increase their feelings of control and to discourage reporting of the crime.

    Unique issues faced by male victims/survivors

    The perception that men can’t be sexually assaulted because a “real man” can protect himself may cause males to feel invulnerable to sexual assault. It may also intensify feelings of isolation and shame after an assault occurs. Male victims/survivors often question whether they deserved or wanted to be sexually assaulted, because they feel that they failed to prevent the assault. Some male victims/survivors question their sexual orientation.

    Feelings of guilt, shame, and anger may lead to self-destructive behavior, including increased alcohol or other drug use, increased aggressiveness, and withdrawal from close relationships with friends and partner. After being sexually assaulted, male survivors may experience difficulties with intimacy, such as trusting people, exploring new relationships, or enjoying sexual activity (if choosing to be sexually active). All victims/survivors need to understand that recovery may take time. They need to have patience with themselves and resist the pressure to be sexually active before they are ready.

    For heterosexual males who have been assaulted by males, sexual assault may cause them to question or be confused about their sexuality. Unfortunately, many people have distorted ideas about male victims/survivors of sexual assault. For example, many people believe that gay males are more likely to be sexually assaulted. Perpetrators often accuse victims/survivors of enjoying the sexual assault, leading some victims/survivors to question their own experiences or feelings. In fact, being sexually assaulted has nothing to do with one’s sexual orientation in the past, present, or future. People do not “become gay” as a result of being sexually assaulted.

    Sexual assault can lead gay males to attach feelings of self-blame and self-loathing to their sexual orientation. Sexual assault may lead a gay male to believe he somehow “deserved it,” or that he was “paying the price” for his sexual orientation. Ignorance or intolerance from those who blame the victim/survivor can reinforce this belief.

    Gay males may also hesitate to report a sexual assault due to fears of blame, disbelief, or intolerance by police or medical personnel. As a result gay males may be deprived of legal protection and necessary medical care following an assault.

    Some sexual assaults of males are actually forms of gay-bashing, motivated by fear and hatred of homosexuality. In these cases, perpetrators may verbally abuse their victims and imply that the victim deserved to be sexually assaulted. It’s important to remember that sexual assault is an act of violence, power, and control and that no one deserves it.

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    Common Feelings after Being Sexually Assaulted

    Sexual assault is a traumatic event, and we all handle traumatic events in different ways. Though each person and situation is unique, the following list summarizes the possible range of reactions to sexual assault. This list may help you know what's normal to expect.

    • Emotional shock: I feel so numb. Why am I so calm? Why can’t I cry?
    • Disbelief or denial: Did it really happen? Why me? Maybe I imagined it. It wasn’t really a sexual assault.
    • Embarrassment: What will people think? I can’t tell my family or friends.
    • Shame: I feel so dirty, like there is something wrong with me. I want to wash my hands or shower all the time. I feel like I have brought shame to my family.
    • Guilt: I feel as if it’s my fault, or I did something to make this happen. If only I had done something different.
    • Depression: How am I going to get through this semester? I’m so tired. I feel so helpless.
    • Suicidal thoughts: Maybe I'd be better off dead.
    • Powerlessness: Will I ever feel in control again?
    • Disorientation: I don’t even know what day it is, or what class I’m supposed to be in. I can’t remember my appointments. I keep forgetting things.
    • Triggers and flashbacks: I’m still re-living it. I keep seeing that face all the time.
    • Fear: I’m scared of everything. What if I’m pregnant? Could I get a sexually transmitted infection (STI), or even HIV? How can I ever feel safe again? Do people realize there’s anything wrong? I can’t sleep because I know I'll have nightmares. I’m afraid I'm going crazy. I’m afraid to go outside. I'm afraid to be alone.
    • Anxiety: I’m having panic attacks. I can’t breathe! I just can’t stop shaking. I can’t sit still in class anymore. I feel overwhelmed.
    • Anger: I want to kill the person who attacked me!
    • Physical stress: My stomach (or head or back) aches all the time. I feel jittery and don’t feel like eating.

    (Material adapted from University of Texas Counseling & Mental Health Center)

    Remember, you are not to blame, even if…

    • The perpetrator was an acquaintance, date, friend, or spouse.
    • You have been sexually intimate with the perpetrator or with others before.
    • You were drinking or using drugs.
    • You froze and did not or could not say “no,” or were unable to fight back physically.
    • You were wearing clothes that others could perceive as seductive.

    Regardless of the circumstances, sexual assault is not your fault.

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    Recovering from Sexual Assault is a Process

    Confidential help is available at no cost from the following victim advocacy agencies: UHS End Violence on Campus (EVOC), the Rape Crisis Center, and Domestic Abuse Intervention Services (DAIS).

    Getting Back on Track

    It is important for you to know that any of the feelings after being sexually assaulted are normal and temporary reactions to a traumatic event. Fear and confusion will lessen with time, but the trauma may disrupt your life for a while. Reactions might be triggered by people, places, or things connected to the assault, or they might seem to come from “out of the blue.”

    Talking about the assault can help you feel better, but it may be really hard to do. In fact, it’s common to want to avoid conversations and situations that may remind you of the assault. You may have a sense of wanting to “get on with life” and “let the past be the past.” This is a normal part of the recovery process and may last for weeks or months.

    Eventually you will need to deal with fears and feelings in order to heal and regain a sense of control over your life. Talking with someone who can listen in an understanding and affirming ways — whether it’s a friend, member of your place of worship or community, family member, hotline-staff member, or counselor — is a key part of the healing process.

    Recovering from a sexual assault is a gradual process that is different for everyone. Victims/survivors may have different needs and coping strategies, so there is not a set timeline for healing. There are many decisions to be made and many feelings to be expressed. Not all of the decisions or feelings will need to be handled at once, but rather as recovery progresses. This is a brief outline of the recovery process that many, but not necessarily all, victims/survivors go through.

    I just want to forget what happened.

    You may go from feeling emotionally drained, confused, and out of control to trying to forget what happened. You may begin distancing yourself from the sexual assault and outwardly appear “recovered,” but friends and family members’ support is still needed.

    I'm so angry and depressed. I can't seem to get control of my emotions.

    Regardless of how hard you may try to keep the sexual assault from impacting your life, no matter how much you may deny its importance, the experience has had a profound influence. You may experience anger, depression, shame, anxiety, and feel that everything is falling apart. Recurring nightmares and flashbacks are common during this time.

    Depression may cause a change in sleeping or eating patterns, and anger may be directed at the perpetrator, loved ones, or yourself. It may be difficult, at first, to feel comfortable with intimacy, including trusting people, exploring new relationships, and enjoying sexual activity, if you choose to be sexually active. Understand that this may take time. Resist being pressured to be sexually active before you are ready.

    Many victims/survivors seek assistance from trained professionals who can help to put their lives back together and recover from stress related to the assault.

    Life goes on and I can handle it.

    You have resolved a lot of the anger and depression. The sexual assault may have changed your life, but it now plays a smaller role. You feel more in control.

    Ways to take care of yourself

    • Get support from friends, family, and community members. Try to identify people you trust who will validate your feelings and affirm your strengths.
    • Talk about the assault and express feelings. Choose when, where, and with whom to talk about the assault, and only disclose information that feels safe for you to reveal.
    • Use stress-reduction techniques. Exercise by jogging, doing aerobics, walking and practice relaxation techniques such as doing yoga, listening to music, and meditating.
    • Maintain a balanced diet and a normal sleep cycle as much as possible and avoid overusing stimulants like caffeine, sugar, nicotine, or alcohol or other drugs.
    • Discover your playful and creative self. Playing and creativity are important for healing from hurt.
    • Take “time outs.” Give yourself permission to take quiet moments to reflect, relax, and rejuvenate, especially during times you feel stressed or unsafe.
    • Try reading. Reading can be a relaxing and healing activity.
    • Consider writing or journaling as a way of expressing your thoughts and feelings.
    • Consider counseling. University Health Services (UHS) and the Rape Crisis Center are available for counseling and support services.

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    For Family and Friends of Victims/Survivors

    If you are a friend or family member of a victim/survivor of sexual assault, your support can be instrumental to their recovery. Remember there are culturally specific ways that communities may address sexual assault and respect individual responses. You can help by:

    Respect a victim/survivor’s decisions. It is important that you listen to the victim/survivor and find out what he/she needs. For some survivors, helping them regain control will be important. Even if you do not agree with the victim/survivor's decisions, respect those decisions.

    Listen and be available. Provide a safe environment and set aside time to talk. You do not need to provide answers or solutions. Just listen. If this is too difficult for you, direct the victim/survivor to someone who can help.

    Believe and accept. Sometimes family and friends may fall into the trap of believing some of the myths surrounding sexual assault-particularly that the victim/survivor is somehow responsible for the assault. It’s best if you are supportive by believing the victim/survivor and being non-judgmental. Victim/survivors respond in different ways to an assault, whether by fighting back, dissociating, or not resisting the perpetrator. Questioning, criticizing, or feeding into the “what if’s” can slow the recovery process.

    Offer a safe place to stay or stay with the survivor. Having family or friends close at hand can provide a sense of being safe and protected. Allow victims/survivors to determine where they want to stay and with whom.

    Recognize that recovery can take a long time. It is important for significant people in the victim/survivor’s life to refrain from suggesting or even hinting that the victim/survivor “should have gotten over it by now.” Each person recovers at his/her own pace.

    Be gentle, sensitive, and respectful of the victim/survivor’s wishes for closeness or affection. Victims/survivors may want affection or they may need distance. If you are not sure what they want, ask before acting and recognize that what they want may change from time to time.

    Deal with your own feelings. Typically family and friends have strong reactions when someone they care about has been assaulted or raped. You may feel anger, rage, guilt, confusion, or blame. Just as the victim/survivor must express emotion, so must you. Rather than expressing this emotion to the victim/survivor, you should deal with these emotions with someone else. Sharing your own difficult feelings with the victim/survivor may add to the feelings of guilt and remorse that they may already be feeling. In essence, it may only make healing more difficult for the victim/survivor. Be conscious of not disclosing the victim's identity when talking with someone else.

    If you are the victim/survivor’s intimate partner, understand the impact the sexual assault may have on sexual interactions. Since sexual assault violates an individual in the most personal way, if you are the intimate partner of a victim/survivor, you have a special place in the healing process. You should be aware of all of the points listed above. In addition, it may be important for you to seek counseling, either for yourself or with your partner, if asked. It is not unusual for both victims/survivors and their intimate partners to request assistance in dealing with issues around sexuality, intimacy, and trust after the violation and trauma of a sexual assault.

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    Rights for Victims of Sexual Assault, Domestic Violence, Dating Violence and/or Stalking

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    Confidential help is available at no cost from the following victim advocacy agencies: UHS End Violence on Campus (EVOC), the Rape Crisis Center, and Domestic Abuse Intervention Services (DAIS).

    Victims have the right to:

    • Be notified, in writing, of existing resources for counseling, health, mental health, victim advocacy, legal assistance, visa and immigration assistance, student financial aid, and other services available within the institution and in the community.
    • Be notified, in writing, about options for, available assistance in, and how to request changes to academic, living, transportation, and working situations or protective measures. UW–Madison will make such accommodations or provide such protective measures if the victim requests them and they are reasonably available, regardless of whether the victim chooses to report the crime to campus police or local law enforcement.
    • Report to UW–Madison. The offices formally designated to receive complaints are the Dean of Students Office and the Office for Equity and Diversity/Title IX Coordinator. Victims are encouraged to use these offices for formal reporting.
    • Report to law enforcement authorities, including the University of Wisconsin–Madison Police Department, and to be assisted by UW–Madison campus authorities in so doing.
    • Decline to report to law enforcement.
    • Request confidentiality from the alleged perpetrator/respondent. (Questions and Answers on Title IX and Sexual Violence, 2014, E–1).

    It is against federal and state law and UW–Madison policy to discriminate or retaliate against a person who, in good faith, files a complaint, participates in an investigation, or who opposes discrimination.

    Rights when seeking Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) services:

    • Victims may obtain a sexual assault medical forensic examination without incurring full out of pocket costs for that exam regardless of their decision to report to law enforcement. In Madison, this exam can be obtained from the Meriter Hospital Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner program; if additional services are requested, other charges may be applied.
    • Victims of sexual assault who seek emergency services at a hospital have the right to be provided with the option to receive emergency contraception at the hospital per Wisconsin Statute 50.375. UW–Madison students may also obtain emergency contraception at University Health Services.

    Rights when a victim reports to a Wisconsin law enforcement agency:

    • Victims of crime in Wisconsin who report to law enforcement are entitled to certain rights as detailed in Chapter 950 of the Wisconsin Statutes.
    • • Crime victims in the state of Wisconsin have the right to apply for Crime Victim Compensation, which can help pay for unreimbursed expenses that are the result of crimes causing personal injury or death, including lost wages, counseling, medical costs, and replacement of property held as evidence.

    Information about the student disciplinary process:

    UW–Madison uses Chapter UWS 17 and its own policies for campus student disciplinary proceedings of sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence, and stalking. See for more information.

    • UW–Madison uses a preponderance of the evidence (i.e. more likely than not) standard in student misconduct proceedings pertaining to sexual assault, sexual harassment, dating/domestic violence, and/or stalking.
    • Sexual assault, sexual harassment, dating/domestic violence, and stalking cases require a prompt, fair, and impartial investigation and resolution once notice of an incident is received.
    • Investigating officers and hearing committee members must receive annual training on sexual assault, sexual harassment, dating/domestic violence, and stalking cases.
    • Investigations and resolutions of these cases shall proceed regardless of any criminal investigation or proceeding. An investigation may be temporarily postponed while law enforcement gathers evidence, then should be promptly resumed and completed. Any postponements or extensions should be communicated to the complainant1 and respondent2.
    • The complainant and the respondent must have an equal opportunity to participate in the investigation and any subsequent hearing.
    • Information about the respondent’s or complainant’s past disciplinary history, if any, will not be shared with the opposite party unless permitted by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).
    • Formal hearings for sexual assault, sexual harassment, dating/domestic violence, and stalking shall only be conducted via hearing committee.
    • The respondent shall have the opportunity to hear and respond to the information presented against them and be afforded the opportunity to present questions to adverse witnesses, including the complainant.
    • Hearing procedures may be modified to allow the complainant to provide information in a manner that prevents a hostile environment. Such modifications may include allowing requests to have the complainant and respondent pose questions to each other through their respective advisors or the hearing committee, to offer testimony via phone, and/ or to put up a room partition between the parties.
    • The complainant and respondent will be notified simultaneously and in writing of the outcome of any investigation, hearing, and appeal.
    • The complainant and respondent will be notified simultaneously and in writing of any change to disciplinary results that occur prior to the time that such results become final, and when such results become final.
    • At no time can a complainant be required to keep the outcome confidential, or be prohibited from discussing the case.
    • The complainant shall have the same appeal rights as the respondent.
    • Resolution can only be offered through settlement after the investigating officer has offered to consult with the complainant.
    • Retaliation against a complainant for exercising their rights in good faith under these procedures is prohibited and may be subject to disciplinary action.
    • The complainant and respondent have an equal opportunity to have others present throughout disciplinary proceedings, including the opportunity to be accompanied to any related meeting or proceeding by an advisor of their choice.
    • In accordance with UWS 17.10, the disciplinary sanctions that may be imposed for nonacademic misconduct, in accordance with the procedures of UWS 17, are any of the following: a written reprimand; denial of specified university privileges; payment of restitution; educational or service sanctions, including community service; disciplinary probation; imposition of reasonable terms and conditions on continued student status; removal from a course in progress; enrollment restrictions on a course or program; suspension; and/or expulsion. One or more of the sanctions may be imposed.

    1Complainant is the person alleging the misconduct

    2Respondent is the student accused of misconduct

    End Violence on Campus (EVOC) is a unit of University Health Services that provides integrated violence prevention and confidential victim advocacy services for UW–Madison students.

    This document provides a summary of victim rights at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. A complete and detailed listing of each of these policies and rights can be found in the most recent Annual Security and Fire Safety Report.

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    Sexual Assault

    Sexual assault is any form of sexual contact without consent and/or obtained through the use of force, threat of force, intimidation, or coercion. Sexual assault is an act of violence and power. It is a criminal act that can be prosecuted under Wisconsin state law, as well as under the University’s student misconduct code.

    Sexual assault affects people regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, religion, or ability. A sexual assault can range from unwanted sexual contact over the clothes, like touching someone's buttock or fondling their breasts, to rape.

    The legal system has created four different levels of unwanted sexual contact and penetration:

    • Fourth degree sexual assault: sexual contact with a person without consent of that person.
    • Third degree sexual assault: sexual intercourse with a person without consent of that person.
    • Second degree sexual assault: sexual contact or intercourse with a person without consent of that person, and with the use of threat, force, or violence, or resulting in injury or mental anguish.
    • First degree sexual assault: sexual contact or intercourse with a person without consent of that person by use of, or threat of use of a dangerous weapon, or which causes pregnancy or great bodily harm. 940.225 (1)-(3m).

    The degree of a sexual assault incident depends on the severity of the assault. As danger to the victim increases (from fourth to first degree), so do the corresponding penalties for the perpetrator. Legally, an assault is considered more dangerous when weapons, force, considerable bodily harm, multiple assailants, and/or pregnancy are results of the sexual assault.

    It is important to remember that sexual assault takes many forms, some of which do not involve penetration. Also, everyone responds to traumatic events like sexual assault differently and regardless of the degree of sexual assault, a survivor's individual experience and feelings must be supported and respected.


    Wisconsin law defines consent as words or overt actions by a person who is competent to give informed consent. 940.225 (4). Consent is informed, freely and actively given, and mutually understood permission/agreement. If physical force, coercion, intimidation, and/or threats are used, there is no consent. If the victim/survivor is mentally or physically incapacitated or impaired so that they cannot understand the sexual situation, there is no consent. This includes impairment due to alcohol or drug consumption and being asleep or unconscious.

    Same-sex sexual assault

    Same-sex sexual assault is when a sexual assault occurs and the victim and the perpetrator are the same sex. This does not necessarily mean that they identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.

    Same-sex sexual assault involves any type of unwanted sexual contact obtained without consent and/or obtained through the use of force, threat of force, intimidation, or coercion. Same-sex sexual assault can happen on a date, or between friends, acquaintances, partners, or strangers.

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