Sexual Violence – Definitions & Examples
1. Sexual Harassment
Sexual Harassment is:
- unwelcome, gender-based verbal or physical conduct that is,
- sufficiently severe, persistent or pervasive that it,
- unreasonably interferes with, denies or limits someone’s ability to participate in or benefit from the university’s educational program and/or activities, and is
- based on power differentials (quid pro quo), the creation of a hostile environment1, or retaliation.2
Examples include: an attempt to coerce an unwilling person into a sexual relationship; to repeatedly subject a person to egregious, unwelcome sexual attention; to punish a refusal to comply with a sexual based request; to condition a benefit on submitting to sexual advances; sexual violence; intimate partner violence, stalking; gender-based bullying.
2. Non-Consensual Sexual Contact
Non-Consensual Sexual Contact is:
- any intentional sexual touching,
- however slight,
- with any object,
- by a man or a woman upon a man or a woman,
- that is without consent and/or by force3.
Sexual Contact includes intentional contact with the breasts, buttock, groin, or genitals, or touching another with any of these body parts, or making another touch you or themselves with or on any of these body parts; any intentional bodily contact in a sexual manner, though not involving contact with/of/by breasts, buttocks, groin, genitals, mouth or other orifice.
3. Non-Consensual Sexual Intercourse
Non-Consensual Sexual Intercourse is:
- any sexual intercourse
- however slight,
- with any object,
- by a man or woman upon a man or a woman,
- that is without consent and/or by force3.
Intercourse includes vaginal penetration by a penis, object, tongue or finger, anal penetration by a penis, object, tongue, or finger, and oral copulation (mouth to genital contact or genital to mouth contact), no matter how slight the penetration or contact.
4. Sexual Exploitation
Occurs when a student takes non-consensual or abusive sexual advantage of another for his/her own advantage or benefit, or to benefit or advantage anyone other than the one being exploited, and that behavior does not otherwise constitute one of other sexual misconduct offenses. Examples of sexual exploitation include, but are not limited to:
- Invasion of sexual privacy;
- Prostituting another student;
- Non-consensual video or audio-taping of sexual activity;
- Going beyond the boundaries of consent (such as letting your friends hide in the closet to watch you having consensual sex);
- Engaging in voyeurism;
- Knowingly transmitting an STI or HIV to another student;
- Exposing one’s genitals in non-consensual circumstances; inducing another to expose their genitals;
- Sexually-based stalking and/or bullying may also be forms of sexual exploitation
5. Sexual Assault
The University defines sexual assault as any sexual contact, including but not limited to intercourse, which occurs without consent and/or that occurs through coercion
6. Additional Applicable Definitions
- Consent is clear, knowing and voluntary. Consent is a clear and freely given agreement for sexual contact.
- Consent is an ongoing process — consent to kissing does not necessarily mean consent to other sexual activity.
- Past consent does not imply future consent — everyone involved must give and receive consent to sexual activity every time, even when involved in a long-term relationship or marriage.
- Silence or an absence of resistance does not imply consent.
- In order for consent to exist, everyone involved must be fully conscious, aware of the situation and free of any coercion.
- Anyone under the age of 18 is a minor and is considered not capable of giving informed consent.
- Anyone under the influence of drugs or alcohol may be deemed as unable to give consent.
- Consent may be withdrawn at any time.
Coercion is any kind of pressure or persuasion used to influence a person’s decision to engage in sexual activity. Coercion can be physical, verbal or emotional.
- Physical coercion is the most recognizable kind of pressure and includes actions such as holding someone down or continued kissing or sexual activity even when being told “no” or being pushed away.
- Verbal coercion includes behaviors like threats of physical violence, blackmailing, lying, name-calling or asking repeatedly for sexual involvement after being told “no.”
- Emotional coercion is the most subtle type of pressure and includes actions like making someone feel obligated or guilty for not wanting to engage in sexual activity, using peer pressure, threatening to break up, etc.
- Sexual assault can happen to both men and women, and both men and women can be sexual assailants. It also can happen between people of the same sex.
- Sexual assault can occur between strangers or people who know each other, even those who are in a long-term relationship or are married.
Force is the use of physical violence and/or imposing on someone physically to gain sexual access. Force also includes threats, intimidation (implied threats) and coercion that overcome resistance or produce consent (“Have sex with me or I’ll hit you. Okay, don’t hit me, I’ll do what you want.”).
- Coercion is unreasonable pressure for sexual activity. Coercive behavior differs from seductive behavior based on the type of pressure someone uses to get consent from another. When someone makes clear to you that they do not want sex, that they want to stop, or that they do not want to go past a certain point of sexual interaction, continued pressure beyond that point can be coercive.
- NOTE: There is no requirement that a party resists the sexual advance or request, but resistance is a clear demonstration of non-consent. The presence of force is not demonstrated by the absence of resistance. Sexual activity that is forced is by definition non-consensual, but non-consensual sexual activity is not by definition forced.
- In order to give effective consent, one must be of legal age.
- Sexual activity with someone who one should know to be — or based on the circumstances should reasonably have known to be — mentally or physically incapacitated (by alcohol or other drug use, unconsciousness or blackout), constitutes a violation of this policy.
- Incapacitation is a state where someone cannot make rational, reasonable decisions because they lack the capacity to give knowing consent (e.g., to understand the “who, what, when, where, why or how” of their sexual interaction).
- This policy also covers a person whose incapacity results from mental disability, sleep, involuntary physical restraint, or from the taking of rape drugs. Possession, use and/or distribution of any of these substances, including Rohypnol, Ketomine, GHB, Burundanga, etc. is prohibited, and administering one of these drugs to another student is a violation of this policy.
- Use of alcohol or other drugs will never function as a defense for any behavior that violates this policy.
- The sexual orientation and/or gender identity of individuals engaging in sexual activity is not relevant to allegations under this policy.
Explore other topics:
- Overview of Policy Expectations with Respect to Physical Sexual Misconduct
- Overview of Policy Expectations with Respect to Consensual Relationships
- Sanction Statement
- Confidentiality, Privacy and Reporting Policy
- Questions and Answers
- A professor insists that a student have sex with him/her in exchange for a good grade. This is harassment regardless of whether the student accedes to the request.
- A student repeatedly sends sexually oriented jokes around on an email list s/he created, even when asked to stop, causing one recipient to avoid the sender on campus and in the residence hall in which they both live.
- Explicit sexual pictures are displayed in a professor’s office, on the exterior of a residence hall door or on a computer monitor in a public space.
- Two supervisors frequently ‘rate’ several employees’ bodies and sex appeal, commenting suggestively about their clothing and appearance.
- A professor engages students in discussions in class about their past sexual experiences, yet the conversation is not in any way germane to the subject matter of the class. She probes for explicit details, and demands that students answer her, though they are clearly uncomfortable and hesitant.
- An ex-girlfriend widely spreads false stories about her sex life with her former boyfriend to the clear discomfort of the boyfriend, turning him into a social pariah on campus
- Male students take to calling a particular brunette student “Monica” because of her resemblance to Monica Lewinsky. Soon, everyone adopts this nickname for her, and she is the target of relentless remarks about cigars, the president, “sexual relations” and Weight Watchers.
- A student grabbed another student by the hair, then grabbed her breast and put his mouth on it.
2 Three Types of Sexual Harassment—Legal Constructs
A. Hostile Environment includes any situation in which there is harassing conduct that is sufficiently severe, pervasive and objectively offensive that it alters the conditions of employment or limits, interferes with or denies educational benefits or opportunities, from both a subjective (the alleged victim’s) and an objective (reasonable person’s) viewpoint.
The determination of whether an environment is “hostile” must be based on all of the circumstances. These circumstances could include:
- The frequency of the conduct;
- The nature and severity of the conduct;
- Whether the conduct was physically threatening;
- Whether the conduct was humiliating;
- The effect of the conduct on the alleged victim’s mental or emotional state;
- Whether the conduct was directed at more than one person;
- Whether the conduct arose in the context of other discriminatory conduct;
- Whether the conduct unreasonably interfered with the alleged victim’s educational or work performance;
- Whether the statement is a mere utterance of an epithet which engenders offense in an employee or student, or offends by mere discourtesy or rudeness
- Whether the speech or conduct deserves the protections of academic freedom or the 1st Amendment.
B. Quid pro quo sexual harassment exists when there are:
- unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature; and
- submission to or rejection of such conduct results in adverse educational or employment action
C. Retaliatory harassment is any adverse employment or educational action taken against a person because of the person’s participation in a complaint or investigation of discrimination or sexual misconduct.
3 The use of force is not “worse” than the subjective experience of violation of someone who has sex without consent. However, the use of physical force constitutes a stand-alone non-sexual offense as well, as it is our expectation that those who use physical force (restrict, battery, etc.) would face not just the sexual misconduct charge, but charges under the code for the additional assaultive behavior.
4 The definition of “consent” provided here is model policy language from ATIXA. The state legal definition of consent may be different but the university is not required to evaluate campus complaints using state legal standards. A listing of all state consent definitions is here: https://atixa.org/resources/consent-statutes-by-state/