Definitions of Sexual Misconduct and Related Terms[1]

Sexual misconduct is unwanted conduct of a sexual nature that constitutes sexual harassment, sexual assault, relationship violence (including domestic violence and dating violence), or stalking, and includes related acts of retaliation.  

Sexual harassment is defined as any unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature, including sexual advances, request for sexual favors, or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual or gender-based nature when:

  1. Submission to such conduct is made explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual's employment or academic relationship; or

  2. Submission to or rejection of such conduct is used as a basis for making an employment or academic decision affecting an individual; or

  3. Such conduct has the purpose or effect of interfering with an individual's work or academic performance, denying or limiting an individual’s ability to participate in or benefit from the University’s education programs, or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment for work or academic pursuit.

Interpretive guidance:

  • A hostile or offensive environment exists when conduct is severe or pervasive.  Factors to be considered in determining whether conduct is severe or pervasive include the nature, scope, frequency, and duration of the conduct and the number of persons involved. Simple teasing, offhand comments, or isolated incidents that are not severe or pervasive do not create a hostile or offensive environment.

  • If an issue of sexual harassment is raised in strictly academic areas, such as coursework, the matter will be handled in consultation and coordination between IDEAA and the Executive Vice President or Dean of the faculty member’s school because such matters may also implicate issues of academic freedom.   

  • To constitute sexual harassment, the conduct in question must be objectively intimidating, hostile or offensive, and must interfere with a person’s ability to participate in employment or educational programs or activities of the University.  The victim’s perception of the offensiveness of the alleged conduct, standing alone, is not sufficient by itself to constitute sexual harassment.  

  • Sexual harassment is especially serious when it occurs between teachers and students or supervisors and subordinates.  In such situations, sexual harassment unfairly exploits the power inherent in a faculty member's or supervisor's position. Although sexual harassment often occurs when one person takes advantage of a position of authority over another, the University recognizes that sexual harassment may also occur between people of equivalent status. This includes peer sexual harassment. Regardless of the form it may take, the University will not tolerate unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature that creates an unacceptable working or educational environment.

Sexual assault is a forcible or non-forcible sexual act or sexual contact that occurs without the consent or permission of the other person.  Sexual assault is divided into five categories, described below.  Sanctions may vary depending on the category of offense.  

  1. Engaging in a sexual act with the use of force; use of threats or fear; after rendering the person unconscious; or by administering a drug, intoxicant, or other substance that substantially impairs the ability of the other person to appraise or control his or her conduct.  

  2. Engaging a sexual act where the person knows or reasonably should know that the other person is incapable of appraising the nature of the conduct; incapable of declining participation in the sexual conduct; incapable of communicating unwillingness to engage in the sexual conduct; or incapable of giving consent (such as when the person is incapacitated due to alcohol use). 

  3. Engaging in sexual contact with another person with the use of force; use of threats or fear; after rendering the person unconscious; or by administering a drug, intoxicant, or other substance that substantially impairs the ability of the other person to appraise or control his or her conduct.  

  4. Engaging in sexual contact where the person knows or reasonably should know that the other person is incapable of appraising the nature of the conduct; incapable of declining participation in the sexual conduct; incapable of communicating unwillingness to engage in the sexual conduct; or incapable of giving consent (such as when the person is incapacitated due to alcohol use).  

  5. Engaging in a sexual act or sexual contact with another person with knowledge or reason to know that the sexual act or sexual contact was committed without the person’s permission or consent.    

For purposes of this definition, the following terms are defined:

Sexual act is penetration, however slight, of the anus or vulva of another by a penis; contact between the mouth and the penis, vulva, or anus; or the penetration, however slight, of the anus or vulva by a hand or finger or by any object, with an intent to abuse, humiliate, harass, degrade, or arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person.  The emission of semen is not required to be considered a sexual act. 

Sexual contact means the touching with any clothed or unclothed body part or any object, either directly or through the clothing, of the genitalia, anus, groin, breast, inner thigh, or buttocks of any person with an intent to abuse, humiliate, harass, degrade, or arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person.  

Consent is words or overt actions indicating a freely given agreement to the sexual act or sexual contact in question.  

Interpretive guidance:

  • The willingness to participate must be clearly indicated prior to any sexual act or sexual contact.

  • If at any time during the sexual act or sexual contact any confusion or ambiguity should arise on the issue of consent, it is incumbent upon the

  • individual to stop the activity and clarify, verbally, the other’s willingness to continue.  

  • A verbal “no,” even if it may sound indecisive or insincere, constitutes lack of consent.

  • The absence of an overt action or an explicit verbal response to a verbal request for consent constitutes lack of consent.  

  • It is expected that, once consent has been established, a person who changes his/her mind during the sexual act or sexual contact will communicate through words or overt actions his/her decision to no longer proceed.

  • Past consent to sexual act or sexual contact does not imply future ongoing consent, and the fact that two persons are in an on-going relationship shall not preclude the possibility that sexual misconduct might occur within that relationship.

  • A person’s use of alcohol and/or other drugs shall not diminish such person’s responsibility to obtain consent.  

  • Lack of verbal or physical resistance, or submission by the unwilling participant, when such submission results from the use of force, threats, or coercion by the respondent shall not constitute consent.  

  • A person is considered incapable of giving consent if he/she is asleep, unconscious, and/or losing and regaining consciousness, or clearly mentally or physically incapacitated, for example, by alcohol and/or other drugs (signs of incapacitation include, but are not limited to, difficulty walking, inability to speak in a coherent manner, vomiting or the presence of vomit, etc.).  

Force means the use or threatened use of a weapon; the use of such physical strength or violence as is sufficient to overcome, restrain, or injure a person; or the use of a threat of harm sufficient to coerce or compel submission by another person.   

Forcible is defined as any sexual act or sexual contact directed against another person, with force and/or against that person’s will; or without force or against the person’s will where the victim is incapable of giving consent.   

Relationship violence means a violent or threatening familial or intimate partner relationship that causes one to fear for his/her safety or causes physical or psychological injury, pain, or illness.  Relationship violence includes:

Domestic violence:  an intrafamily offense that results in physical injury, including physical pain or illness, or that caused or was intended to cause reasonable fear of imminent serious physical injury or death.  

Dating violence:  an offense against an intimate partner (romantic, dating, or sexual relationship) that results in physical injury, including physical pain or illness or that caused or was intended to cause reasonable fear of imminent serious physical injury or death.  

Stalking is a course of conduct directed at a specific individual with the intent to cause that individual (or where the person knows or should have known that it would cause the individual) to fear for his or her safety or the safety of another person; feel seriously alarmed, disturbed, or frightened; or suffer emotional distress.    

Student means an individual who is registered or enrolled as a student at the University (or where there is an expectation of continued enrollment) at the time the alleged sexual misconduct occurred and at the time a complaint is made to the University.  For purposes of this policy, a student includes a graduate student with instructional responsibilities.

Employee means a person who is employed by the University at the time the alleged sexual misconduct occurred and at the time the grievance procedures are invoked.  

 

[1] The definitions used in this policy are based on federal and/or state law, as applicable.  Under the Violence Against Women Act, institutions are required to define terms in accordance with state law.  In such circumstances, this policy uses terms as defined in the District of Columbia.