Definitions and Statistics

Sexual violence is an umbrella term used to described a range of unwanted, coerced, or forced sexual behaviors. A broad definition of sexual violence is anytime sex or sexual behaviors is used as a weapon to gain power and control over another person and, or, any sexual behavior that one is tricked, forced, or coerced into. Sexual Violence can include sexual assault and rape, sexual harassment, unwanted sexual contact (such as groping), sexual exploitation (such as being forced to view sexually explicit materials or someone exposing themselves to another person without their permission), sexual exploitation (such as sharing nude or intimate photos of another person without their permission), and voyeurism.

When looking at statistics, studies or policies it's helpful to look at how each source defines different forms of sexual violence. 

The 2014 Center for Disease Control and Prevention's National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey estimate that 1 in 2 women and 1 in 5 men have experienced a form of sexual violence other than rape1 in their lifetime. This same survey found that 1 in 5 women (19.3%) and 1 in 71 men (1.7%) have experienced rape or attempted rape2 and at some point in their lives and 1 in 15 men (6.7%) were made to penetrate a perpetrator3


This study defines sexual violence other than rape as being made to penetrate a perpetrator, sexual coercion (non-physically pressured unwanted penetration), unwanted sexual contact (e.g., kissing or fondling) and noncontact unwanted sexual experiences (e.g., being flashed or forced to view sexually explicit media).

2 This study defines rape as forced penetration or alcohol- or drug-facilitated penetration.

3 This study did not include being made to penetrate a perpetrator in their definition of rape; however it would fit most people's general understanding of rape and would be included in the University of St. Thomas' definition of sexual assault. 

Sexual Assault is generally defined as sexual activity that one is forced, coerced, or tricked into or sexual activity that lacks consent or a person lacks the ability to give consent. Sexual activity includes all forms of sex- vaginal, oral, anal and manual sex. Sexual assault can happen to someone of any gender and people of all genders can be perpetrators of sexual assault. 

Sexual Assault is too common both in society and on college campuses. Study after study have shown high rates of sexual assault for people of all genders. It’s estimated that 10%-20% of college women, 12% of trans and gender non-conforming college students and .3% – 5% of college men have experienced a sexual assault. 


Kilpatrick (2007) 10.1 % of college women had been sexually assaulted (vaginal, oral, or anal intercourse by force or threat of force)

Washington Post-Kaiser Poll (2015) 20% of women and 5% of men who attended college during the past four years were sexually assaulted (sexual assault to include five types of unwanted contact: forced touching of a sexual nature, oral sex, vaginal sexual intercourse, anal sex and sexual penetration with a finger or object)

Report on the AAU Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Sexual Misconduct (2015) 12.4% of trans and gender non-confirming undergraduates, 10.8% of female undergraduates and .3% of male undergraduates experienced sexual assault (defined as acts involving penetration by force or incapacitation)

The University of St. Thomas is not immune to sexual assault. Like every college, university, and community across the United States, sexual assaults happen here at St. Thomas. From January 2015 to December 2015 the University of St. Thomas received 20 reports of sexual assault (see the University of St. Thomas Sexual Misconduct Policy for full definitions of sexual assault). Slightly over half of these were reports of non-consensual sexual intercourse. The others were reports of non-consensual sexual contact. However, we know these numbers likely do not reflect to actual number of sexual assaults happening at the University of St. Thomas. 

Sexual assault is vastly under reported, both to University officials and to police. If we apply national occurrence rates to St. Thomas’ entire undergraduate student population, it would be expected that approximately 85 incidents of non-consensual sexual intercouse occur each year.

How was 85 incidents of sexual assault estimated for St. Thomas?

Using the lower estimate of sexual assault1 occurrence rates for college students from the 2015 Report on the AAU Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Sexual Misconduct: 

  • 10.8% female undergraduate students experienced sexual assault
  • 2.3 % male students experienced sexual assault
    • 2013-2014 St. Thomas Enrollment
    • 6,350 undergraduate students
    • Male Students: 3264 x .0023 = 8
    • Female Students: 3086  x .108 = 333
    • 333+8 = 341 (assumed over the course of 4 years in college)
    • 341/4 = 85 reports a year

1sexual assault defined as penetration (when one person puts a penis, finger, or object inside someone else’s vagina or anus, when someone’s mouth or tongue makes contact with someone else’s genitals) that was the result of physical force, threats of physical force or incapacitation.

People of color and trans and gender nonconforming students are disproportionately affected by sexual assault. We did not use occurrence rates of sexual assault for these communities in this estimation.

Also of note, the AAU's definition of sexual assault is similar to the University of St. Thomas’ definition of non-consensual sexual intercourse. These numbers do not reflect non-consensual sexual contact, as AAU survey did not use the same definition as the University of St. Thomas. 

AAU Definition of Nonconsensual Sexual touching:

University of St .Thomas Definition of Non-consensual sexual contact:

Nonconsensual Sexual Contact by Physical Force or Incapacitation. Sexual Touching includes:

  •  kissing
  •  touching someone’s breast, chest, crotch, groin, or buttocks
  •  grabbing, groping, or rubbing against the other in a sexual way, even if the touching is over the other’s clothe


Non-consensual sexual contact is:

  1. any intentional touching, however slight, by any person
  2. upon the breasts, buttock, groin, genital area or inner thigh of any other person, or of such other person’s clothing covering these areas,
  3. with or by any body part or any object, seminal fluid or sperm
  4. with sexual or aggressive intent
  5. without consent and/or by force.