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Preventing harassment and violence

Virginia Tech is building a community that is safe for all its members. In addition to having clear policies prohibiting sexual harassment and violence, we are committed to the ongoing work of transforming our university culture into one that protects against violence.

Each member of our community can help shape a community without sexual violence. This page contains helpful information about how students can get involved and be part of the change.

Understand consent

Consent is key to healthy sex. Consent is knowing, voluntary, and clear permission by word or action, to engage in mutually agreed upon sexual activity. A few key things to remember:

  • Silence or stillness is not consent.
  • You need consent every time. Prior sexual contact is not consent, and consent to one kind of sexual contact is not consent to another. Make sure you and your partner are on the same page about what’s happening and what you want to happen.
  • Consent cannot be given if someone is incapacitated, intimidated, threatened, or coerced into saying yes.
    • You can be incapacitated from (1) drugs, (2) alcohol, (3) being unconscious or asleep, (4) involuntarily restrained, or (5) from the symptoms of a disability. A helpful rule about alcohol incapacitation can be if you wouldn’t feel safe with that person driving you in a car, then that's a sign that they are alcohol incapacitated.
    • Coercion can look like saying yes, not because you wanted to but because you wanted someone to stop pressuring you, someone was withholding from you something you value, or threatening to share something embarrassing or incriminating about you if you don’t say yes.
    • Intimidation can look like someone making you feel as if harm will come to you or someone you love physically, emotionally, or financially.
    • Threatening can look like someone saying explicitly that they will hurt you or someone you love, or acting in a way that makes you afraid for your safety.

It may be disappointing or awkward when someone says no or doesn’t share the same desires as you. An important part of practicing consent is figuring out how to handle a no. Some things you can do are:

  • Above anything, respect your partner and how they feel. Stop what you are doing and remember: No means no, always.
  • Don’t take it personally. It happens to everyone, and it’s not about you.
  • Don’t try to convince them. Pressure to consent can be uncomfortable and even scary.
  • Accept and move on. It’s okay to not want to have sex. Try reassuring your partner that it’s okay and you appreciate their honesty. If you want to spend time together, find something else that you both feel comfortable doing.

Healthy and safe relationships

Relationships are an important and fulfilling part of our lives. A healthy relationship is one where everyone is respected, equal, and safe. There can be times when we are concerned for ourselves or someone we love that they may be in an unhealthy or abusive relationship. Know the signs of an unhealthy or abusive relationship and how we can connect them to resources. You can learn more at the One Love Foundation.

  • If you suspect a friend is in an unhealthy relationship it can be hard to know what to say or do. Some suggestions are:
    • Focus on the unhealthy behavior or words that their partner does by saying something like, “I notice that your partner [does or says the unhealthy thing]. How does that make you feel?” or “I notice that you seem really anxious when your partner calls or texts you. How are you feeling about your relationship?”
    • Remind your friend that they deserve to feel safe, respected, and loved in all their relationships.
    • Offer resources like a relationship checkup and unhealthy relationship signs.
  • If you suspect a loved one or yourself is in an abusive relationship:
    • Seek out professional resources and advocates who can help you learn about your options for staying safe.
    • Know that the abuse you or a friend is experiencing is never yours or their fault and you don’t have to go through it alone. More helpful tips can be found on our How to support a friend page.

We can work together to intervene

Sexual violence and harassment can feel like an overwhelming issue. Together we can make our campus community free of sexual harassment and violence. When you hear someone making harassing comments, can recognize when a friend may be in an unsafe relationship, or see someone behaving in a sexually inappropriately manner with an intoxicated person, there are steps you can take to stop what is happening. Check in with yourself about your own safety, then follow the three Ds of Bystander Intervention:

  • Direct: If you’re feeling safe, approach the individuals involved directly. Speak up and say something.
  • Distract: You may be more comfortable finding a way to distract the people involved. You might start a conversation with one of them: “Aren’t you in Organic Chemistry with me?” or “There you are! I’m starving. Let’s go to Benny’s for a slice.”
  • Delegate: Find someone else who you trust in a position of authority to help. That might be the host, a bartender or bouncer, a coach, or teammate. It’s not all on you.

Whichever intervention you choose, connect with the individual who has experienced harassment or harm to see what other help and support they need.

Get involved

Your voice is powerful, and we’re working on more ways that you can get involved.

Another way to get involved is to get educated. You can find a list of Sexual Violence Prevention (SVP) and Active Bystander Intervention workshops from Hokie Wellness.

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