As a survivor navigating your options, you may be learning a whole new language of law, policy, and psychology. In this section we will highlight the most important terms.
Warning: The following pages contain definitions that can be triggering or hard to read. Feel free to skip this section altogether or come back at a later time.
Many advocates tend to use the term “victim” when referring to someone who has recently been affected by sexual violence; when discussing a particular crime; or when referring to aspects of the criminal justice system. “Survivor” is often used to refer to someone who is further along in their healing journey, or when discussing the short- or long-term effects of sexual violence. Some people identify as a victim, while others prefer the term survivor. You can choose whatever term feels right to you.
Consent means giving and receiving permission to participate in a sexual activity. Before being sexual with someone, you need to know if they want to be sexual with you too. Ideally, consent is a clear “yes” spoken out loud.
Consent must be continuously given. Consenting to one type of activity does not mean that your partner has consented to other activities. Everyone has the right to stop sexual activity at any time and for any reason. Consent is about making sure that everyone who is a part of the activity is excited, engaged, and able to say “yes” or “no,” every single time.
No one should feel pressured, manipulated, or threatened to say “yes.” Someone who is mentally or physically incapacitated or impaired because they are sleeping, unconscious, or under the influence of drugs or alcohol is not able to give consent. Additionally, someone might be unable to give consent because of their age or their mental capacity. For more information about consent and Minnesota law visit the Rape and Incest National Network (RAINN):
Without consent, any sexual activity (including oral sex, genital touching, and vaginal or anal penetration) is sexual violence.
Sexual violence includes sexual assault, rape, or any other sexual behavior that happens because one person forces, coerces, manipulates or intimidates the other person.
Sexual violence can be perpetrated by strangers, acquaintances, family members, spouses, or dating partners. It includes being touched by someone else or being forced or coerced to touch someone else. Sexual violence can also happen when someone is not able to give consent because they are too young or incapacitated.
Sexual violence includes but is not limited to:
- Sexual abuse of power: when someone like a coach, teacher, or religious leader uses their position of authority to force, coerce, or manipulate someone into sexual activity,
- Intimate partner sexual violence: when a spouse or partner uses sexual violence,
- Child sexual abuse,
- Incest or sexual abuse of family members,
- Reproductive coercion and safer-sex sabotage: when one partner controls or interferes with decision-making related to reproductive and sexual health. This includes damaging birth control, pressuring someone to have unprotected sex, or removing a condom without consent (sometimes called “stealthing”),
- Sex trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation: when someone requires the other person to trade sex for money, food, a place to stay, or drugs or forces them to participate in pornography or stripping, and
- Non-consensual explicit images: when someone takes or releases explicit photos or videos without permission, sometimes called “revenge porn.”
For more information about sexual violence visit RAINN:
Relationship or Domestic Violence
Relationship violence – also known as domestic violence or dating violence – is a pattern of behavior that is used by a current or former intimate partner to gain and maintain power and control over the other partner. It can happen when people are married, living together, dating, or after the relationship has ended.
Relationship violence can happen to people that have gone on a single date, just started dating, or have been together for years.
Relationship violence may include the use of physical violence, sexual violence, threats and intimidation, isolation, emotional abuse, spiritual and cultural abuse, economic deprivation, and financial abuse. Someone can seek help no matter what type or types of abuse they have experienced.
For more information about relationship violence visit the National Domestic Violence Hotline:
Stalking is behavior that is directed at someone that is unwanted, unwelcome, or unreciprocated that causes them fear or substantial emotional distress.
Stalking includes behaviors like following someone, tracking someone, sending unwanted gifts or messages, making unwanted calls, damaging property, monitoring phone and technology use, or posting information or spreading rumors about someone.
For more information about stalking visit RAINN:
Sexual harassment is unwanted and unwelcome sexual behavior that interferes with someone’s right to feel comfortable at school or work. It can include comments, notes, messages, gestures, or physical contact. It makes the learning or working environment hostile and uncomfortable. This includes repeatedly asking someone on a date, especially if they have already said “no.”
One specific type of harassment is known as “quid pro quo” when someone with authority trades or tries to trade sexual contact for something the other person wants like a good grade or preferential treatment.
For more information about stalking visit RAINN: