University Policies on Relationship and Sexual Violence

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Content warning: This page contains information about relationship and sexual violence.

The University Student Judicial Code, in part through offenses 4 and 5 of section III, clearly prohibits sexual misconduct and violence, including stalking, engaging in domestic, dating or interpersonal violence, and sexual contact with any member of the university community or visitor to the university without that person’s consent.

Consent consists of mutually understandable words and/or actions which indicate that an individual has freely chosen to engage in sexual activity. In the absence of such words and/or actions, consent does not exist. Consent may not be inferred from silence, passivity, lack of physical resistance or lack of verbal refusal alone.

Consent to engage in sexual activity must be knowing and voluntary. For example, sexual activity is not knowing and voluntary and therefore not consensual when any participant is physically forced, passed out, asleep, unconscious or beaten. Sexual activity is also not knowing and voluntary and therefore not consensual if it is the result of coercion. A person’s words or conduct amount to coercion if they eliminate the other person’s ability to choose whether or not to engage in sexual activity. Examples of coercion could include the following, so long as the conduct rises to a level that eliminates the other person’s ability to choose whether to engage in sexual activity: threats (express or implied) of substantial emotional or psychological harm or any physical harm, confinement, or other similar conduct.

Consent to engage in sexual activity must exist from the beginning to end of each instance of sexual activity, and for each form of sexual contact. Consent may be withdrawn by either party at any time.

An individual who is incapacitated is unable to give consent. In such circumstances, the Respondent will be held responsible if the Respondent either knew or a reasonable person in the same position would have known that the other party was incapacitated and therefore could not consent to the sexual activity. Incapacitation is the inability, temporarily or permanently, to give consent because the individual is mentally and/or physically helpless due to a medical condition or the voluntary or involuntary consumption of drugs and/or alcohol, or the individual is unconscious, asleep or otherwise unaware that the sexual activity is occurring.”

Given the judicial code, it is important to understand:

Consent to one form of sexual contact does not constitute consent to all forms of sexual contact. For example, an individual may agree to kiss but choose not to engage in touching or sexual intercourse or an individual may agree to touching or sexual intercourse but choose not to agree to kissing. If at any time it is reasonably apparent that either party is hesitant, confused or uncertain, it would be wise for both parties to stop and obtain mutual verbal consent before continuing sexual activity, because relying on nonverbal communication where one party has evidenced hesitancy, confusion or uncertainty may lead to serious misunderstandings. Mutually understandable words and/or actions demonstrating consent must indicate a willingness to engage freely in sexual activity.

An individual may be found to have been incapacitated if they demonstrate that they were unaware of where they were at the relevant time, how they got there, or why or how they became engaged in a sexual interaction. Where alcohol and/or drugs are involved, incapacitation is a state beyond drunkenness or intoxication. Some indicators of incapacitation as defined above may include, but are not limited to, lack of control over physical movements, lack of awareness of circumstances or surroundings, or the inability to communicate for any reason. One who has other factual bases or grounds that reasonably suggest another individual has had too much to drink to consent meaningfully will be held to that knowledge. It is especially important, therefore, that anyone engaging in sexual activity be aware of the other person’s level of intoxication.

Being intoxicated or impaired by drugs and/or alcohol is never an excuse for sexual misconduct and does not excuse one from the responsibility to obtain consent. The university considers sexual contact while under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs to be risky behavior, impairing a person’s decision-making capacity and awareness of consequences. Alcohol and/or drugs impair a person’s decision-making capacity, awareness of consequences, and ability to make informed judgments, e.g., as to the state of intoxication of the other person.

A current or previous dating or sexual relationship, by itself, is not sufficient to constitute consent. Even in the context of a relationship, there must be mutually understandable communication that clearly indicates willingness to engage in sexual activity each time such activity occurs.

Withdrawal of consent must also be demonstrated by mutually understandable words or actions that clearly indicate a desire to end each form of sexual contact. Once withdrawal of consent has been expressed, that form of sexual contact must cease. Should someone become incapacitated in the middle of a sexual encounter, consent has been withdrawn.

In the state of Missouri, a person 21 years or older commits the criminal offense of statutory rape in the second degree if that person has sexual intercourse with another person under the age of 17. Under Missouri law, consent to engage in sexual intercourse can never be given by minors under the age of 14.

Students engaging in such conduct are subject to disciplinary action through the WashU judicial system. Cases of sexual assault are handled through the University Sexual Harassment Investigation Board (USHIB). Read about the USHIB procedures for complaints of sexual assault filed against students.

Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is a form of discrimination that violates university policy. It is also illegal under state and federal laws. The university policy on discrimination and harassment applies to all members of our WashU community.

  • Members of our community should expect to be free from sexual harassment; thus, all members of our community should guard against it.
  • The policy allocates responsibilities for helping to ensure that university policy is fairly applied, explains the processes by which complaints of discrimination or harassment may be brought forward, and provides sanctions that may range from reprimands to termination or dismissal, depending on the severity of the offense.
  • If you have been sexually harassed, the policy describes options about what you can do and where you can get help. Those charged with implementation of the policy will, whenever appropriate, encourage and assist individuals who have been sexually harassed to pursue the assorted means outlined in the policy for securing the cessation of unwelcome and offensive conduct.

University Nondiscrimination Statement and Policy against Retaliation

The university will not tolerate retaliation or discrimination against persons who, in good faith, report or charge sexual harassment or against those who testify, assist, participate in, or are party to any investigation, proceeding or hearing involving a complaint of sexual harassment.

See the university’s nondiscrimination statement.

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