Respect’s Definitions

Interpersonal violence, regardless if it is one instance or years of abuse, involves a perpetrator establishing control over the survivor by relying on systems of oppression.  However, sexual assault and relationship violence can be perpetrated against anyone regardless of her/his/hir gender identity, sex, sexual orientation, race, socioeconomic status, religion, ability, country of origin, or education level. Sexual assault and relationship violence are pervasive public health problems, but they are not inevitable.

Respect defines sexual violence as any form of unwanted sexual contact obtained without consent and/or obtained through the use of force, threat of force, intimidation, or coercion. 

The Respect Program defines relationship violence as a pattern of behavior used by a perpetrator to gain and maintain power over his/her/hir intimate partner/s. This may include physical, emotional, spiritual, mental, sexual, verbal, psychological, and/or economic abuse.

Relationship violence is sometimes referred to as dating violence or intimate partner violence (IPV). Abusive or violent acts can also be considered relationship violence if they occur between people who were previously dating, in a relationship, or engaging in sexual activity with each other.

Respect values survivors’ safety by empowering them and reinforcing her/his/hir autonomy and self-determination. 

Why do we say “survivor?”

“Sexual assault is a physically, emotionally, and spiritually traumatic experience, an intimate violation of the worst kind.”- Jeffrey T. Burgin, Jr. of the Dean of Students Office at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

 We often hear various terms used to describe a person who has experienced sexual assault. Among them are “victim” and “survivor.” While people who have experienced or are experiencing sexual violence are victims, they are also in a constant state of “surviving” the experience. The idea of survival carries within its definition the ongoing fight to live or “survive” a traumatizing experience, a process that includes dealing with a multitude of feelings and health consequences. Furthermore, a survivor will also have to cope with living in a society in which victim blaming is rampant. In light of these circumstances, we refer to anyone coping with the aftermath of sexual assault or who has survived or is surviving an abusive relationship a “survivor.”