Below you will find a list of definitions we have established to help sort through the terminology around sexual assault. Often terms are used interchangeably, sometimes creating confusion around the issue. If you have any questions about the language, please feel free to e-mail Rima Shah at email@example.com
Sexual Violence: is an umbrella term to encompass sexual abuse, sexual assault, rape, stalking, and sexual harassment involving strangers, acquaintances, and intimate partners.
Sexual Assault:1 is defined as an act of sexual penetration with the use or threat of force or an act of sexual penetration when the accused knew that the victim was "unable to understand the nature of the act or was unable to give knowing consent." In the state of Illinois, if an individual is “incapacitated from drugs or alcohol” (i.e. intoxicated) they cannot give consent to having sex. Sexual penetration is defined as any contact, however slight, between the sex organ or anus of one person by an object, the sex organ, mouth, or anus of another person, or any intrusion, however slight, or any part of the body of one person or of any animal or object into the sex organ or anus of another person. Evidence of emission of semen is not required to prove sexual penetration. The survivor is not required to prove that force was used, only that the threat of force was present.
Sexual Abuse:2 constitutes unwanted sexual contact up to penetration.
Rape:3 the terms Sexual Assault and Rape mean the same thing and the terms are often used interchangeably.
Acquaintance Rape/Date Rape:4Acquaintance Rape and Date Rape both refer to sexual assault by a person known to the survivor. While most people think rape is committed by a stranger, acquaintance rape is actually much more common. On college campuses, 84-97% of sexual assaults are committed by someone known to the survivor.
Victim:5 often used interchangeably with the term Survivor. This term is used to describe a person who has experienced any degree of sexual violence. Thought to be less empowering than the term Survivor, many people choose to not identify with this terminology; others will argue that having been victimized is not a reflection of the person who is a victim and the term is merely factual rather than disempowering.
Survivor:6 often used interchangeably with the term Victim. It refers to anyone who has experienced sexual violence and does not preclude individuals who are still struggling with their experience. The term is used to bring attention to the fact that though a person who has experienced sexual violence has been a victim, they are also active participants in the experience of survival.
Consent:7 is an agreement that two people must make if they want to have sex. According to Illinois state law, there is no implied consent. The absence of an explicit "Yes" is a "No," according to state law. Lack of verbal or physical resistance or submission by the victim resulting from the use of force or threat of force by the accused shall not constitute consent. The manner of dress of the victim at the time of the offense shall not constitute consent. And, if a victim is incapacitated due to drugs and/or alcohol, i.e. intoxicated, no matter what they verbalize, it cannot be considered consent.
Coercion:8 Coercion occurs when sexual activity occurs without proper consent. Sexual coercion is the use of manipulation or threat to force someone to have sex.
1. Adapted from:
2. Adapted from:
3. Adapted from:
4. ICASA`s manual, By
the Numbers: Sexual Violence Statistics, published in 2006.
5. Adapted from survivors and victim advocates
6. Adapted from survivors and victim advocates
7. Adapted from The
Illinois Criminal Sexual Assault Act, 720 ILCS 5/12-17
8. Adapted from: