TERMS AND DEFINITIONS
Sexual Misconduct is a broad term used to encompass a range of behaviors including but not limited to sexual harassment, sexual assault, coercion, sexual exploitation, dating violence, domestic violence, relationship violence, stalking and/or acts perpetrated against a person’s will or when a person is incapable of giving consent. All such acts of sexual misconduct are prohibited by Olin College.
Some behaviors covered by these definitions might be referred to as rape or sexual battery in criminal statutes. Terms that are also used culturally include date rape, acquaintance rape, or intimate partner violence. Sexual misconduct can occur between individuals who know each other, have an established relationship, have previously engaged in consensual sexual activity, and between individuals who do not know each other. Sexual misconduct can be committed by persons of any gender identity, and it can occur between people of the same or different sex.
Sexual Assault: Engaging in physical sexual acts with someone who has not given her/his/their consent or who is incapable of giving consent. It includes any touching or fondling, either directly or through the clothing, of the victim’s genitals, breasts, thighs, or buttocks (intimate parts) without the victim’s consent. Examples of such behavior include but are not limited to: kissing, touching the intimate parts of another, and disrobing someone else. Sexual assault also includes touching or fondling of the accused by the victim when the victim is forced to do so against his or her will. Sexual assault also includes any nonconsensual acts involving penetration (however slight) of the sex organs, anus, or mouth. The penetration could be by a body part or an object. Attempting any of the behaviors listed here can also be considered sexual assault.
Incapacitation is the inability, temporarily or permanently, to give consent, because the individual is mentally and/or physically helpless due to drug or alcohol consumption, either voluntarily or involuntarily, or the individual is unconscious, asleep or otherwise unaware that the sexual activity is occurring. In addition, an individual is incapacitated if she/he/they demonstrate that they are unaware of where they are, how they got there, or why or how they became engaged in a sexual interaction. Where alcohol is involved, incapacitation is a state beyond drunkenness or intoxication.
Sexual harassment: Sexual harassment consists of two basic types:
- Intimidating, Hostile, or Demeaning Environment - Any unwelcome action, verbal expression, usually repeated or persistent, or series of actions or expressions that have either the intent, or are reasonably perceived as having the effect, of creating an intimidating, hostile, or demeaning educational, employment, or living environment for a student or College employee, either by being sexual in nature or by focusing on a person's gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. An intimidating, hostile, or demeaning environment is defined as one that is so severe, pervasive, or objectively offensive that it interferes with a person's ability to learn, exist in living conditions, work (if employed by the College), or have access and opportunity to participate in all and any aspect of campus life.
A single or isolated incident of sexual harassment may create a hostile environment if the incident is sufficiently severe. The more severe the conduct, the less need there is to show a repetitive series of incidents to provide a hostile environment, particularly if the harassment is physical.
- Quid Pro Quo Harassment - Any action in which submission to conduct of a sexual nature is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual's education, grades, recommendations, or extra-curricular or employment opportunities.
In either type of sexual harassment noted in 1) or 2) above, the effect will be evaluated based on the standard of a reasonable person in the position of the Complainant.
Forms of prohibited sexual harassment
In some cases, sexual harassment is obvious and may involve an overt action, a threat or reprisal. In other instances, sexual harassment is subtle and indirect, with a coercive aspect that is unstated.
Sexual harassment can take many forms:
- It can occur between persons of equal power status (e.g., student to student, staff to staff, faculty member to faculty member, visitor/contracted employee to staff) or between persons of unequal power status (e.g. supervisor to subordinate, faculty member to student, coach to student-athlete, student leader to first-year student). Although sexual harassment often occurs in the context of an exploitation of power by the individual with the greater power, a person who appears to have less power in a relationship can also commit sexual harassment (e.g., student harassing faculty member).
- It can be committed by an individual or may be a result of the collective actions of an organization or group.
- It can be committed against an individual, an organization or a group.
- It can be committed by an acquaintance, a stranger, or someone with whom the Complainant has a personal, intimate or sexual relationship.
- It can occur by or against an individual of any sex, gender identity, gender expression or sexual orientation.
- It does NOT have to include intent to harm, be directed at a specific target, or involve repeated incidents.
While it is not possible to list all circumstances that may constitute sexual harassment, the following are some examples of conduct which, if unwelcome, may constitute sexual harassment depending upon the totality of the circumstances including the severity of the conduct and its pervasiveness:
- Unwanted sexual innuendo, propositions, sexual attention or suggestive comments and gestures; humor and jokes about sex or gender-specific traits; sexual slurs or derogatory language directed at another person’s sexuality, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation or gender expression; insults and threats based on sex, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation or gender expression; and other oral, written or electronic communications of a sexual nature that an individual communicates is unwanted and unwelcome;
- Written graffiti or the display or distribution of sexually explicit drawings, pictures, or written materials; sexually charged name-calling; sexual rumors or ratings of sexual activity/performance; or the circulation, display, or creation of e-mails or Web sites of a sexual nature.
- Display or circulation of written materials or pictures degrading to an individual(s) or gender group where such display is not directly related to an educational/pedagogical, artistic, or work goal. When an instructor determines it is necessary to include such materials in classroom instruction, discussion, or required studies/reading, it is expected that the instructor will offer prior warnings concerning the intent to display or introduce such explicit materials. Instructors are encouraged to attempt to accommodate individuals who find such materials upsetting or triggering by allowing for alternative means of fulfilling course requirements.
- Unwelcome and objectively inappropriate physical contact or suggestive body language, such as touching, patting, pinching, hugging, kissing, or brushing against an individual’s body;
- Undue and unwanted attention, such as repeated flirting, objectively inappropriate or repetitive compliments about clothing or physical attributes, staring, or making sexually oriented gestures;
- Physical coercion or pressure of an individual to engage in sexual activity or punishment for a refusal to respond or comply with sexual advances;
- Change of academic or employment responsibilities (increase in difficulty or decrease of responsibility) based on sex, gender identity, sexual orientation or gender expression;
- Use of a position of power or authority to: (1) threaten or punish, either directly or by implication, for refusing to tolerate harassment, for refusing to submit to sexual activity, or for reporting harassment; or (2) promise rewards in return for sexual favors;
- Sexual assault;
- Abusive, disruptive or harassing behavior, whether verbal or physical, which endangers another's mental or physical health, including but not limited to threats, acts of violence, or assault based on gender related status and/or in the context of intimate partner violence;
- Demeaning verbal or other expressive behavior of a sexual or gendered nature in instructional settings; and
- Acts of verbal, nonverbal, or physical aggression, intimidation, or hostility based on sex or sex-stereotyping. Harassment for exhibiting what is perceived as a stereotypical characteristic for one’s sex, or for failing to conform to stereotypical notions of masculinity and femininity, regardless of actual or perceived gender related status of the harasser or her/his/their target.
Intimate partner violence (dating violence, domestic violence, and relationship violence) is defined as the use of physical violence, coercion, manipulation, threats, intimidation, isolation, or other forms of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse toward a partner in a current or former intimate relationship. For this policy, “intimate relationship” means marriage, domestic partnership, engagement, casual or serious romantic involvement, and dating. Intimate partner violence can occur between persons of any gender identity, any sexual orientation, and it can occur in any type of intimate relationship including monogamous, non-committed, and relationships involving more than two partners. Intimate partner violence can be a single act or a pattern of behavior. Intimate partner violence is sometimes referred to as dating violence, relationship abuse, or domestic violence.
Intimate partner violence can take many forms. Examples include, but are not limited to, situations in which the following behaviors are directed toward a partner in a current or former intimate relationship: hitting, kicking, punching, strangling, or other violence; property damage; threat of violence to one’s self, one’s partner, or the family members, friends, pets, or personal property of the partner; threat to disclose personal or sensitive information; and depriving the partner access to his/her residence.
Stalking occurs when an individual engages in a course of conduct directed at a specific person under circumstances that would cause a reasonable person to fear bodily injury or to experience substantial emotional distress. Course of conduct means two or more acts, including but not limited to acts in which a person directly, indirectly, or through third parties, by any action, method, device, or means follows, monitors, observes, surveils, threatens, or communicates to or about another person, or interferes with another person’s property. Substantial emotional distress means significant mental suffering or anguish.
Consent is informed, knowing and voluntary permission for sexual activity. Consent is active, not passive. Silence, in and of itself, cannot be interpreted as consent. Consent is mutually understandable words or actions which indicate willingness to participate in mutually agreed-upon sexual activity. Mutually understandable is when a reasonable person would consider the words and/or actions of the parties to have expressed a mutually understandable agreement between them to do the same thing, in the same way, at the same time, with one another. In the absence of mutually understandable words or actions, it is the responsibility of the initiator, or the person who wants to engage in the specific sexual activity, to make sure that they have the consent from their partner(s) prior to initiating sexual activity.
Consent to one form of sexual activity cannot imply consent to other forms of sexual activity. Previous relationships or consent cannot imply consent to future sexual acts. Previous relationships or consent cannot imply consent to future sexual acts. Consent cannot be procured by use of physical force, compelling threats, intimidating behavior, or coercion. Consent cannot be given when your ability to give consent has been impaired.
The legal age for consent is defined by the state of Massachusetts. More information available at:
Force may include words, conduct, or appearance. It can include 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. Non-physical threats can also be a form of force.
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.
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 the other sexual misconduct offenses. Examples of sexual exploitation include, but are not limited to:
- Making public sexual activity without the consent of the involved parties;
- Prostituting another student;
- Using technology to record or broadcast sexual activity without the consent of the involved parties, this includes but is not limited to 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);
- Voyeurism; and
- Knowingly transmitting an STI or HIV to another student.
Reproductive coercion is representative of explicit male behaviors to promote pregnancy (unwanted by the woman). Reproductive coercion can include “birth control sabotage” or interference with contraception and/or “pregnancy coercion” in which the woman is told not to use contraception or threatened if she doesn’t get pregnant.
Aiding or facilitating sexual misconduct: Promoting or encouraging the commission of any behavior prohibited under this policy. Aiding or facilitating may also include failing to take action to prevent an imminent act when it is reasonably prudent and safe to do so. Actions that can be taken to prevent sexual misconduct may include direct intervention, calling Public Safety or local law enforcement, or seeking assistance from a person in authority.
Retaliation occurs when an individual or individuals act or attempt to retaliate or seek retribution against a complainant, respondent, witness, or any individual or group of individuals involved in the investigation and/or resolution of an allegation of sexual misconduct. Retaliation may include abuse or violence, other forms of harassment, and/or making false statements about another person in print or verbally with intent to harm their reputation.
Other misconduct offenses will fall under Title IX when sex or gender-based, such as:
- Threatening or causing physical harm, extreme verbal abuse, or other conduct which threatens or endangers the health or safety of any person;
- Discrimination, defined as actions that deprive other members of the community of educational or employment access, benefits or opportunities on the basis of gender;
- Intimidation, defined as implied threats or acts that cause an unreasonable fear of harm in another;
- Hazing, defined as acts likely to cause physical or psychological harm or social ostracism to any person within the college community, when related to the admission, initiation, pledging, joining, or any other group-affiliation activity;
- Bullying, defined as repeated and/or severe aggressive behavior likely to intimidate or intentionally hurt, control or diminish another person, physically or mentally (that is not speech or conduct otherwise protected by the 1st amendment);
- Violence between those in an intimate relationship with each other;
- Stalking, defined as repetitive and/or menacing pursuit, following, harassment and/or interference with the peace and/or safety of a member of the community; or the safety of any of the immediate family members of the community.