Defining interpersonal violence

For some helpful information, additional definitions and guidelines, visit The following definitions should be helpful, but are not legal definitions of these terms.

Interpersonal violence encompasses the following:
Some helpful terms that act as a role in interpersonal violence:

More information defining acts of interpersonal violence can be found by visiting the University's Policies and Procedures webpage and the University's Title IX webpage. 

1. Relationship or dating violence

Dating violence is any act of violence committed by a person who is or has been in a social relationship of a romantic or intimate nature with the victim. The existence of such a relationship shall be determined based on the victim's statement and with consideration of the type and length of the relationship and the frequency of interaction between the persons involved in the relationship. Two (or more) people may be in a romantic or intimate relationship, regardless of whether the relationship is sexual in nature; however, neither a casual acquaintance nor ordinary fraternization between individuals in a business or social context shall constitute a romantic or intimate relationship. 

This term is used when a pattern of controlling behavior of a partner is evidenced in a relationship. The abusive behavior can be incremental over time resulting in the abused partner being isolated from others or made to feel incompetent, ashamed or guilt-ridden. The abuse can be emotional, physical, sexual or any combination thereof. Victims are often unaware that they are in an abusive relationship. Leaving this kind of relationship is extremely difficult, often requiring counseling and a great deal of support.

For more information visit our Dating Violence page. 

2. Sexual assault

Sexual Assault refers to physical sexual acts perpetrated against a person's will or where a person is incapable of giving consent (e.g., due to the student's age or use of drugs or alcohol, or because an intellectual or other disability prevents the student from having the capacity to give consent). A number of different acts fall into the category of sexual violence, including rape, sexual assault, sexual battery, sexual abuse, and sexual coercion. Sexual violence can be carried out by school employees, other students, or third parties. All such acts of sexual violence are forms of sex discrimination prohibited by Title IX. Taken from the United States Department of Education.

For more information visit our Sexual Assault page.

3. Harassment

Harassment is any form of unwanted and offensive behavior. This can include physical conduct or written or verbal derogatory or discriminatory statements. Harassment can interfere with an individual's employment, academic performance, university participation, or emotional state. It can create an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment.

For more information visit our Harassment page. 

4. Stalking

Stalking refers to intentionally engaging in a course of conduct, directed at a specific person, which is likely to causes a reasonable person to fear for his or her safety or the safety of others or cause that person to suffer substantial emotional damage.   It may include, but are not limited to, take the form repeatedly following such person(s), repeatedly committing acts that alarm, cause fear, or seriously annoy such other person(s) and that serve no legitimate purpose, appearing at a person's home or place of business, repeatedly communicating by any means, including electronic means, with such person(s) in a manner likely to intimidate, annoy, or alarm him or her, such as making harassing phone calls, leaving written messages or objects or vandalizing a person's property.  Any unwanted contact between two people that directly or indirectly communicates a threat or causes the victim to feel fear can be considered stalking.

For more information visit our Stalking page.

5. Family violence

Family Violence can include emotional , physical, and sexual violence by one family or household member on another. Family Violence effects everyone not just the victim. Children who grow up in violent homes greatly risk the possibility of emotional, behavioral and physical problems that last for a lifetime. Depression; anxiety; violence toward peers; suicide attempt; drug & alcohol abuse and running away from home are just some of the issues that stem from the violence in the home.

6. Physical violence

Physical abuse is contact of one person on another intended to cause unwanted feelings of physical pain, injury, or other physical suffering. Scratching, punching, biting, strangling or kicking are a few examples. Physical violence does not have to leave an external mark to be reported.

7. Emotional violence

Emotional violence is behavior which does not give mutual importance and respect to another person's feelings. It is often the most difficult to pinpoint or identify. Emotional violence includes the refusal to listen to, or denial of, another person's feelings, telling people what they do or do not feel, and ridiculing or shaming their feelings. It happens when one person believes they have a right to control or dominate another person.

8. Bullying

Bullying is aggressive behavior that involves unwanted, negative actions. Bullying is a pattern of behavior repeated over time and an imbalance of power or strength. Bullying can take on various forms such as: derogatory comments and bad names, social exclusion or isolation, lies and false rumors, and threatened or forced to do things you don't want to do.

For more information visit our Bullying page.

9. Cyber bullying/ Online harassment

Cyber bullying is using the Internet, mobile phone or other digital technologies to harm others. Cyber bullying can happen 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and can reach a person even when he or she is alone. It can happen any time of the day or night. Cyber bullying messages and images can be posted anonymously and distributed quickly to a very wide audience; it can be very difficult to delete once it is posted.

10. Consent

The presence of consent involves explicit communication and mutual approval for the act in which the parties are/were involved. Consent is clear, knowing and voluntary. Silence, in and of itself, cannot be interpreted as consent. A sexual encounter is considered consensual when individuals willingly, knowingly, and mutually engage in sexual activity.

Consent MUST BE: informed, voluntary, freely and actively given, person had the right to change his/her mind at ANY time.

Consent is NOT: assumed, based on body language, dating does not mean there is consent to have sex, consent for one act does not mean consent for all sexual acts, obtained by use of physical force, compelling threats, intimidating behavior or coercion, decided when under the influence of alcohol or substances.

According to universal SUNY policy and the Violence Against Women Act, In summary, consent is: 

  • Consent is a voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity;
  • Someone who is incapacitated cannot consent;
  • Past consent does not imply future consent; silence or an absence of resistance does not imply consent;
  • Consent to engage in sexual activity with one person does not imply consent to engage in sexual activity with another;
  • Consent can be withdrawn at any time; and
  • Coercion, force, or threat of either invalidates consent.

11. Role of alcohol and other substances

The use of alcohol and other drugs can have unintended consequences for both parties involved. Alcohol and other drugs can create an atmosphere of confusion over whether consent is freely and affirmatively given. The use of alcohol and other drugs never makes someone at fault for being sexually assaulted. When both parties are under the influence of alcohol or other substances or is intoxicated, the individual who initiated sexual contact is identified as the aggressor. The use of alcohol or other drugs will never function as a defense for any behavior that violates a person's rights.

Report crimes of interpersonal violence to the University Police; also visit our Resources page for more information.

Last Updated: 6/18/15