Sexual Assault

University of Minnesota Sexual Assault/Relationship Violence Policy (Academic/Administrative Policy 2.3.6)

What is sexual assault?
Sexual assault is "actual, attempted or threatened sexual contact with another person without that person's consent. Sexual assault often is a criminal act that can be prosecuted under Minnesota state law, as well as under the Student Conduct Code and employee discipline procedures."

What is consent?
"Consent is informed, freely and actively given, and mutually understood. 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 the victim/survivor cannot understand the fact, nature or extent of the sexual situation, and the condition was or would be known to a reasonable person, there is no consent. This includes conditions due to alcohol or drug consumption, or being asleep or unconscious."

Rape is sexual intercourse without consent. If you have experienced sexual assault you may be feeling hurt, angry, sad or confused. You may be experiencing difficulty sleeping, nightmares or an inability to concentrate. You may also find it difficult to trust people or to go about your regular daily routine. These responses - and many others - are a normal reaction to a traumatic event.

Sexual assault is never the fault of the victim. The blames lies with the person who chose to hurt you.

What do I do now?
Aurora Center advocates offer support and advocacy to students, staff and faculty of the University of Minnesota who are victims of sexual assault. Our services are free and confidential.

If you have been sexually assaulted, view our emergency page for possible next steps.

Where can I learn more?
More information about the dynamics of and common responses to sexual assault is available in our sexual assault information packet. Additional information is provided in our publications or view the University of Minnesota's Adminstrative policy website on Sexual Assault, Stalking, and Relationship Violence.

Common Reactions to Sexual Violations

Stage 1: The Initial Shock or Acute Stage

  • Victims experience a sense of crisis, loss of control, confusion and a sense of unreality. The victim may feel a great deal of confusion and have a hard time make decisions.
  • Different response styles are possible: an individual may be very expressive (crying, easily startled, “hyperalert”, “hysterical”) or withdrawn (numb, disconnected, quiet, no obvious emotion) or some combination.

Stage 2: The Denial or Pseudo-Adjustment Stage

  • Attempts to go on with life “as usual.” Victims want to forget the assault.
  • Victims do not usually seek help during this stage.
  • You cannot force anyone out of the denial stage, nor should you try. This is an effective way of dealing with trauma temporarily. You might let the victim know that sooner or later the event will resurface. Communicate that this is a normal reaction and that there are resources ready to help whenever they need/want them.

Stage 3: Reactivation or Decompensation Stage (“Life falls apart”)

  • This phase is usually triggered by some event that stirs up memories associated with the assault.
  • In this stage, the real problems start to surface and victims are likely to seek help from friends, family and advocates. This can be confusing for family and friends who were under the impression that they were over the sexual assault.
  • Victims may experience depression, suicidal ideation, feelings of guilt, shame, helplessness or confusion. They may experience academic and relationship difficulties, physical symptoms (headaches, gastric problems), nightmares, flashbacks and changes in eating and sleeping patterns.

Stage 4: The Anger Stage

  • When the victim begins to acknowledge the fact that they had no control over what happened and they let go of some of their self-blame, they may begin to experience intense feelings of fear, anger and rage. The victim may be angry at everyone except the perpetrator because they are the “least safe target” for the victim’s anger.
  • This stage also usually involves a grieving process: victims may begin to identify their personal losses and start to face the pain around those issues.

Stage 5: The Integration Stage

    • The assault and the events surrounding it are viewed as significant life experiences integrated among other experiences. The event becomes part of the past and is gradually acknowledged as an event that continues to impact who the survivor is.

    **Remember that sexual assault happen in all communities. Male survivors, survivors of color, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered survivors all experience similar reactions to those described above. However, they are also likely struggling with the additional burdens of stereotypes, racism, homophobia and other oppressions, often leaving them feeling even more isolated, confused, ashamed, frightened, and less likely to seek support.**

    UMN Sexual Assault Response Protocol

    The Sexual Assault Response Protocol details the many ways the University of Minnesota, TC is supportive of victims/survivors of sexual violence who come forward to ask for help and/or to seek consequences for the person who hurt them. Our campus response to a victim/survivor is focused on support for the individual and concern for the safety of the public. The University of Minnesota offers a confidential place for victims/survivors to receive support and advocacy because research and experience tell us that while many victims/survivors wish to keep their assault a private matter, they need the help of professionals to fully recover. This protocol makes clear the professional and thoughtful response of many units who may offer help.

    Surviving Words

    "Dear Saturday Night,
    I wish that you didn't have to exist...It’s been three years today that I was sexually assaulted. I always wonder if I screamed loud enough, if I protested as much as I could have... While that will remain unknown, you have given me the chance to say, loudly and unabashedly—STOP. I will no longer be a victim..." To Read more visit "Saturday Night: Untold Stories of Sexual Assault at Duke"