Learn about consent and forms of sexual harassment.
Sexual violence is a term often used to encompass a variety of gender-based or sexualized forms of violence. Individuals of any age, gender, and sexual orientation can experience sexual violence, and perpetrators of sexual violence can be acquaintances, family members, romantic partners, or strangers.
View the WPI Sexual Misconduct Policy.
Consent is the positive, unambiguous, and voluntary agreement to engage in specific sexual activity throughout a sexual encounter. Consent must be an informed, deliberate and voluntary decision to engage in mutually acceptable sexual activity.
It is the responsibility of the person who initiates sexual activity to make sure consent is received from any other person(s) involved. WPI recognizes that there are a wide variety of sexual interactions, that there is no single way to communicate consent, and that context matters. At all times, each party is free to choose where, when, and how they participate in sexual activity.
Consent is active not passive. The absence of "no" is not consent. Consent must be received for each sexual act.
It is important to remember:
- Consent to one sexual act does not constitute or imply consent to another act.
- Consent cannot be assumed based on the parties’ relationship or sexual history.
- Previous consent does not imply consent to future sexual activity.
- Consent can be withdrawn at any time before or during sexual activity.
Consent is not:
- Silence or a lack of objection or not fighting back.
- Hesitant. These phrases do not indicate enthusiastic consent: “I guess so…”, "I don't know", "Maybe"
- Implied from previous sexual activity.
- Assumed by partners in a relationship.
- Forced by violence, threat of violence, emotional pressure, or deception.
Sexual assault is any intentional sexual contact or activity that occurs without the consent of any individual involved.
Sexual Harassment is unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature, including sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other verbal, nonverbal, or physical conduct of a sexual nature, when:
- Submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual’s employment or academic standing;
- Submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for significant employment decisions (such as advancement, performance evaluation, or work schedule) or academic decisions (such as grading or letters of recommendation) affecting that individual; or
- The conduct is sufficiently severe or pervasive that a reasonable person would consider it intimidating, hostile, or abusive and it adversely affects an individual’s educational, work, or living environment.
Other names for Relationship Abuse include: Dating Violence, Domestic Violence, Interpersonal Violence.
Relationship abuse is defined as behavior that serves to exercise control and power in an intimate relationship. The behaviors can be physical, sexual, psychological, verbal and/or emotional.
Relationship abuse can occur between current or former intimate partners who have dated, lived together, have a child together, currently reside together on or off campus, or who have otherwise connected through a past or existing relationship. Anyone can experience relationship abuse, regardless of age, marital status, gender, sex, or sexual orientation.
GENDER MOTIVATED STALKING
Stalking is defined as a pattern of actions or course of conduct directed at a specific person over time that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear.
"Course of conduct" means two or more acts, including, but not limited to, acts in which the stalker directly, indirectly, or through third parties, by any action, method, device, or means, follows, monitors, observes, surveils, threatens, or communicates to or about a person, or interferes with a person’s property. .
Gender motivated stalking when a person is the target of stalking based on the person’s real or perceived gender, sex, or sexual orientation.
Frequently Asked Questions
Answers to common questions about sexual violence.
1) What is the difference between a victim and a survivor?
Different individuals and groups may tend to use the words victims or survivors. Victims is often used in a legal setting, while survivors tends to be used by advocacy groups. Sometimes a victim is used to describe a person who has recently experienced sexual violence or is currently experiencing abuse, while survivor is used to describe a person who has begun to heal from the experience. We encourage anyone who has experienced sexual or relationship violence to use whatever word feels most comfortable.
2) How do you ask for or give consent (see definitions above)?
The best way to ask for or give consent is through verbal communication. The same language you might use to communicate your desires can be used to ask for consent. Some examples include:
- What would feel good for you?
- I’d like it if you…
- Would you like me to…?
- What would turn you on?
- Are you comfortable with…?
- Can I…?
- Would you want to…?
- Do you want to stop?
- Does it feel good if I…?
- What do you want to do?
- Is there anything you don’t want to do?
3) How do I know if my partner doesn’t want to consent?
The best way to establish consent is to ask. If your partner doesn’t seem comfortable with what you’re doing, stop and communicate with him/her. Be aware of the nonverbal cues your partner is giving you. Is your partner responding to your touch or does your partner seem stiff or frozen? Is your partner staying silent or providing affirmation? If you’re questioning whether your partner is giving consent, slow down and talk about it.
4) How does alcohol affect consent?
In order to give meaningful consent, a person cannot be incapacitated by alcohol or drugs. Incapacitation refers to significant impairment in decision making, comprehension, communicating, and motor abilities. Some signs that a person may be incapacitated include slurred speech, difficulty standing or walking straight, vomiting, or lack of awareness of surroundings.
In order to engage in consensual sexual activity, a person must understand what is going on and be able to communicate with a partner. There is no “legal limit” to alcohol consumption or BAC that indicates someone is “too drunk” to consent.
If you’re unsure if someone is incapacitated, don’t engage in sexual activity. You should be sure that your partner is capable of understanding what is happening and able to communicate with you.
5) What if both parties are incapacitated?
Alcohol or drug use is not an excuse for sexual assault. The initiator of the sexual act is responsible for gaining consent. If both parties are incapacitated, the fault lies with the person who initiates the nonconsensual sexual act.
6) What if I was drinking or using drugs when I was sexually assaulted?
If you have experienced a sexual assault, WPI is most concerned with your safety and recovery. Regardless of alcohol or drug use, no one deserves to experience sexual assault. You are encouraged to seek support and assistance from the Dean of Students Office and other resources on and off campus. You will not experience judicial consequences related to drug and/or alcohol use.
7) What is Title IX?
Title IX is a federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in education. Many people think of women’s sports when they hear Title IX, but the law also addresses sexual harassment, gender-based discrimination, and sexual violence in educational institutions. Because of Title IX, schools must respond to incidents of sexual violence and harassment appropriately to protect student safety. For information about Title IX and what responsibilities schools have under federal law, you can visit https://www.justice.gov/crt/title-ix. You can also see a list of WPI’s Title IX coordinators.
8) What is the Clery Act?
The Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act requires colleges and universities to report information about crimes on their campuses. The law is named in memory of Jeanne Clery, a Lehigh University student who was raped and killed in 1986. In accordance with the Clery Act, WPI publicizes crime data in the Annual Security & Fire Safety Report, which is available from WPI Police.
The Clery Act also mandates that campuses issue timely warnings to employees and students of serious threats and notify the campus community of emergencies and dangerous situations. WPI Police may alert the WPI community about an incident of sexual assault or harassment through a campus safety notification, but no identifying information would be included. To learn more about the history of the Clery Act and federal mandates, you can visit clerycenter.org