Definitions and FAQ

Definitions

Consent

Words or actions that show an informed and voluntary agreement to engage in mutually agreed upon sexual activity. Consent cannot be gained by force, by ignoring or acting in spite of the objections of another or by taking advantage of the incapacitation of another, where the other person(s) knows or reasonably should have known of such incapacitation. Sexual activity with someone whom 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) constitutes a violation of the sexual misconduct policy. Consent is also absent when the activity in question exceeds the scope of consent previously given.

Consent to one form of sexual activity should not, and cannot, be taken as consent to any other sexual activity. Under this policy, "no" always means "no" and "yes" may not always mean "yes." For example, when alcohol or other drugs are being used, a person will be considered unable to give valid consent if they cannot fully understand the details of the sexual interaction (who, what, where, when, why or how) because they lack the capacity to reasonably understand what they are doing. Consent cannot be given by an individual who is incapacitated or asleep. In addition, silence – without clear actions demonstrating permission – cannot be assumed to indicate consent. Anything but a clear, informed and voluntary consent to any sexual activity is equivalent to a "no."

Consent requires communication:

  • Words or actions must be used to establish consent. The absence of "no" does not equal "yes."

Consent must entail an influenced "yes":

  • Consent cannot be established if one person is pressuring the other – this can be physical or emotional. Pressuring another person by saying things like "If you love me you'll do this" or "I'll find it elsewhere if I don't get it from you" does not lead to consent and is not respectful of the other person's wishes.
  • Happens one step at a time, every time. Just because your partner agrees to one thing does not mean they agree to everything. Oral sex does not give consent for intercourse and vice versa. Also, hooking up one time does not give permission for every other time – even if you are in a relationship, even if it has happened many times before.
  • Is free to be taken back at any time. At any point during a sexual encounter each partner should feel free to change his or her mind and the other partner must respect that person's decision.
  • In order to give consent, one must be of legal age.

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 is dating violence. The existence of such a relationship shall be determined based upon the reporting party’s statement and with consideration of the following factors: the length of the relationship, the type of relationship, and the frequency of interaction between the persons involved in the relationship. The nature of dating violence includes, but is not limited to physical, psychological/emotional, sexual abuse and/or the threat of such abuse. It is a type of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner.
 
Note: If a student is charged with this violation, the adjudication process will follow the procedure listed in the Sexual Misconduct Policy which begins on page 37.

Domestic Violence

A pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner. Domestic violence can be physical, sexual, emotional, economic or psychological actions or threats of actions that influence another person. This includes any behaviors that intimidate, manipulate, humiliate, isolate, frighten, terrorize, coerce, threaten, blame, hurt, injure or wound someone.

Rhode Island law defines domestic violence as crimes when committed by one family member or household member against another. Family or household member is defined as:

  • Spouses
  • Former spouses
  • Adult persons related by blood or marriage and persons who have a child in common regardless of whether they have been married or have lived together
  • Adult persons who are currently residing together or who have resided together during the past three years. Students in the same residence hall may be considered under this definition. In addition, this may apply to students sharing an off-campus residence.
  • Persons who have a child in common regardless of whether they have been married or have lived together
  • Persons who are or have been in a substantive dating or engagement relationship within the past six months which shall be determined by the court's consideration of the length of time of the relationship, the type of relationship and the frequency of the interaction between parties.

Domestic violence includes but is not limited to any of the following crimes when committed by one family or household member against another: simple and felony assaults, vandalism, disorderly conduct, trespassing, kidnapping, child snatching, sexual assault, homicide, violations of court orders, stalking, refusal to relinquish or to damage or to obstruct a telephone, burglary and unlawful entry, arson, cyberstalking and cyber harassment, and domestic assault by strangulation.

Rhode Island law defines domestic abuse as "attempting to cause or causing physical harm, placing another person in fear of immediate physical harm, or causing another to engage involuntarily in sexual relations by force, threat, or duress, stalking via harassment or following a person, and cyberstalking."

There are many forms of physical, verbal, emotional and sexual abuse that may be used between roommates, friends or couples.

Examples of verbal and emotional abuse include using threatening gestures or language, stalking or harassing, shouting, swearing, blocking the doorway or using body size to intimidate, claiming to be the authority, blaming or accusing, insulting, mocking, driving recklessly to scare the victim, isolating the victim from friends or family, or refusing to listen or respond. All forms of domestic violence, domestic abuse and relationship violence are in violation of the sexual misconduct policy.

These crimes carry sentences up to one year in prison and may result in the serving of a restraining order against the assailant and the requiring of the assailant to attend a recognized treatment program for batterers.

Gender-Based Harassment

Unwelcome conduct of a nonsexual nature based on a person's perceived sex, including conduct based on sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and nonconformity with gender stereotypes, which may include acts of aggression, intimidation or hostility, whether verbal, nonverbal, graphic, physical or otherwise, that is persistent, pervasive and/or severe. Examples of gender-based harassment may include, but are not limited to: using derogatory comments and terms toward a male or female who does not act in ways that align with gender stereotypes, telling someone to use a restroom that does not align with that person's gender identity, making generalized derogatory comments about one's gender, and exclusion from an activity, employment opportunity or academic program based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Gender based harassment is prohibited when:

  • Submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual's employment or education.
  • Submission to, or rejection of, such conduct by an individual is used as a basis for academic or employment decisions.
  • Such conduct substantially interferes with an individual's academic or professional performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive employment, educational or living environment based on gender.

Incapacitation

A state where an individual is temporarily or permanently impaired to the extent they do not have command over their own decisions. Incapacitation may be caused by mental or physical disability, illness, sleep or when a person has used alcohol or other drugs, including prescribed medication, to an extent where that person can no longer make rational, informed decisions. A person who does not comprehend the "who, what, when, where, why or how" of a sexual interaction may be incapacitated. Signs of incapacitation include, but are not limited to:

  • Amount of alcohol/drugs consumed
  • Stumbling or shaky equilibrium
  • Vomiting
  • Slurred speech
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Smell of alcohol
  • Outrageous or unusual behavior
  • Unconsciousness (short or long periods of time)

If a person may be incapacitated, then all potential sexual activity should cease until consent can be clearly given. If a person knows or should reasonably know that someone is incapacitated, then all potential sexual activity must cease until consent can again be freely given.

A person being intoxicated or impaired by drugs or alcohol is never an excuse for sexual misconduct, stalking, dating or domestic violence, and does not diminish that person's responsibility to obtain consent or recognize incapacitation.

Additional guidance on consent and assessing incapacitation:

A person who wants to engage in a specific sexual activity is responsible for obtaining consent for that activity. The lack of negative response or protest does not constitute consent. Lack of resistance does not constitute consent. Silence and/or passivity does not constitute consent. Relying solely on non-verbal communication before or during sexual activity can lead to misunderstanding and may result in a violation of this policy. It is important not to make assumptions about whether a potential partner is consenting. 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 clarity a mutual willingness to continue that activity.

Consent to one form of sexual activity does not, by itself, constitute consent to another form of sexual activity. For example, one should not presume that consent to oral-genital contact constitutes consent to vaginal or anal penetration. Consent to sexual activity on a prior occasion does not, by itself, constitute consent to future sexual activity. In case of prior relationships, the manner and nature of prior communications (verbal and/or non-verbal) confirming consent between the parties and the context of the relationship may have bearing on the presence of consent at the time of the reported incident.

Once consent has been given, it may be withdrawn at any time. Once consent is withdrawn, the sexual activity must cease immediately.

In evaluating consent in cases of alleged incapacitation, the University asks two questions: Did the person initiating sexual activity know the other person was incapacitated? If not, should a sober, reasonable person in the same situation have known the other party was incapacitated? If the answer to either of these questions is "yes," then consent was absent and the conduct is likely a violation of our policy(s).

Non-Consensual Sexual Contact

Any intentional sexual touching, including but not limited to breast, buttocks, inner thigh, groin, genitalia or surrounding area, however slight, with or without an object, by a person upon another person, that is without consent and/or by physical force and/or abusive.

Sexual contact includes intentional contact with the breast, buttocks, 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 breast, buttocks, groin, genitals, mouth or other orifice.

Non-Consensual Sexual Intercourse

Any sexual intercourse (anal, oral or vaginal), however slight, with or without an object, by a person upon another person, that is without consent and/or by physical force and/or abusive.

Intercourse includes vaginal penetration by a penis, object, tongue or finger; anal penetration by a penis, object, tongue or finger; and oral copulation (mouth-to-genital contact or genital-to-mouth contact), no matter how slight the penetration or contact.

Sexual Exploitation

An act attempted or committed by a person for sexual gratification, financial gain or other advancement through the abuse or exploitation of another person's sexuality. Examples include, but are not limited to: non-consensual observation or photographing of individuals who are undressing or engaging in sexual acts; non-consensual use of electronic or other devices to make an audio or video record of sexual activity; prostituting another person; allowing others to observe a personal consensual sexual act without the prior knowledge and consent of all involved parties; and, knowingly exposing an individual to a sexually transmitted infection without his or her knowledge.

Sexual Harassment

Unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature that is severe or pervasive, and that creates a hostile or abusive learning, working or living environment, thereby unreasonably interfering with a person's ability to learn or work, and the conduct has no legitimate relationship to the subject matter of an academic course or research. Sexual harassment also includes behavior not sexual in nature but behavior directed toward a person because of the person's sex and/or gender, including harassment based on the person's nonconformity with gender norms and stereotypes.

Stalking

Any behavior or activities occurring typically on more than on occasion that collectively instill fear and/or threaten a person's safety, mental health or physical health. Stalking may occur in a range of formats including, but not limited to, in-person conduct, writings, texting, voicemail, email, social media, following someone with GPS and video/audio recording.

Examples of stalking behaviors include, but are not limited to:

  • Repeated unwanted or unsolicited contact or leaving unwanted gifts or items
  • Posting disturbing messages or threats online
  • Creating, attempting to create or disseminating unauthorized recordings of another
  • Gathering information about an individual from family, friends, coworkers and/or classmates, or by electronic means by installing spyware on a computer or using GPS
  • Threats in any form about an individual or their loved ones or threats to harm oneself
  • Damaging, stealing, borrowing or relocating property, trespassing and vandalism
  • Pursuing, waiting or showing up uninvited at a workplace, residence, classroom or other locations frequented by an individual
  • Directing a third party to take any of the above acts

Frequently Asked Questions

What should I do to preserve evidence of a sexual assault?

Police are in the best position to secure evidence of a crime. Physical information of a sexual assault must be collected within about 120 hours of the assault for it to be useful in a criminal prosecution.

If you have been a victim of sexual assault, go to the Newport Hospital emergency room before washing yourself or your clothing. Typically, sexual assault nurse examiners are on call and will counsel you. If you go to the hospital, local police will be called at your request.

Hospital staff will collect information, check for injuries and address the possibility of exposure to sexually transmitted infections. If you have changed clothing since the assault, bring the clothing you had on at the time of the assault in a clean, sanitary container such as a clean paper grocery bag or wrapped in a clean sheet. (Plastic containers do not breathe, and may render forensic information useless.) If you have not changed clothes, bring a change of clothes with you to the hospital, if possible, as they will likely keep the clothes you were wearing as evidence. You may bring a support person, and they may accompany you through the exam if you wish. Do not disturb the crime scene – leave all sheets, towels, etc. that may bear information for the police to collect.

Does a complaint remain confidential or private?

Reports made to Counseling Services, pastoral counselors and Health Services are kept confidential, while all other reports are considered private. The privacy of all parties is maintained, except when it interferes with the University's obligation to fully investigate allegations of sexual misconduct. While information is shared as necessary with investigators, witnesses and the responding party, it is tightly controlled on a need-to-know basis. Dissemination of information and/or written materials to persons not involved in the complaint procedure is not permitted.

In all complaints of sexual misconduct, the complainant is informed of the outcome. Certain administrators (president, Title IX coordinator, etc.) are informed privately of the outcome and any change to a student or employee's status, as necessary. The University must statistically report the occurrence of major violent crimes on and adjacent to campus, including certain sex offenses and hate crimes, in an annual report of campus crime statistics. This statistical report does not include personally identifiable information.

Do I have to name the alleged perpetrator?

Yes, if you want formal action to be taken against the alleged perpetrator. No, if you choose not to file a formal complaint. You should consult the mandatory reporting policy to better understand Salve Regina's obligations depending on what information you share with different University officials.

Will the accused individual know my identity?

Yes, if you file a formal complaint. Sexual misconduct is a serious offense and the accused individual has the right to know the identity of the complainant/alleged victim.

Will I have to confront the alleged perpetrator?

No. For more information, refer to the student sexual misconduct policy.

What should I do if I am accused of sexual misconduct?

First, do not contact the victim. You may want to contact the director of human resources or the dean of students, who can explain the University's procedures for dealing with sexual misconduct complaints. You may also want to talk to a confidential counselor in Counseling Services.

Will the use of drugs and/or alcohol affect the outcome of a sexual misconduct complaint?

The use of alcohol and/or drugs by either party will not diminish the accused individual's responsibility. On the other hand, alcohol and/or drug use is likely to affect the complainant's memory and, therefore, may affect the outcome of the complaint. A person bringing a complaint of sexual misconduct must either remember the alleged incident or have sufficient circumstantial evidence, physical evidence and/or witnesses to prove the complaint. If the complainant does not remember the circumstances of the alleged incident, it may not be possible to impose sanctions on the accused without further corroborating information. Use of alcohol and/or other drugs will never excuse a violation by an accused individual.

Will either party’s prior use of drugs and/or alcohol be considered when reporting sexual misconduct?

Not unless there is a compelling reason to believe that prior use or abuse is relevant to the present complaint.

What should I do if I am uncertain about what happened?

If you believe you have experienced sexual misconduct but are unsure of whether it was a violation of the sexual harassment and sexual violence policy, contact the Title IX coordinator, dean of students, Office of Residence Life or Office of Safety and Security. You could also meet with Counseling Services, who can help to define and clarify the event(s) and advise you of your options.

The Rhode Island Task Force to Address Sexual Assault also offers a series of frequently asked questions that provide helpful information for adult victims of sexual assault. While some questions may be specific to certain populations, such as college students, most are applicable to all adults.