Definitions

Legal Definitions

The FBI’s definition of rape as of January 6, 2012 is:
The penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.

Colorado Revised Statues (2013) defines “Unlawful Sexual Behavior” as follows:
When one person knowingly inflicts sexual intrusion or penetration (sexual assault) or sexual contact (unlawful sexual contact) on another person who does not consent or cannot consent to such contact.

Please Note:  Each state legislature has its own legal definitions of different forms of sexual assault, as do different advocacy programs. The following definitions are Colorado-based. Colorado statutes may be found HERE.


  • Age of consent

    The age at which a person is considered to be legally competent to consent to sexual acts. In Colorado, 17 is the legal age of consent.
    ”Consensual” sexual acts involving minors (under the age of 18), are considered Unlawful Sexual Behavior if the minor is 15 or 16 years of age and the other person is 10 or more years older, if the minor in under the age 15 and the other person is 4 or more years older, or if the minor in under the age of 18, and the other person is in a position of trust.

  • Bystander intervention

    A philosophy and strategy for prevention of various types of violence, including bullying, sexual harassment, sexual assault, and intimate partner violence based on the fact that people make decisions and continue behaviors based on the reactions they get from others.

  • Coercion

    The practice of forcing another party to act in an involuntary manner by use of intimidation or threats or some other form of pressure or force.

  • Consent

    Permission for something to happen or agreement to do something. In the instance of sexual activity, under Colorado law, consent must be actively expressed. A victim must willingly and of their own free will say yes, rather than not say no. Consent is possible only when there is equal power. To consent, both parties must be equally free to act and have clearly communicated their consent. (C.R.S. 18-3-401(1.5))
    A person is incapable of consent if:

    • They are mentally incapacitated or physically helpless while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
    • They are unconscious, asleep, or physically helpless and unable to communicate unwillingness to act.
    • They suffer from a mental disease or defect which renders them unable to judge the nature of the other person’s conduct.
    • They are a minor and there is a significant age discrepancy
  • D.A.

    An abbreviation for District Attorney, a D.A. is a public official who acts as prosecutor of criminal offenses for the state or the federal government in court in a particular district.

  • Fight/Flight/Freeze/Fawn

    Also called "acute stress response", fight, flight, freeze and fawn are four possible physiological reactions that occurs in response to a perceived harmful event, attack, or threat to survival.

  • Force

    Physical force or the threat of force that places the victim in fear of injury or in fear of their life. Any amount of force, whether physical or mental, that is used to overcome a victim’s resistance is enough to constitute a sexual assault.

  • Incest

    Sexual activity between family members or close relatives. This typically includes sexual activity between people in a consanguineous relationship (blood relations), and sometimes those related by affinity, such as individuals of the same household, step relatives, those related by adoption or marriage.

  • Mandatory Report(er)

    Mandatory reporting statutes require certain designated professionals by law to report reasonable suspicions of abuse or neglect to law enforcement, social services, and/or a regulatory agency. The most common mandatory reporting laws address child abuse, sexual assault, domestic violence, elder abuse, gunshot wounds, and abuse of vulnerable adults (e.g., persons 18 years or older that are unable to report abuse and/or protect themselves from further harm).

  • Perpetrator

    A person who commits and illegal and/or criminal act.

  • Rape culture

    A cultural setting in which rape is pervasive and normalized due to societal attitudes about gender and sexuality.

  • Rape Kit

    A package of items used by medical personnel for gathering and preserving physical evidence following the report of a sexual assault. The evidence collected from the victim can aid the criminal rape investigation and the prosecution of a suspected assailant.

  • SANE nurse

    A Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) is a Registered Nurse who has received special training so that s/he can provide comprehensive care to sexual assault victims such as collect forensic evidence necessary to complete a rape kit (see above definition). He/she may also provide expert testimony if a case goes to trial.

  • Self-care

    Any necessary human regulatory function which is under individual control, deliberate and self-initiated. Generally self care is practiced to provide the individual with comfort, happiness, peace of mind, etc. Can include but is not limited to: exercise, hobbies, sleep, therapy and preventive medicines/care.

  • Sexual assault

    Any involuntary sexual act in which a person is coerced or physically forced to engage against their will, or any non-consensual sexual touching of a person. Sexual assault is a form of sexual violence, and it includes rape (groping, forced kissing, child sexual abuse, etc. Under Colorado law, sexual assault specifically refers to acts of sexual intrusion or penetration. (C.R.S. 13-3-402).

  • Stalking

    Unwanted or obsessive attention by an individual or group towards another person. Stalking behaviors are related to harassment and intimidation and may include following the victim in person or monitoring them.

  • Statutory rape

    Sexual relations involving someone below the "age of consent." People below the age of consent cannot legally consent to having sex. This means that sex with them, by definition, violates the law.

  • Unlawful sexual contact

    In Colorado, nonconsensual sexual contact that does not involve sexual intrusion or penetration is an Unlawful Sexual Contact. (C.R.S. 13-3-404).

  • Voyeurism

    The sexual interest in or practice of spying on people engaged in intimate behaviors, such as undressing, sexual activity, or other actions usually considered to be of a private nature. The voyeur does not normally interact directly with the subject of his/her interest, who is often unaware of being observed. The essence of voyeurism is the observing but may also involve the making of a secret photograph or video of the subject during an intimate activity.

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