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Sexual Harassment and Assault – Response and Education

Recognize signs and behaviors

There are often no signs or indications that someone known, and possibly trusted, is capable of harm. But there may be some questionable behaviors that suggest an individual is capable of perpetrating abuse or sexual assault. Those harmed by  abusive partners or  who are sexually assaulted are never to blame for what has happened or for not recognizing the risk ahead of time.

The signs and behaviors listed below are indicators that suggest unhealthy patterns that can potentially lead to harm or in the more extreme examples, are harmful. Knowing the signs and behaviors that are abusive is the first step to seeking help or in helping an individual who may be involved in an unhealthy relationship.

Domestic/dating/intimate partner violence encompasses physical, psychological, sexual, economic, and emotional harm by a current or former partner or spouse. It not only impacts victims, but can negatively affect family members, friends, co-workers, other witnesses, and the community at large.

This type of violence or abuse can happen to anyone: partners who are married, living together, or dating, even if there is no sexual intimacy. It can affect straight or same-sex couples and people of all socioeconomic backgrounds and education levels.

The list below provides some examples of behaviors that demonstrate abuse in a relationship, or behaviors that could lead to abuse:

  • A partner gets too serious about the relationship too fast and feels possessive
  • A partner is always checking up on you, is always calling or texting, and always needs to know where you are and who you are with at all times
  • A partner isolates you from your friends and family by demanding your time or threatening you when you try to spend time with others
  • A partner acts extremely jealous when you talk to others
  • A partner calls you names and puts you down
  • A partner is abusive and loses their temper, but always excuses themselves or doesn’t accept responsibility for their actions
  • A partner tries to control you by making all the decisions and telling you what you should and should not do
  • A partner demands sexual intimacy when you are not willing or interested
  • A partner threatens violence
  • A partner physically, verbally, or sexually assaults you

In response, often you may

  • Give up things that are important to you
  • Cancel plans with friends to appease the other person
  • Worry about making your partner angry
  • Feel embarrassed or ashamed about what is going on your relationship
  • Make excuses for your partner’s behavior

(Adapted from

Stalking occurs when a person repeatedly watches, follows or harasses you, making you feel afraid, unsafe, or uncomfortable. It is intentional and often uncontrolled. A stalker can be someone you know, a past boyfriend or girlfriend, or a stranger. Here are some examples of what a stalker may do:

  • Send you unwanted text messages, letters, emails, and voicemails, often repeatedly and numerous
  • Show up at your residence or place of work unannounced or uninvited
  • Leave items like gifts or flowers that could seem romantic or non-threatening but are unwanted
  • Follow you with or without your knowledge
  • Use social networking sites and technology to track you or repeatedly try to engage you
  • Spread rumors about you via the internet or word of mouth
  • Call your employer, professor, or family
  • Wait at places you hang out or outside your classroom or residence
  • Try to get information about you through others, e.g. looking at your Facebook page through someone else’s page or befriending your friends in order to get more information about you
  • Damage your home, car, or other property

(Adapted from website)

These lists are not inclusive of all dangerous or abusive behaviors. If you think you or someone you know is being abused or stalked on campus, or has been victimized in other ways, seek resources and support to help. For immediate action, call the Cornell Police (607-255-1111)


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