Domestic violence is often defined by a pattern of behavior used to gain and maintain control over a partner.  Domestic violence is not limited to physical abuse. It often includes sexual, emotional, psychological, or economic abuse. Through actions and sometimes just the threat of action, one partner asserts control over the other partner through manipulation, humiliation, blame, fear and anxiety.

Domestic and sexual violence affect all populations and people in all types of relationships, from all different cultural backgrounds, socio-economic statuses, and sexual identities. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence estimates that 1 in 3 women will experience violence in a relationship during their lifetime; however only 1/4 of all physical assaults, 1/5 of all rapes, 1/2 of all stalkings perpetuated against females by intimate partners are reported to the police.

In New York State, sexual assault is defined as any sexual act in which an individual is forced or coerced to engage in a sexual act. Sexual assault is any involuntary sexual act in which a person does not or cannot consent. In NYS, sexual assault includes forced sexual contact, rape, sexual intercourse, forcible sodomy, child molestation, incest, fondling, or sexual harassment.

Like domestic violence, sexual assault is an act of power, in which one person uses violence, the threat of violence, manipulation, or coercion to force another person to engage in a sexual activity. Sexual assault can happen to anyone, regardless of their age, race, socioeconomic class, or sexual identity.