Interpersonal violence (IPV) is an umbrella term that includes all forms of sexual violence and relationship violence.
Sexual violence can be defined as any unwanted sexual attention, contact, or activity without consent. Sexual violence can be:
Sexual assault: Any sexual activity that an individual does not agree to. This can include rape, unwanted touching, or any other type of sexual violation. Sexual assault is often the most recognizable form of sexual violence.
Sexual harassment: Interaction between individuals of the same or opposite sex that is characterized by unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature in the context of employment, living conditions, or education. Sexual harassment can also include stalking.
Sexual battery: Any unwanted or non-consensual touching of intimate parts by another.
Also termed domestic or intimate partner violence, relationship violence describes physical, emotional, sexual, or psychological harm by a current or former partner or spouse. Relationship violence can occur on a continuum beginning with emotional abuse (isolation, name calling, humiliation) and often progresses to sexual and physical abuse.
Stalking: Stalking is also a form of interpersonal violence and is defined as a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear i.e. unwanted communication, being followed or surveilled, direct or indirect threats. While stalking can occur stranger to stranger, most people are stalked by someone they know or by current or former intimate partner.
How Does Interpersonal Violence Impact One’s Health?
Interpersonal violence can negatively impact health in many ways. Some effects can lead to long-term health problems. There is no set of reactions exhibited by all individuals who have been sexually assaulted. Individuals may feel a range of emotions which vary with time and intensity.
The following is not intended to be an exhaustive list, but rather, shows the range of reactions and the impact of sexual assault on psychological wellbeing. Each survivor of sexual assault responds uniquely to the assault, and the recovery process is different for each individual. Survivors may experience some or many physical, emotional, cognitive or social symptoms below:
- Physical health effects may include chronic pain, headaches, stomach problems, sleep disturbances, easily startled, nausea/vomiting, and sexually transmitted infections.
- Interpersonal violence can have emotional impacts as well. Victims often feel fearful and anxious, and they may have problems with trust and be wary of becoming involved with others.
- The anger and stress that victims feel may lead to eating disorders and depression. Some even think about or attempt suicide.
- Interpersonal violence is also linked to negative health behaviors. For example, victims are more likely to smoke, abuse alcohol, use drugs, and engage in risky sexual activity.
If you have been impacted by interpersonal violence and are looking for help – RSVP advocates are available 24 hours a day at 706-542-SAFE.
Decreasing One’s Risk of Sexual Assault
Although victims are NEVER responsible for being assaulted, there are precautions you can take to lower your risk.
- Know your limits and communicate them clearly and firmly.
- Be aware of your surroundings and avoid secluded places, especially with someone you don’t know well.
- Have a safety plan (such as buddy system) in place - especially BEFORE heading out with one or more friends - and avoid people who display controlling behavior and don’t respect your limits.
Adapted from RAINN.ORG
Like many other substances, alcohol can inhibit a person’s physical and mental abilities. In the context of sexual assault, this means that alcohol may make it easier for a perpetrator to commit a crime and can even prevent someone from remembering that the assault occurred.
Alcohol is the most commonly used substance for drug facilitated assaults on college campuses.
What can I do to stay safe?
You can take steps to increase your safety in situations where drinking may be involved. These tips can help you feel more safe and may reduce the risk of something happening, but, like any safety tips, they are not foolproof. It’s important to remember that sexual assault is never the victim’s fault, regardless of whether they were sober or under the influence of drugs or alcohol when it occurred.
- Keep an eye on your friends. If you are going out in a group, plan to arrive together and leave together. If you decide to leave early, let your friends know. If you’re at a party, check in with them during the night to see how they’re doing. If something doesn’t look right, step in. Don’t be afraid to let a friend know if something is making you uncomfortable or if you are worried about their safety.
- Have a backup plan. Sometimes plans change quickly. You might realize it’s not safe for you to drive home, or the group you arrived with might decide to go somewhere you don’t feel comfortable. Download a rideshare app, like Uber, or keep the number for a reliable cab company saved in your phone and cash on hand in case you decide to leave.
- Know what you’re drinking. Don’t recognize an ingredient? Use your phone to look it up. Consider avoiding large-batch drinks like punches or “jungle juice” that may have a deceptively high alcohol content. There is no way to know exactly what was used to create these drinks.
- Trust your instincts. If you feel unsafe, uncomfortable, or worried for any reason, don’t ignore these feelings. Go with your gut. Get somewhere safe and find someone you trust or call law enforcement.
- Don’t leave a drink unattended. That includes when you use the bathroom, go dancing, or leave to make a phone call. Either take the drink with you or throw it out. Avoid using the same cup to refill your drink. Use lids for drinks if possible.
- Don’t accept drinks from people you don’t know or trust. This can be challenging in some settings, like a party or a date. If you choose to accept a drink from someone you’ve just met, try to go with the person to the bar to order it, watch it being poured, and carry it yourself.
- Check in with yourself. You might have heard the expression “know your limits.” Whether you drink regularly or not, check in with yourself periodically to register how you feel.
- Be aware of sudden changes in the way your body feels. Do you feel more intoxicated than you should? Some drugs are odorless, colorless and/or tasteless, and can be added to your drink without you noticing. If you feel uncomfortable, tell a friend and have them take you to a safe place. If you suspect you or a friend has been drugged, call 911, and be upfront with healthcare professionals so they can administer the right tests.