What is Intimate Violence?

Intimate violence is an umbrella term, referring to many different experiences of gender-based violence. Below are some ways of defining these terms. It is important to mention that these terms cannot completely encompass the reality of what unique individual experiences are. The intention of offering these definitions is as a starting point for understanding harm, and empowering others to recognize what harm looks like.
  • Intimate Partner Violence

    Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) can be defined as a pattern of threatened or actual violence used to gain power and control over a partner/member of an intimate relationship. It is intentional violence that includes many actions which tend to escalate in intensity overtime.

    These actions can include:

    • Physical violence (hitting, kicking, punching, restraining, restricting movement)
    • Emotional violence/abuse (gaslighting, manipulation, put-downs, name-calling)
    • Digital abuse (using technology/social media as a tool to monitor, threaten, harass, or intimidate someone)
    • Financial abuse (using money as a tool to guilt, threaten, control, or intimidate someone)
    • Sexual violence (sexual assault, sexting, forcing someone to watch pornography)
    • Reproductive coercion (removing one's decision making power to control their own reproductive system i.e. sabotaging contraceptive methods, restricting access to hormones, etc.)

    For more information on how Wesleyan defines IPV, see Wesleyan's Definition.

  • Sexual Assault

    Sexual Assault is an act of violence, power, and control, in which one person forces or manipulates another into unwanted sexual behavior. 

    There are many different actions which constitute sexual assault, including:

    • Rape (forced or coerced, unwanted sexual intercourse, including attempted or completed penetration by any object or body part, of the vagina, anus, or mouth)
    • Sexual contact (unwanted sexual touching)
    • Child sexual abuse (any sexual contact with someone under the age of 12)
    • Exposure (to inappropriate material such as pornography or naked pictures, flashing, and exhibitionism)

    For more information on how Wesleyan defines Sexual Assault, see Wesleyan's Definition.

  • Stalking

    Stalking is when someone knowingly engages in behaviors/activities directed at a specific person which would cause a “reasonable person” to fear for their physical safety or the physical safety of a third person. 

    Examples include:

    • Following someone or showing up places where they know someone will be
    • Sending unwanted gifts or items
    • Monitoring texts or calls
    • Tracking where someone is with a GPS
    • Driving by someone’s home, where they work, where they hang out
    • Finding out information about someone by researching someone, going through their things, and/or harassing friends or family

    For more information on how Wesleyan defines Stalking, see Wesleyan's Definition.

  • Sexual Harassment

    Sexual Harassment is a pattern of actions or a severe act of sexual and/or sexist behavior, that is unwanted or unwelcome. It is a type of sexual violence.

    Sexual is connected to sexual activity, relationships, or sexualizing someone. 

    Sexist is connected to someone's gender identity, gender expression, or biological sex. 

    What is defined as sexual harassment is in the eye of the beholder: if the target of the behavior feels it is unwanted or unwelcome, it is crossing the line into sexual harassment. 

    For more information on how Wesleyan defines Sexual Assault, see Wesleyan's Definition.

  • Red Flags

    Relationships don't just become abusive overnight. Rather, they exist along a continuum; transitioning from healthy, to unhealthy, and potentially abusive. There are some "red flags" warning signs to look out for your own relationships and those of your friends. 

    • One partner controlling behavior over another - through social media, technology, or in-person interactions. 
    • Jealousy or possessiveness 
    • Feeling like someone needs to "walk on eggshells" around their partner/someone they are hooking up with
    • Isolation from friends, family, student-groups, and other co-curricular activities
    • Changes in behavior - someone who was once very extroverted, becoming very introverted and not as socially engaged or vice versa

    This is not a mutually exclusive list, because traumatic experiences like sexual or dating violence look differently for everyone. If you are concerned about yourself or someone you know, consider contacting the SHAPE Director to talk about options for support.