Prevention Initiative FAQs

Prevention Initiative FAQs

1. What is sexual misconduct?

Sexual misconduct is an umbrella term encompassing a wide range of acts including but not limited to sexual assault, sexual harassment, stalking, sexual abuse, domestic violence, and dating violence.

2. What is consent?
  • Consent means voluntary, active and clear agreement, communicated by words or actions, to participate in specific sexual activity. Consensual sexual activity happens when each participant willingly chooses to participate. It is the responsibility of the person who wants to engage in a sexual activity to obtain the consent of the other person for that sexual activity. Consent may also be withdrawn or modified at any time by the use of clearly understandable words or actions.
  • In cases where a victim asserts that sexual activity occurred without consent, the standard is whether a sober, reasonable person in the same circumstances as the accused should have known that the victim did not or could not consent to the sexual activity in question.
  • The definition of consent does not vary based upon a person’s sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.
  • Consent is best obtained through direct communication about the decision to engage in specific sexual activity. Consent need not be verbal, but verbal communication is the most reliable and effective way to seek, assess, and obtain consent.  Non-verbal communication often is ambiguous.  For example, heavy breathing can be a sign of arousal, but it also can be a sign of distress. To be sure, talking with sexual partners about desires, intentions, boundaries and limits can be uncomfortable, but it serves as the best foundation for respectful, healthy, positive and safe intimate relationships.
3. What is not consent?
  • Consent cannot be obtained by threat of harm, coercion, intimidation, or by use or threat of force.
  • The lack of explicit consent does not imply consent and likewise, the lack of verbal or physical resistance does not constitute consent.  Thus, silence, passivity, submission, and/or the lack of resistance (including the absence of the word “no”) do not—in and of themselves—constitute consent.
4. Who commits acts of sexual or relationship violence?

Anyone can commit sexual violence: all genders, ages, identities, etc.

5. Who is responsible for sexual or relationship violence?

The individual perpetrating the sexual or relationship violence.

6. How can I support a survivor who discloses to me?
  • Let the survivor know you believe them. Actually say “I believe you.” This is one of the biggest fears of disclosing sexual or relationship violence.
  • Let them talk to you without interruption. Tell them “It’s not your fault.” Don’t ask “why” questions as they can imply blame. Validate their experience and actions, whatever they were.
  • Sexual and relationship violence is about power and control. Therefore, give the control and power back to the survivor by letting them choose what they would or would not like to do. Provide them with their options, don’t make promises you cannot guarantee and let them know you support whatever choices they make, including the choice not to tell anyone else.
  • Ask how you can help support them. They may not know and that’s okay.
  • Sexual and relationship violence can impact everyone including those indirectly impacted like yourself and other loved ones. You will have your own reaction and feelings, and that is okay.
  • Recognize your limitations, reach out for support if you would like, and don’t forget the importance of taking care of yourself.
7. How do I know if I am in an abusive relationship?

While arguing or fighting occurs in all relationships, partner violence is about power and control of one partner by the other. Due to the nature of being in a relationship with the abuser, partner violence can be hard to identify and understand. If you are in abusive relationship, you may find it difficult to acknowledge because the abuser is someone for whom you have feelings. Abusive behavior can take many forms. Be concerned if your partner:

  • Is jealous and possessive 
  • Tries to control everything you do 
  • Tries to isolate you from family and friends 
  • Has a quick temper or unpredictable reactions to ordinary things 
  • Often exhibits violent behavior toward animals, children, or other people 
  • Pressures you for sex 
  • Has a history of bad relationships 
  • Has a strong belief in extreme gender roles 
  • Says things like:
    • “If you really loved me…”
    • “You just don’t understand…” 
    • “No one has ever loved/understood me like you do” 
    • “You’d be nothing without me” 

In all relationships, it is important to trust your instincts. If your intuition tells you something is wrong, you shouldn’t ignore it.

8. How do I know if I am being stalked and what can I do?

Stalking is a crime of power and control. Stalking is generally defined as a pattern of behavior (two or more occasions) of visual or physical proximity, nonconsensual communication, or verbal, written, and/or implied threats, that would cause a reasonable person fear.

9. What should I do if I'm being stalked?

If you are being stalked, don’t downplay the danger of your situation. Consider taking the following steps:

  • If you feel that you are in immediate danger, contact UCPD on campus at 773.702.8181 or if off campus, contact 911.
  • Try not to be isolated with the person.
  • Stalking behavior can be confusing. For support, contact the Sexual Assault Dean-on-Call (SADOC) at 773.834.4357, and consider allowing the SADOC to engage other resources on your behalf, such as the Deputy Title IX Coordinator for Students, a person who can help you with safety planning and/or assist you getting an Order of Protection from the court or a University-initiated No Contact Directive.
  • Report directly to the Office for Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Support at 773.702.0438 or titleix@uchicago.edu.
  • Tell family, friends, roommates, Housing and Residential Life staff members, and co-workers about the stalking and seek their support.
  • Access UCPD by calling (773) 702-8181 for an escort to your destination. 
10. What is Safety Planning and how can it help me?

Safety planning is an important aspect of protecting yourself emotionally and physically in an abusive relationship.

A safety plan is a personalized, practical plan that can help you avoid dangerous situations and know the best way to react when you are in danger. This plan includes ways to remain safe while in the relationship, planning to leave, or after you leave. Safety planning involves how to cope with emotions, tell friends and family about the abuse, take legal action, and more. We safety plan with survivors and anyone who is concerned about their own safety or the safety of another.

Although some of the things that you outline in your safety plan may seem obvious, it’s important to remember that in moments of crisis your brain doesn’t function the same as when you are calm. When adrenaline is pumping through your veins it can be hard to think clearly or to make logical decisions about your safety. Having a safety plan laid out in advance can help you to protect yourself in those stressful moments.

Safety planning looks different for different types of abuse. You safety plan should be tailored to your specific situation. For more information contact the Office for Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Support at 773.702.0438 or titleix@uchicago.edu.

Non-discrimination Statement

In keeping with its long-standing traditions and policies, the University of Chicago considers students, employees, applicants for admission or employment, and those seeking access to University programs on the basis of individual merit. The University does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national or ethnic origin, age, status as an individual with a disability, protected veteran status, genetic information, or other protected classes under the law (including Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972). For additional information regarding the University of Chicago’s Policy on Harassment, Discrimination, and Sexual Misconduct, please see: http://harassmentpolicy.uchicago.edu/page/policy.

The University official responsible for coordinating compliance with this Notice of Nondiscrimination is Bridget Collier, Associate Provost for Equal Opportunity Programs. Ms. Collier also serves as the University’s Title IX Coordinator, Affirmative Action Officer, and Section 504/ADA Coordinator. You may contact Ms. Collier by emailing bcollier@uchicago.edu, by calling 773.702.5671, or by writing to Bridget Collier, Office of the Provost, The University of Chicago, 5525 S. Ellis Ave., Room 171, Chicago, IL 60637.

Read more about Title IX.