Definitions of Prohibited Conduct

What is Sexual Misconduct?

Sexual misconduct is a broad term used to encompass a range of behaviors including sexual harassment, nonconsensual sexual contact, nonconsensual sexual penetration, sexual violence, sexual exploitation, dating violence, domestic or relationship violence, stalking and other physical acts perpetrated against a person’s will or where a person is incapable of giving consent due to the victim’s/survivor's use of alcohol or drugs. An individual also may be unable to give consent due to an intellectual or other disability. Examples of sexual misconduct include: rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment, intimate partner violence, sexual exploitation and stalking. All such acts of sexual misconduct are prohibited by Suffolk University.

Suffolk University supports the rights of all employees and students to work, live and study in an environment free from sexual coercion and violence. Sexual contact with another person without their consent or with the use and/or threat of force violates the standards of civility, decency and respect expected of all members of the University community.

Suffolk University prohibits non-consensual sexual activity (including, but not limited to, sexual assault and rape) and sexually exploitative behavior. Suffolk also prohibits all forms of dating violence, including but not limited to stalking and domestic abuse.

Acts of sexual misconduct may be committed by men against women, women against men, men against men and women against women. The issue in any case is not the gender or sexual orientation of the persons involved, but the acts committed. Conduct under this policy is prohibited regardless of the sex, sexual orientation and/or gender identity/expression of the victim/survivor.

What is Sexual Harassment?

Sexual harassment is a form of harassment based on sex or gender. Sexual harassment includes unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal, written, online and/or physical conduct of a sexual nature or the creation of a hostile environment when it meets any of the following criteria:

  • Submission to or rejection of such conduct is made, either explicitly or implicitly, a term or condition of an individual’s employment or educational status or as a basis for employment or academic decisions; or
  • Such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s employment or educational performance, depriving a student or employee or other individual of the ability to participate in or derive full benefit from any educational or employment opportunity, or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive environment for education, employment, social and/or residential living.

The University recognizes that sexual harassment may occur regardless of the formal position or status of each person involved, it occurs in relationships where the behavior exploits unfairly the power inherent in the position, such as between teacher and student, supervisor and subordinate, or between a student with a position of authority over another student.

Intent is not an element of sexual harassment. It is difficult to define with precision the kinds of verbal or physical behavior that constitute sexual harassment, because it depends on circumstances such as the severity, persistence and/or pervasiveness of the conduct, the type, frequency and duration of the conduct, the relationship between the harasser and the recipient of the harassment, the degree to which the conduct affected an individual’s education or employment; and whether it is a pattern of behavior. Although it is not possible to list all types of conduct that, if unwelcome, might constitute sexual harassment, the following are some examples:

  • Seeking sexual favors or relationships in return for the promise of a favorable grade, letter of recommendation, promotion, salary increase or other academic opportunity; or
  • Offensive and persistent risqué jokes or kidding about sex or gender-specific traits; or
  • Sexually explicit statements, questions, jokes, or anecdotes, regardless of the means of communication (oral, written, electronic, etc.); or
  • Sexual comments or inappropriate references to gender; or
  • Sexually suggestive sounds or gestures such as sucking noises, winks, pelvic thrusts, eating food suggestively; or
  • Repeated unsolicited propositions for dates and/or sexual relations; or
  • Comments about or unwanted touching, patting, punching, stroking, squeezing, tickling or brushing against a person; or
  • A neck/shoulder massage; or
  • Rating a person’s sexuality; or
  • Sexual looks and lewd gestures, such as leering or ogling with suggestive overtones; or
  • Spreading rumors about a person’s sexuality or sexual orientation; or
  • Name calling; or
  • Inquiries or commentaries about sexual activity, experience, sexual orientation or gender expression; or
  • The display of inappropriate sexually oriented material in a location where others can view them including but not limited to pornography, pictures, drawings. calendars, cartoons, or other materials.

What Is Non-Consensual Sexual Activity/Sexual Assault?

Non-consensual sexual activity/sexual assault consists of sexual contact or attempted contact with another person without the person’s affirmative consent. Non-consensual sexual activity/sexual assault includes, but is not limited to:

  • Intentional touching of another person’s intimate parts without that person’s affirmative consent; or
  • Other intentional sexual contact with another person without the person’s affirmative consent; or
  • Coercing, forcing, or attempting to coerce or force a person to touch another person’s intimate parts without that person’s affirmative consent; or
  • Rape, which is penetration, no matter how slight, of the (1) vagina or anus of a person by any body part of another person or by an object, or (2) the mouth of a person by a sex organ of another person, without that person’s affirmative consent.

Affirmative Consent Affirmative consent must be informed, voluntary, and active, meaning that, through the demonstration of clear words or actions, a person has indicated permission to engage in mutually agreed-upon sexual activity. affirmative consent can be withdrawn at any time, and cannot be obtained by force, expressed or implied, or when physical violence, threats, intimidation and/or coercion is used. Affirmative consent to one form of sexual activity does not, by itself, constitute affirmative consent to another form of sexual activity. Past consent to sexual activity with another person does not imply ongoing future consent with that person or consent to the same sexual activity with another person.

Silence, absence of protest, or absence of resistance does not imply affirmative consent. Relying solely on non-verbal communication before or during sexual activity can lead to misunderstanding and may result in violation of the Policy on Sexual Misconduct. In order to avoid confusion or ambiguity, participants are encouraged to talk with one another before engaging in sexual activity. If confusion or ambiguity arises during sexual activity, participants are encouraged to stop and clarify a mutual willingness to continue the activity.

Affirmative consent cannot be gained by the taking advantage of the incapacitation of another, where the person initiating sexual activity knew or reasonably should have known that the other was incapacitated. Incapacitation means that a person lacks the ability to make informed, rational judgments about whether to engage in sexual activity.

A person who is incapacitated is unable to give affirmative consent because of mental or physical incapacitation or impairment, which may include sleep, unconsciousness, or lack of awareness that sexual activity is taking place. A person may be incapacitated as a result of the consumption of alcohol or other drugs, or due to a temporary or permanent physical or mental health condition. When evaluating whether someone consented to sexual activity after consuming alcohol or drugs, the University will consider whether a reasonable person would have known about the impact of alcohol and other drugs on the other party’s ability to give consent.

What Is Sexually Exploitative Behavior?

Sexually exploitative behavior is a form of sexual misconduct that occurs when an individual takes sexual advantage of another for their own advantage or benefit, or to benefit or advantage anyone other than the one being exploited. Sexually exploitative behavior may also constitute non-consensual sexual activity. Examples of sexual exploitation include, but are not limited to:

  • Prostitution (such as selling or exchanging money or something else of value or benefit for sexual acts); or
  • Taking pictures or video or audio recording of another in a sexual act or in any other private sexual activity without the consent of all involved in the activity, or exceeding the boundaries of consent (such as allowing another person to hide in a closet and observe sexual activity, or disseminating sexual pictures without the photographed person’s consent); or
  • Exposing one’s genitals or inducing another to expose their own genitals in non-consensual circumstances; or
  • Unauthorized posting or distribution of materials involving the sexual activity of another person, including electronic postings; sexual voyeurism (such as watching a person who is undressing, using the bathroom, or engaging in sexual acts without the consent of the person observed); or
  • Engaging in sexual activity with another person while knowingly infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) or another sexually transmitted infection (STI) and without informing the other person of the infection; or
  • Hazing or bullying relating to sex or gender; or
  • Administering alcohol or drugs (such as “date rape” drugs) to another person without their knowledge or effective consent.

What Is Stalking or Intimate Partner Violence?

Stalking, which includes cyberstalking, means a knowing pattern of conduct or series of acts over a period of time directed at a specific person which seriously alarms or annoys that person and makes a threat with the intent to cause a reasonable person to fear for their or others’ safety or to suffer substantial emotional distress.

Intimate partner violence encompasses dating violence, domestic violence and relationship violence. Intimate partner violence is violence committed by a person who is or has been in a social relationship of a romantic or intimate nature with the victim/survivor and where the existence of such a relationship shall be determined based on a consideration of the length of the relationship, the type of relationship, and the frequency of interaction between the persons involved in the relationship. Intimate partner violence includes felony or misdemeanor crimes of violence committed by a current or former intimate partner, or spouse of a victim/survivor, by a person with whom the victim/survivor shares a child in common, by a person who is cohabitating with or has cohabitated with the victim/survivor as intimate partner or spouse, by a person similarly situated to a spouse of the victim/survivor under Massachusetts law, or by a spouse or any other person against an adult or youth victim/survivor who is protected under the domestic or family violence laws of Massachusetts.