A Guide for Talking about Relationships, Consent, and Sexual Violence

Students at the Pittsburgh Universities Believe Survivors march through Oakland in April 2023.

Pitt is deeply committed to eradicating all forms of sexual misconduct on campus.

In early 2020 the University opened the Sexual Violence Prevention & Education Office. This office works with campus partners to facilitate sexual violence prevention programming throughout the year. 

Many of these initiatives include facilitating dialogues with Pitt students around important topics like, healthy relationships, consent, bystander intervention and supporting friends who have experienced sexual violence.

Sex, sexuality, and relationships can be difficult to discuss for many reasons. Still, we know that these conversations are an important part of building a safe and respectful campus. As a result, we ask that you join the movement to eradicate sexual violence by normalizing talking about these issues with people you care about.

This webpage was created to help provide guidance and resources for having these conversations and for learning more about University initiatives, policies and support resources.


Setting the Tone

Think back to a time when you had a serious discussion with someone you cared about. What about that experience felt positive? What would you have done differently?

It is important to normalize having these conversations and providing a safe space to discuss safe relationships, sexual health, and healthy sexuality is a part of that process.

Set group aspirations — decide in advance how everyone will agree to conduct themselves when having a discussion. 


  • Use “I statements” 
  • Practice active listening (instead of listening to respond) 
  • Be open minded 
  • Do not use harsh language 

Back to Top

Discussion Questions

We encourage you to engage in ongoing conversations about consent, healthy relationships and sexuality, dating, and University resources.

We suggest asking open-ended questions that provide the opportunity for dialogue.  If you feel comfortable, you may want to draw on experiences from your own life, TV shows or stories in the media.

Below, we have included discussion questions to help guide these important conversations.  Under “additional resources” you will find videos you can watch and discuss. 

  • What messages have you received about relationships and sexuality?  How have these messages shaped your own thoughts and feelings about relationships? 
  • What does a healthy, fulfilling relationship look like to you?  What does a healthy sexuality look like to you? 
    • Can you name 3 characteristics of a healthy relationships (green flags) 
    • Can you name 3 signs that a relationship is unhealthy? (red flags) 
  • What are some different ways a person can communicate their interests and boundaries in a dating relationship?  What about in a sexual relationship? 
  • What does consent look like to you? 
  • How can the use of drugs or alcohol impact a person’s ability to consent to sexual activity? 
  • What are some examples of pressuring or coercing someone into sex?  What can you do to ensure that your partner(s) does not feel pressured to having sex? 
  • How would you respond if you were worried that a friend was in an abusive or controlling relationship? 
  • How can you support a friend who has experienced sexual violence? 
  • Has there ever been a time where you felt you needed support but were reluctant to reach out? What were some of the barriers that stood in the way of asking for support? 
  • Have you and your friends discussed how you’d like to support one another through difficult times?  
    • Safety Planning: Can you identify 3 people you would call if you’re ever in need of support?  

Back to Top

Defining Sexual Misconduct

Sexual Assault is defined as any sexual act directed against another person, without consent of the victim, including instances where the victim is incapable of giving consent. 

Dating Violence is defined as violence committed by a person who is or has been in a social relationship of a romantic or intimate nature with the victim.  Dating violence includes, but is not limited to, sexual or physical abuse or the threat of such abuse. 

Stalking is defined as engaging in a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to: 

  • Fear for the person’s safety or the safety of others; or 
  • Suffer substantial emotional distress. 

Back to Top

​An Overview of Consent

Consent is actively agreeing to engage in sexual activity with another person(s). Consent is never implied regardless of relationship status or a previous sexual relationship.  Consent is not permanent, it can be withdrawn at any time.

Sexual activity without consent is sexual assault.

Consent is all about communication. When talking about consent, we use the acronym FRIES. Consent is Freely given, Reversible, Informed, Enthusiastic, and Specific. All partners must be willing participants in all sexual activity.

Sex is not consensual if there is pressure, coercion, manipulation, or force involved. A person cannot consent if they are incapacitated due to alcohol or drugs. 

Back to Top

Additional Educational Resources

Back to Top

University Resources and Policies Related to Sexual Violence

Back to Top

University Prevention & Education Initiatives

  • A robust peer-education program, Sexual Assault Facilitation & Education (SAFE), that trains peer educators to engage their peers in dialogue around issues such as healthy relationships, bystander intervention and consent.

  • The Survivor’s Support Network is a community of trained and caring leaders who are knowledgeable about campus and community resources and are committed to supporting survivors.

  • Circle Up! is a student-focused program of OEDI that aims to prevent sexual violence by encouraging students to think about their own sexual agency and respect their peers as well.

  • SETPoint Training offers empowerment-based self-defense (ESD) and the curriculum includes a powerful and preventative approach to reducing sexual violence. SETPoint provides participants with skills and strategies that builds confidence in their ability to make their own choices, to set appropriate boundaries in relationships, to de-escalate situations, to actively resist when boundaries are violated and to advocate for one’s self or others in the event of an assault.

Back to Top


The Sexual Violence Prevention & Education Office is here to answer your questions.  You can contact Carrie Benson at crb103@pitt.edu.

Back to Top