Sexual Assault, Violence & Violence Prevention
The Towson University Counseling Center is here to assist students who have experienced sexual violence. We also work hard to educate the university community about sexual violence and violence prevention.
What is Sexual Violence?
Sexual violence is an umbrella term that encompasses many different acts such as relationship violence, sexual assault, sexual exploitation, sexual harassment, sexual intimidation, stalking, and child sexual abuse. See the educational material below to learn more about these terms.
If you or someone you know has experienced sexual violence, you do not have to face the situation alone. Come to us for assistance and support. Call 410-704-2512 to speak with one of our counselors.
TU Counseling Center
TU Counseling Center: 410-704-2512
The Health Center
The Health Center: 410-704-2466
- Free services for survivors
- Emergency contraception, exams, and certain testing and lab work
- Even if you are unsure whether you want to press charges, the HC can provide care and assistance with your decision making.
SAPE and SHAG
- The Sexual Assault Peer Education (SAPE) Program is a group of students committed to preventing sexual violence at Towson University and beyond. They promote consent, empower active bystanders, teach healthy communication, and support survivors by educating our peers and ourselves.
- The Sexual Health Awareness Group (SHAG) is a group of students who provide non-judgmental, inclusive sexuality education to the campus community. They are a volunteer group who share the common interest in eradicating sex-related stigma, promoting body autonomy, and good consensual sex for those who want it.
CARE Team: 410-704-2055 or submit a CARE form online
- If you are concerned about the well-being of a TU community member
Towson University Police Department
Title IX Coordinator
Title IX Coordinator: 410-704-0203
- Individuals who have experienced sexual violence may request a change of on-campus living, class schedule or other accommodations related to sexual violence.
- Contact Towson’s Title IX Coordinator to discuss accommodations
Report Sexual Violence
Report sexual violence by submitting an online report to the Office of Inclusion & Institutional Equity
Safewalk: 410-704-7233 (SAFE)
- Provides uniformed police aides and police officers to escort individuals of the campus community walking on campus alone 24 hours a day
- On-call service currently being provided from 11:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. daily. Pick-up & drop off service is available to all areas on the campus and University Village that are accessible with a vehicle.
Center for Student Diversity
Center for Student Diversity provides academic, social, and transition support for underserved students and promotes exchanges and dialogue between individuals of diverse backgrounds and identities.
You can seek care at any local hospital even if you think you don’t want to press charges.
Sexual Assault Forensic Exams (S.A.F.E.)
Both GBMC and Mercy hospitals perform SAFE. If you think you may want to press charges, you may want to receive a SAFE exam to preserve evidence. The exam must be completed as soon as possible after the assault (typically within 120 hours).
Greater Baltimore Medical Center (GBMC)
6701 N. Charles St. Towson, MD 21204
Mercy Medical Center
345 St Paul Pl, Baltimore, MD 21202
Sexual Violence Counseling, Advocacy, and Related Resources
Provides counseling and support services to those impacted by human trafficking, sexual and intimate partner violence. Offers individual and group trauma therapy, advocacy and resources, community engagement and training, abuser intervention programs, crisis response services, and legal referral coordination.
24-hour Crisis Helpline: 443-270-0379
Crisis Text Line: 410-498-5956
Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network: (RAINN)
The nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization. Talk to a trained staff member from your local sexual assault service provider.
1-800-656-HOPE (4673) | CHAT online with a trained staff member who can provide you confidential crisis support.
Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault (MCASA)
Works to help prevent sexual assault, advocate for accessible, compassionate care for survivors of sexual violence, and work to hold offenders accountable. They provide helpful information regarding what to do after an experience of sexual violence, offer rape crisis center locators, and make many other resources available.
Sexual Assault Legal Institute (SALI)
Provides comprehensive legal services to survivors of sexual violence statewide, as well as training and technical assistance for professionals working with survivors.
National Coalition Against Domestic Violence
Does not provide direct services; however, they offer several other resources to support efforts to change conditions that lead to domestic violence (e.g., patriarchy, privilege, racism, sexism, and classism).
National Human Trafficking Resource Center/Polaris Project
Operates the U.S. National Human Trafficking Hotline and offer many resources
1-888-373-7888 | Text: HELP to BeFree (233733) | CHAT
National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights
Work to defend and expand the rights of all immigrants and refugees
National Coalition for the Homeless
National network that works attends to the immediate needs of those experiencing homelessness while protecting their civil rights
One Love Foundation
Educate young people about healthy and unhealthy relationships
What is Sexual Violence?
An all-encompassing (non-legal) term that refers to many different acts including those listed below:
- Sexual Assault: Any nonconsensual sexual contact, including but not limited to nonconsensual vaginal, anal, or oral penetration
- Relationship Violence: Verbal, emotional, financial, psychological, or sexual abuse of a current or former intimate partner
- Sexual Exploitation: Nonconsensual or abusive sexual behavior for one’s own benefit or the benefit of another; including recording or distributing sexual photographs or videos without consent
- Sexual Harassment: Unwelcome verbal or physical sexual advances that interfere with work or school
- Sexual Intimidation: Verbal threats of sexual violence; indecent exposure or flashing
- Stalking: Actions that would cause someone to fear for their safety, including following, surveilling, or threatening a person or their property
- Child Sexual Abuse: Children cannot consent to any form of sexual activity thus any sexual activity with an individual under age 18 is sexual abuse. This is not limited to physical contact such as vaginal, oral, or anal intercourse. It includes acts such as exposing oneself or masturbating in the presence of a minor, obscene phone calls, text messages, or digital interactions, producing, owning, or sharing pornographic images or videos of children, and any other sexual conduct that is harmful to a child's wellbeing.
What is Consent?
Consent is voluntary, affirmative, and active agreement to a sexual activity. Sexual activity WITHOUT consent is sexual violence. Consent is:
- Active: Consent must be mutually understood affirmative words or actions, it can NOT be implied through silence or previous sexual or dating history.
- Coherent: If someone is incapacitated from alcohol or drugs, asleep, or otherwise mentally impaired, they are not able to consent to sexual activity.
- Ongoing: Voluntary and affirmative agreement is necessary for every sexual activity, every time. Past consent does not apply to present or future acts, and consent can be withdrawn at any time.
- Willing: Consent must be given freely, it can NOT be granted under psychological, emotional, or physical force, manipulation, persuasion, or threats.
How Might Our Minds and Bodies Respond During an Experience of Sexual Violence?
When we encounter threatening situations, our bodies and minds are designed to respond quickly and automatically to survive. Given that we are social beings, this can include complex social situations such as the risk of damaging our relationships through conflict. Some common responses include:
- Freeze: Become incapable of moving, thinking, or making a choice
- Fawn: People-pleasing to diffuse conflict and reestablish a sense of safety. Typically, this involves ignoring one’s own desires or needs and appeasing the other person to avoid conflict.
- Flight: Getting away from the situation
- Fight: Becoming aggressive verbally or physically
Common Responses After Experiences of Sexual Violence
- Loss of Interest
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Low mood, depression
- Decreased concentration
- Academic decline
- Intrusive memories, flashbacks
- Increased startle response
- Shame, self-blame, self-hatred
- Emotional overwhelm, Panic attacks
- Self-destructive behaviors
- Limited or no memories of the event
- Social and/or romantic difficulties
- Changes in sleep, insomnia
- Changes in eating, eating disorders
- Chronic pain, headaches
- Overusing substances
In Order to Address Common Misconceptions, It’s Important to Know:
- Not “fighting” back or “fleeing” the situation does not mean that you wanted the incident to occur.
- Physiological arousal responses such as lubrication, erection, or orgasm are not indicators of consent and does not mean that the person wanted the sexual activity to occur. These are automatic bodily reactions, not conscious choices.
- Each person’s response to sexual violence is unique and, while many individuals share common reactions, this can look different for everyone, and may change over time. Just because a person does not feel or look distressed in the moment, does not mean that they did not experience sexual violence or that it was “not that bad.”
- Individuals who have experienced sexual violence sometimes blame themselves for certain aspects of what happened. You were NOT “asking for it” or responsible for sexual violence no matter the circumstances leading to this event. For example, you are not to blame even if you were intoxicated, wearing a revealing outfit, went to someone’s room, or were okay with some sexual activity but not everything that happened.
- Sexual violence does not just happen to female identified individuals. This is an experience that can happen to individuals of all gender identities.
- False reports of sexual violence are extremely rare. It’s important to support individuals who share that they have experienced sexual violence and to let them know that they are believed.
- Most instances of sexual violence occur between individuals who know each other.
How Can We Support Others After They Experience Sexual Violence?
1) Adjust and attune to the individual.
Use active listening skills such as:
- Body: open and relaxed posture, comfortable gaze
- Voice: calm tone, volume, and cadence
- Express: genuine warmth and compassion
2) Allow for choice and control.
- Don't make assumptions as to what others need. Ask them.
- Invite them to do what they perceive as necessary to feel as safe as possible (e.g., going for a walk, having time alone, getting support together)
3) Be thoughtful about what you say and do.
It can be difficult to know what to say. Recognize that we may make mistakes and invite others to give us feedback about our interaction.
Validate the Individuals emotions:
- “It’s understandable that you feel that way given what happened.”
- “Others would feel that way too if that happened to them.”
- Acknowledge that the experience has affected their life.
- “I’m sorry this happened.”
- “That is such a difficult experience”
- If you feel comfortable doing so, let the survivor know that you are there for them
and open to listening.
- “I appreciate you sharing this with me.”
- “I care about you and am here to listen or help in any way I can.”
- “You are not alone.”
- Support them in getting connected with others who can help by:
- Asking if there are people in their life, they feel comfortable going to
- Reminding them that there are service providers who will be able to support them as they heal from the experience.
Express your belief in their experience:
- It can be difficult for survivors to come forward and share their experience. They
may feel ashamed, concerned that they won’t be believed, or worried they’ll be blamed.
You could say:
- “It took a lot of courage to tell me about this.”
- “I believe you.”
Address possible self-blame:
- Survivors may blame themselves. Remind them that they are not to blame
- "It’s not your fault.”
- “You didn’t do anything to deserve this.”
Avoid expressing negative judgments:
- Try not to ask any “why” questions about the survivor’s behavior.
- Everyone responds to traumatic events differently. Be careful not to interpret calmness as a sign that the event did not occur.
- There is no “right” amount of time to heal. Try not to say phrases that suggest they’re
taking too long to recover, such as:
- “You’ve been acting like this for a while now.”
Check in sometimes:
- The event may have happened a while ago, but that doesn’t mean the pain is gone.
- Check in with the survivor to remind them you still care about their well-being and believe their experience.
4) Use your resources.
Being a strong support doesn’t mean you should attempt to manage someone else’s experience of sexual violence on your own. See our list of resources above to get connected to more support.