The following examples and definitions provide a basic common vocabulary for the Marist College community: 

Sexual Misconduct
Sexual Assault
Intimate Partner Violence
Dating/Domestic Partner
Sexual Harassment/Discrimination
Sexual Coercion

Sexual Assault

What is sexual assault?

Sexual assault means unwanted or unwelcome touching of a sexual nature, including fondling, penetration of the mouth, anus, or vagina, however slight, with a body part or object; or other sexual activity that occurs without consent.

Rape and sexual assault often involve one person taking advantage of an another who is under duress or incapacitated and, therefore, incapable of making a decision (including being under the influence of alcohol, drugs, and/or prescription medications). Rape and sexual assault are crimes motivated by power and control.  Perpetrators use rape and sexual assault as a weapons to hurt and dominate others. It is never a survivor's fault that s/he was sexually assaulted!

If you think you may have experienced a sexual assault:

  • Know that it is not your fault
  • You do not have to make a decision to report the incident before accessing counseling, medical services, or advocate services.
This content was adapted from the following sources: Sexual Assault Violence Prevention at Vassar College:

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Dating/Domestic Partner Violence

What is dating/domestic violence?

Dating or domestic violence, sometimes also called intimate partner violence or relationship abuse, is a pattern of behavior in which one partner uses fear and intimidation to establish power and command over the other partner, frequently including the threat or use of violence. This abuse takes place when one individual thinks they are entitled to control another, and it may or may not include sexual assault.

Dating and domestic violence occur in straight/heterosexual relationships, same-sex/gender relationships and in intimate relationships that do not require for romantic feelings. Intimate partner violence affects people of all ethnicities, races, classes, disabilities and nationalities.

Although there may be general patterns in domestic or dating violence, there is no definition of typical abusive behavior.  An abuser may use a variety of means to "wear down" or control his/her victim, including but not limited to: isolation, emotional harassment, physical contact, intimidation, or any other means. The controlling behavior usually escalates, particularly if the victim of the abuse attempts to resist the behavior or leave the situation.

Types of abuse

In a violent relationship, behaviors that are used to maintain fear, intimidation, and power over another person may include threats, intimidation, economic abuse, sexual abuse, taking advantage of male privilege, or using someone's identity against them. These behaviors may take the form of physical, sexual, emotional, and psychological violence.

Physical violence: The abuser’s physical attacks or aggressive behavior can range from bruising to murder. It often begins with what is excused as trivial contacts, which escalate into more frequent and increasingly serious attacks. Physical abuse may include, but is not limited to, pushing, shoving, hitting, kicking, choking, restraining with force, or throwing objects.

Sexual abuse: Physical attack is often accompanied by, or culminates in, some type of sexual intercourse with the victim, or forcing her/him to take part in unwanted sexual activity. Sexual violence may include, but is not limited to, treating the victim and other people as objects via actions and remarks, using derogatory sexual names, insisting on dressing or not dressing in a certain ways, touching in a manner that make a person uncomfortable, rape, or accusing the victim of inappropriate sexual activity with others.

Emotional or Psychological violence: The abuser’s psychological or mental attack may include constant verbal abuse, harassment, excessive possessiveness, isolation from friends and family, deprivation of physical and economic resources, and destruction of personal property. Emotional or psychological abuse may include, but is not limited to, withholding approval, appreciation, or affection as punishment; ridiculing her/his most valued beliefs, religion, race, or heritage; humiliating and criticizing her/him in public or private; or controlling all her/his actions and decisions.

It could be abuse if:

One person...

  • Constantly blames his/her partner for everything - including his/her own abusive behavior/temper.
  • Makes mean and degrading comments about a partner's appearance, beliefs or accomplishments.
  • Controls money and time.
  • Gets unreasonably and irrationally jealous.
  • Loses control of his/her temper.
  • Physically and/or sexually assaults another.

The other person:

  • Gives up things that are important to her/him.
  • Cancels plans with friends.
  • Becomes isolated from family and/or friends.
  • Worries about making her/his partner angry.
  • Shows signs of physical abuse such as bruises or cuts.
  • Feels embarrassed or ashamed about what's going on in her/his relationship.
  • Consistently makes excuses for her/his partner’s behavior.

If you are experiencing dating or domestic violence:

  • Know that it is not your fault and there are resources available to you.
  • You do not have to make a decision to report dating or domestic violence before speaking with counseling, medical services, or an advocate.
  • If you do not want to reach out for support at this time, making a plan of action could help you to feel safer.
  • It may be useful to start an incident log for evidence if you ever choose to report the violence.
This content was adapted from the following sources:
Sexual Assault Violence Prevention at Vassar College:

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Intimate Partner Violence

Among college students, studies show that nine out of ten sexual assaults are committed by somebody known to the victim in some capacity—friend, a date, an acquaintance, a schoolmate, a family member, a caretaker, a coworker, or an inner partner.Statistics have shown that a significant number of those who experience a sexual assault are sexually assaulted by an intimate partner.  One study shows that of people who reported sexual violence, 64% of women and 16% of men were raped, physically assaulted, or stalked by an intimate partner. This includes a current or former spouse, cohabitating partner, boyfriend/girlfriend, or date.1


Recognizing Sexual Assault

In intimate relationships, sexual assault can become one of the many abusive tactics a person will use to assert power and control over a partner. Often, it is difficult for a person who has experienced sexual assault in these situations to recognize his or her experience as sexual assault.  Sexual assault or sexual coercion can often be a piece of a larger pattern of other types of abuse that are occurring in the relationship. An individual who experiences sexual assault or coercion in their relationship can also be experiencing emotional, verbal, psychological or physical abuse as well.
Sexual assault or coercion within an intimate relationship can take many forms. A few examples:
  • demeaning comments about a person's sexuality or sexual performance
  • pressure to engage in sexual activity
  • pressure to engage in sexual acts with which a person is uncomfortable
  • threats (ex. I might have to get sex somewhere else if I don't get it from you)
  • guilt trips (ex. I am so attracted to you that I can't help myself, I need sex to relieve stress, etc.)
  • attacking sexual areas of the body
  • performing sexual acts without the other partner's consent
Frequently, because of the control and power that one person holds over another individual in an unhealthy relationship, it may be harder for someone experiencing intimate partner sexual assault to come forward and seek necessary assistance. This person could be caught in a cycle of violence and abuse that often happens in abusive relationships. He or she may feel isolated, embarrassed, ashamed, guilty, afraid of the partner, afraid to leave, and/or depressed.
It is important that individuals experiencing intimate partner violence receive the same compassion and care as other survivors of sexual assault. In fact, maintaining safety and seeking help could be more complicated for victims of intimate partner sexual assault. For more information on unhealthy or abusive relationships, please consider various resources or visit The Red Flag Campaign to learn what you can do to help a friend who might be experiencing abuse in a relationship.
1 Fisher, S., Cullen, F., Turner, M., 2000. The Sexual Victimization of College Women. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice.

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While legal definitions of stalking vary from one jurisdiction to another, stalking generally refers to a pattern of behaviors that harass, frighten, or threaten someone.

Stalking behaviors may be difficult to identify. Initially, some can seem kind, friendly, or romantic (i.e., sending cards, candy, or flowers). However, if the object of the stalker's attention has indicated they want no contact, these actions can seem controlling or scary. It is especially important to consider the pattern of behavior, including the type of action, frequency, consistency, and if the behavior does not stop when the stalker is told to cease contact.

Stalking Behaviors:

  • Persistent phone calls, emails, texts, or social media messages despite being told not to make contact in any form.
  • Waiting for the victim at workplace, in the neighborhood/residence hall, after class, and where the stalker knows the victim may frequently be found.
  • Threats to family, friends, property or pets (threats or actual abuse toward pets is a particularly strong indicator of potential to escalate to more or lethal violence).
  • Manipulative behavior (i.e. threatening to commit suicide in order to get a response).
  • Defamation/Slander: The stalker often lies to others about the victim (i.e. reporting infidelity to a partner).
  • Objectification: The stalker demeans the victim, reducing him/her to an object, allowing the stalker to feel angry with the victim without experiencing empathy.
  • Trespassing and loitering.
  • Gathering information on a victim.
  • Sending unwanted gifts.

If you are experiencing behaviors that are making you nervous or stalking behaviors:

  • Know that it is not your fault.
  • You do not have to make a decision to report stalking before accessing counseling, medical services, or advocacy.
  • If you choose not to engage resources at this time, it may still be useful to create a personal safety plan.
  • The National Stalking Resource Center has a useful stalking log.  Maintaining a log of stalking-related incidents and behavior can be helpful, especially if you choose to engage the campus conduct system, the criminal justice system, or civil courts.  Recording this information will help to document the behavior for use during campus hearings, for protection order applications, or for  criminal prosecution. It can also help preserve your memory of individual incidents about which you might later report or testify. If you choose not to engage the police, but do want to engage campus security, it may be helpful to track these interactions in the column labeled "police" (i.e., write down the security officer's name instead of the police badge number). 
This content was adapted from the following sources:
Sexual Assault Violence Prevention at Vassar College:

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Sexual Coercion

There are a variety of behaviors that could be considered coercive; behaviors ranging from non-physical pressure to the use of a weapon that compel someone to engage in an action against their will.

When considering the spectrum of possible behaviors a person can use to coerce another to engage in sexual activity, it is evident that not all of the behaviors on the spectrum are considered illegal (against New York sexual assault statutes) or defined under Marist College policy.

You are being coerced if:

  • You feel like you lack a choice.
  • You face potential social consequences if you don't engage in a behavior.
  • You are relentlessly pressured.
  • You feel threatened or afraid of what might happen if you resist.
  • A person abuses authority and rank to get  you to comply.
  • A person continues pressure after you have said no.

Examples of coercion:

  • Threatening to harm someone if they do not do what you want.
  • Using a weapon to get someone to do what you want.
  • Abusing power or authority to get someone to do what you want.
  • Using physical force to get what you want.
  • Using emotional pressure to get someone to do what you want.
  • Using social/peer pressure or your social standing to get someone to do what you want.

When someone makes clear that they do not want to engage in sex or a sexual activity, 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.

This content was adapted from the following sources:
Sexual Coercion:

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Sexual Harassment and Discrimination

Sexual Harassment, Gender-based Harassment, and Discrimination may include the following behaviors.  Sexual harassment is unwelcome, sexual or gender-based verbal, written, online and/or physical conduct.[i]

Discriminatory/Bias-Related Harassment

The College will not tolerate discriminatory harassment against any employee, student, visitor or guest on the basis of any status protected by College policy or law.

Sexual Harassment
Creates a hostile environment, and may be subject to discipline when it is severe or persistent/pervasive and it:,

  • has the effect of unreasonably interfering with, denying or limiting employment opportunities or the ability to participate in or benefit from the College’s educational, social and/or residential program, and is
  • based on power differentials (quid pro quo), the creation of a hostile environment or retaliation.

Sexual Harassment, Gender-based Harassment, and Discrimination?

Each member of the College community must exercise his or her own good judgment to avoid engaging in conduct that may be perceived by others as harassment. Subjecting employees or students to harassment by a visitor to campus or while off-campus in the course of conducting College business is also prohibited by this policy. Forms of discrimination-related and sexual harassment include, but are not limited to:

Verbal Repeated sexual innuendoes, racial or sexual epithets, derogatory slurs, off-color jokes, propositions, threats or suggestive or insulting sounds, or phone calls.
Visual/Nonverbal Derogatory posters, cartoons, or drawings; suggestive objects or pictures; graphic commentaries; leering; obscene gestures or exhibitionism; transmission of such offensive material through the mail or using any electronic communication medium(e.g. text messages, e-mail, a social networking service, or the Internet).
Physical Unwanted physical contact, including touching, patting, pinching, hugging, brushing against another’s body, or interference with an individual’s normal physical movements, attempted sexual assault, sexual assault.

Examples of Discrimination Using Terms and Conditions of Employment or Education:

1)   Making, or threatening to make, reprisals as a result of a negative response to harassment by making explicit or implied suggestions that submission to or rejection of sexual advances will affect decisions regarding an individual’s terms or conditions of employment or education.

2)   Making employment or educational decisions affecting an individual on the basis of personal characteristics that are protected by law.

Employment terms and conditions can include hiring, job classification, work assignments or status, salary or other compensation, promotion or transfer, discipline, discharge, layoff, leaves of absence, job training, benefits, or other terms or conditions affecting one’s employment.

Educational terms and conditions can include academic standing, grades, participation in programs, or activities, athletic opportunities, receipt of financial aid, grants, leaves of absence, or other terms or conditions affecting one's educations.

[i] Some examples of possible Sexual Harassment include:

  • A professor insists that a student have sex with him/her in exchange for a good grade.  This is harassment regardless of whether the student accedes to the request.
  • A student repeatedly sends sexually oriented jokes around on an email list s/he created, even when asked to stop, causing one recipient to avoid the sender on campus and in the residence hall in which they both live.
  • Explicit sexual pictures are displayed in a professor’s office or on the exterior of a residence hall door.
  • Two supervisors frequently ‘rate’ several employees’ bodies and sexual appeal, commenting suggestively about their clothing and appearance.
  • A professor engages students in her class in discussions about their past sexual experiences, yet the conversation is not in any way germane to the subject matter of the class.  She probes for explicit details, and demands that students answer her, though they are clearly uncomfortable and hesitant.
  • An ex-girlfriend widely spreads false stories about her sex life with her former boyfriend to the clear discomfort of the boyfriend, turning him into a social pariah on campus.
  • Male students take to calling a particular brunette student “Monica” because of her resemblance to Monica Lewinsky.  Soon, everyone adopts this nickname for her, and she is the target of relentless remarks about cigars, the president, “sexual relations” and Weight Watchers.
  • A student grabbed another student by the hair, then grabbed her breast and put his mouth on it.  While this is sexual harassment, it is also a form of sexual violence.

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Retaliation is defined as any adverse action taken against a person participating in a protected activity because of their participation in that protected activity. Retaliation against an individual for alleging harassment, supporting a reporting party or for assisting in providing information relevant to a claim of harassment is a serious violation of College policy and will be treated as another possible instance of harassment or discrimination.  Acts of alleged retaliation should be reported immediately to the Title IX Coordinator or designee and will be promptly investigated.  The College is prepared to take appropriate steps to protect individuals who fear that they may be subjected to retaliation.

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Consent is the most misunderstood concept in comprehending the issues around interpersonal violence. Learning how to talk about consent, gain consent, and refuse consent can help clarify each person’s responsibility to minimize the risk of unwanted sexual contact.

Consent is informed, active, and freely given permission for sexual activity. A reasonable person(s) would see it as an agreement to do the same thing, in the same way, and at the same time with one another. Silence, in and of itself, cannot be interpreted as consent. Consent can be given by words or actions, as long as those words or actions create mutually understandable clear permission regarding willingness to engage in sexual activity. Consent cannot be given by a person under legal age, who is mentally or physically incapacitated and/or impaired by the use of alcohol or drugs, if the party is asleep, passed out or otherwise unconscious.

NOTE: In order to give effective consent, one must be of legal age; New York State defines 17 years as of legal age.

  • Consent cannot be gained by force, coercion, by ignoring or acting without regard to the objections of another, or by taking advantage of the incapacitation of another, where the accused knows or should have reasonably known of such incapacitation.
  • Consent to any one form of sexual activity cannot automatically imply consent to any other forms of sexual activity.
  • Silence, in and of itself, cannot be interpreted as consent.
  • Previous relationships or prior consent cannot imply consent to future sexual acts.

Consent is:

  • A voluntary, sober, imaginative, enthusiastic, creative, wanted, informed, mutual, honest, and verbal agreement.
  • An active agreement: consent cannot be coerced.
  • A process, which must be asked for every step of the way; if you want to move to the next level of sexual intimacy, you should ask!
  • Never implied and cannot be assumed, even in the context of a relationship. Just because you are in a relationship does not mean that you have permission to have sex with your partner.

Consent is not:

  • If someone says no repeatedly and finally says yes.
  • If someone is incapacitated by substances.
  • If someone has only agreed to an earlier act.
  • If someone says nothing.
  • If someone is never asked for consent.
  • If someone has been made to feel that they must say yes.
  • If someone uses their position of power or authority to coerce or manipulate someone into saying yes.

In what circumstances can a person not give consent by law?

  • When the person is incapacitated or unconscious as a result of alcohol or drugs.
  • When the person is mentally disabled.
  • Once a person says “no”
    • It does not matter if or what kind of sexual behavior has happened previously in the current event, early that day, or daily for the previous six months. It does not matter if it is a current long-term relationship, a broken relationship, or marriage. If one partner says, “NO,” and the other continues with the sexual interaction, a sexual assault is occurring.

What are the perks of asking for consent?

  • Asking for and obtaining consent shows that you have respect for both yourself and you partner.
  • Enhances communication, respect, and honesty, which make sex and relationships better and stronger.
  • Ability to know and be able to communicate the type of sexual relationship you want.
  • Knowing how to protect yourself and your partner against STIs and pregnancy.
  • Opportunity to acknowledge that you and your partner(s) have sexual needs and desires.
  • Identify your personal beliefs and values and respecting your partner’s personal beliefs and values.
  • Builds confidence and self-esteem.
  • Challenges stereotypes that rape is a women’s issue.
  • Challenges sexism and traditional views on gender and sexuality.
  • Positive views on sex and sexuality are empowering.
  • Eliminates the entitlement that one partner might feel over another. Neither your body or your sexuality belong to someone else.

What if someone is drunk, high, or out of it?

Drugs and alcohol can impact people’s ability to make decisions, including whether or not they want to be sexual with someone else. This means that if someone is really out of it, they cannot give consent.

Being with them in a sexual way when they don’t know what is going on is the same as rape.

If you see a friend who is out of it and is being intimate with someone, you should pull them aside and try your best to make sure that person is safe and knows what he or she is doing. If it’s the opposite situation, and your friend is trying to engage in a sexual encounter with someone who is out if it, you should try to pull them aside and stop them from getting themselves into trouble.

How do you know that someone has given consent?

The only way to know for sure if someone has given consent is if they tell you. It’s not always easy to let people know that you are not happy about something. Sometimes the person you’re with might look like they are happy doing something, but inside they are not. They might not know what to say or how to tell you that they are uncomfortable. One of the best ways to determine if someone is uncomfortable with any situation, especially with a sexual one, is to simply ask. Here are some examples of the questions you might ask:

  • Is there anything you don’t want to do?
  • Are you comfortable?
  • Do you want to stop?
  • Do you want to go further?

How can you tell if someone isn't into it?

There are many ways of communicating. The look on someone’s face and their body language is also a way of communicating and often has more meaning than the words that they say.

Here are some ways body language can let you know if the person you’re with is not comfortable with what is happening:

  • Not responding to your touch.
  • Pushing you away.
  • Holding their arms tightly around their bodies.
  • Turning away from you or hiding their face.
  • Stiffening muscles.

Asking questions and being aware of body language helps you to figure out if the person you’re with is consenting and feeling comfortable, or not consenting and feeling uncomfortable. If you get a negative or non-committal answer to any of these questions, or if your partner’s body language is like any of the above examples, then you should stop what you are doing and talk to them about it.

How can someone slow things down?

Taking your time, making sure you are both comfortable, and talking about how far you want to go will make the time you spend together a lot more satisfying and enjoyable for both of you. Sometimes things move very quickly. Below are some things you can say to slow things down if you feel that things are moving too quickly.

  • I don’t want to go any further than kissing, hugging, touching.
  • Can we stay like this for a while?
  • Can we slow down?

How can someone stop something from happening?

You always have the right to say “no” and you always have the right to change your mid at any time regardless of your past experiences with other people or the person you are with. Below are some things you can say or do if you want so stop:

  • Say “No”.
  • Say “I want to stop”.
  • Say “I need to go to the bathroom/toilet”.
  • In a situation where the other person isn’t listening to you and you feel unsafe, you could pretend you are going to vomit. (It’s amazing how quickly someone moves away from you if they think you are going to be sick).

This content was adapted from the following sources:
Counseling & Mental Health Center at The University of Texas at Austin:
Sexual Assault Violence Prevention at Vassar College:

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By definition, being incapacitated is a state where someone cannot make rational, reasonable decisions because they lack the capacity to give knowing consent. Incapacity can result from mental disability, a state of sleep, involuntary physical restraint, or by alcohol or other drug use, unconsciousness or blackout. Sexual activity with someone who one should know to be or based on the circumstances should reasonably have known to be incapacitated constitutes a violation of this policy.

NOTE: Sexual activity with someone who one should know to be—or based on the circumstances should reasonably have known to be—mentally or physically incapacitated (by alcohol or other drug use, unconsciousness, or blackout). The question of incapacitation is determined on a case-by-case basis that will include an analysis of whether the accused knew, or a sober, reasonable person in the position of the accused should have known, that the complainant was incapacitated.

  • The College's policy also covers a person whose incapacity results from mental disability, sleep, involuntary physical restraint, or from ingesting substances or drugs that result in incapacitation.
  • When alcohol or other drugs are being used, a person will be considered to be incapacitated and unable to give effective consent if they cannot fully understand the details of a sexual interaction (who, what, when, where, why, or how) because they lack the capacity to reasonably understand the situation.
  • Consumption of alcohol or drugs alone is insufficient to establish incapacitation.
  • Possession, use, and/or distribution of any of these substances, including but not limited to, Rohypnol, Ketomine, GHB, Burundanga, etc., is prohibited, and administering one of these drugs to another person is a violation of this policy. More information on these drugs can be found at

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Force is the use of physical violence and/or imposing restraint onto someone physically to gain sexual access. Force also includes threats, intimidation (implied threats), and coercion that overcome resistance or produce consent.  Coercion is unreasonable pressure for sexual activity and differs from seduction based on the type of pressure someone uses to get consent from another. When someone makes it clear to you that they don’t want sex, that they want to stop, or don’t want to go past a certain point, continued pressure can be coercive.

NOTE: There is no requirement that a person resists a sexual advance or request, but resistance is a clear demonstration of non-consent.

  • The use of force is not “worse” than the subjective experience of violation of someone who has experienced sexual contact or intercourse without consent.
  • The use of physical force constitutes a stand-alone, non-sexual misconduct offense as well, and it is the College’s expectation that those who use physical force (assault, restricting movement or activity, battery, etc.) would face not just the sexual misconduct charge, but additional charges under the Code of Student Conduct.

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Some of the content is adapted from ATIXA Gender-Based and Sexual MIsconduct Policy. National Center for Higher Education Risk Management (NCHERM) & Association of Title IX Administrators (ATIXA)