Sexual Misconduct Policies, Prevention and Resources

Definitions

Consent: Voluntary, clear, continuous, mutually understandable permission, given by words or actions, regarding one’s willingness to engage in sexual activity. A sexual interaction is considered consensual when individuals willingly and knowingly engage in the interaction.

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

Domestic violence: A felony or misdemeanor crime of violence committed by a current or former spouse of the victim or intimate partner of the victim, by a person with whom the victim shares a child in common, by a person who is cohabitating with or has cohabitated with the victim as a spouse or intimate partner, or anyone who is protected from the respondent’s acts under the domestic or family violence laws of the jurisdiction.

Gender-based harassment: Acts of verbal, nonverbal or physical aggression, intimidation or hostility based on sex or sex-stereotyping, even if those acts do not involve conduct of a sexual nature.

Incapacitation: The inability to provide consent due to the use of drugs or alcohol, when a person is asleep or unconscious, or because of an intellectual or other disability that prevents an individual from having the capacity to give consent.

Retaliation: Any adverse action, or attempted adverse action, against an individual (or group of individuals) because of their participation in any manner in an investigation, proceeding or hearing under the University’s Title IX Harassment Policy, including individuals who file a third-person report. This includes action taken against a bystander who intervened to stop or attempt to stop discrimination, harassment or sexual misconduct. Retaliation can take many forms, including sustained abuse or violence, threats, coercion, intimidation and discrimination. Action is generally deemed retaliatory if it would deter a reasonable person in the same circumstances from opposing practices prohibited by the Title IX Harassment Policy. Any individual or group of individuals engaging in retaliation can be held responsible. Examples of conduct which may be retaliation include, but are not limited to:

  • Threats of harm to an individual or the individual’s property;
  • Forcing or pressuring an individual to take time off from school or work;
  • Pressuring an individual to refrain from talking to the media;
  • Removing an individual from sports teams or other extracurricular activities for reporting Title IX harassment;
  • Unreasonably failing to accommodate an individual’s housing or academic needs; or
  • Terminating, demoting, reassigning or denying benefits to an employee.

Sex discrimination: Giving preferential treatment to one gender to the disadvantage of the other because of his or her gender. It may occur also when policies or practices are facially neutral, but have a disproportionately adverse impact on a particular gender when applied.

Sexual assault (non-consensual sexual contact): Any intentional sexual touching, however slight, with any object, by a man or woman upon a man or woman that is without consent and/or by force. 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, mouth or other orifice.

Sexual assault (non-consensual sexual intercourse): Any sexual intercourse, however slight, with any object, by a man or woman upon a man or woman that is without consent and/or by force. Intercourse includes: vaginal penetration by a penis, object, tongue or finger; anal penetration by a penis, object, tongue or finger; or oral copulation (mouth to genital contact or genital to mouth contact), no matter how slight the penetration or contact.

Sexual exploitation: Occurs when a person 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.

Sexual harassment: A form of sex discrimination that means unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when –

a. submission to such conduct is made either an explicit or an implicit term or condition of an individual’s employment, academic evaluation or advancement, or status in a course, program or activity of the university;

b. submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as a basis for academic or employment decisions affecting such individual; or

c. such conduct has the purpose or effect of creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive working or academic environment or unduly interfering with an individual’s work or academic performance. For purposes of the Title IX Harassment Policy, “undue interference” is defined as improper, unreasonable or unjustifiable behavior going beyond what is appropriate, warranted or natural.

Sexual harassment includes two categories:

  • “Hostile environment sexual harassment” means verbal, physical or visual forms of harassment that are sexual in nature, “sufficiently severe, persistent, or pervasive” and unwelcome. A single, severe incident, such as a sexual assault, could create a hostile environment. A “hostile environment” is often created by a series of incidents.
  • “Quid pro quo sexual harassment” means “this for that.” An example of this form of sexual harassment occurs if a member of the faculty (or staff member) stipulates that one’s grade or performance rating (or participation on a team, in a play, etc.) will be based on whether one submits to unwelcome sexual conduct. Whether one refuses a sexual demand or submits to it is not relevant; the conduct violates the law.

Sexual misconduct: Includes sexual harassment, gender-based harassment, sexual violence, sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence, stalking and sexual exploitation.

Sexual violence: A physical sexual act perpetrated against a person’s will or where a person is incapable of giving consent due to the victim’s use of drugs or alcohol. An individual also may be unable to give consent due to an intellectual or other disability. A number of different acts fall into the category of sexual violence, including rape, sexual assault, sexual battery, and sexual coercion. All such acts of sexual violence are forms of sexual harassment prohibited by Title IX and the University’s Title IX Harassment Policy.

Stalking: Engaging in a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to:

  • Fear for his or her safety or the safety of others; or
  • Suffer substantial emotional distress.

 

Examples

If sufficiently severe or pervasive, the following types of actions serve as non-exhaustive examples of Title IX harassment prohibited by SMU:

  • Physical sexual acts perpetrated against a person’s will, or where a person is incapable of giving consent due to that person’s use of drugs or alcohol or due to an intellectual or other disability;
  • Direct or implied statements, threats or demands for sexual favors, sexual advances, accompanied by implied or actual promises of preferential treatment for submission to such demands; or implied or actual threats that failure to submit to such demands may result in adverse treatment concerning the person’s admission, enrollment, employment, work status, promotion, grades or recommendation;
  • Persistent unwelcome flirtation, requests for dates, repeated and unwanted staring, advances or propositions of a sexual nature;
  • Gratuitous displays of sexually suggestive objects or pictures, including images displayed, transferred, forwarded or shared via the Internet, text messaging or other electronic means;
  • A pattern of conduct unrelated to an academic course or the requirements of the workplace intended to cause discomfort or humiliation or both that includes one or more of the following: comments of a sexual nature; sexually explicit statements, questions, jokes, anecdotes or gestures; a pattern of conduct that would cause discomfort or humiliation, or both, to a reasonable person to whom the conduct is directed and that includes one or more of the following:
    • unnecessary touching, such as patting, pinching, hugging or repeated brushing against a person’s body;
    • remarks of a sexual nature about a person’s clothing or body; or
    • remarks about sexual activity or speculations about previous sexual experience.
  • Treating individuals adversely because they do not conform to stereotypical norms of feminine or masculine gender behavior.

Acts of Title IX harassment may take many different forms. Examples include the following: direct threats and other verbal statements; email or other electronic messages; physical contact; jokes; gestures; and pictures or other visuals.

Harassment that violates SMU policy goes beyond the mere expression of views or thoughts (spoken or written) that an individual may find offensive. The conduct must be sufficiently severe or pervasive as to limit unlawfully an individual’s ability to participate in or benefit from the activities of SMU. Further, one must evaluate such conduct from the perspective of a reasonable person in the alleged victim’s position, taking into account the totality of the circumstances involved in a particular matter.