George Mason University

Something's Not Right?

If something feels wrong, follow your instincts, and report it. Mason wants to know about all incidents that affect the safety, security, and equal access to education or employment. We care, and our mandate of "Freedom and Learning" compels us to stand up for what's right. 


What Does Sexual Misconduct Include?

Sexual misconduct is a range of behaviors, including but not limited to:


Sexual Assault

Sexual assault consists of (1) sexual contact and/or (2) sexual intercourse that occurs without (3) affirmative consent.

Sexual Contact is:

Any intentional sexual touching, however slight, with any object or body part (as described below) that is performed by a person upon another person

Sexual contact includes (a) intentional touching of the breasts, buttocks, groin or genitals, whether clothed or unclothed, or intentionally touching another with any of these body parts; and (b) making another touch you or themselves with or on any of these body parts.

Sexual Intercourse is:
  • Any penetration, however slight.
  • Penetration with an object or body part.
  • Penetration performed by a person upon another person.

Sexual Intercourse includes (a) vaginal penetration by a penis, object, tongue, or finger; (b) anal penetration by a penis, object, tongue, or finger; and (c) any contact, no matter how slight, between the mouth of one person and the genitalia of another.

Affirmative Consent is:
  • Informed (knowing).

  • Voluntary (freely given).

  • Active (not passive).

This means that through the demonstration of clear words or actions, a person has indicated permission to engage in mutually agreed-upon sexual activity

Affirmative consent cannot be obtained by force; force includes:

  • The use of physical violence: a person is exerting control over another person through the use of physical force. Examples of physical violence include hitting, punching, slapping, kicking, restraining, choking, and brandishing or using any weapon.
  • Threats: Words or actions that would compel a reasonable person to engage in unwanted sexual activity. Examples include threats to harm a person physically, to reveal private information to harm a person’s reputation, or to cause a person academic or economic harm.
  • Intimidation: An implied threat that menaces or causes reasonable fear in another person. A person’s size alone does not constitute intimidation; however, a person’s size may be used in a way that constitutes intimidation (e.g., blocking access to an exit).
  • Coercion: The use of an unreasonable amount of pressure to gain sexual access. Coercion is more than an effort to persuade, entice, or attract another person to have sex. When a person makes clear a decision not to participate in a particular form of sexual contact or sexual intercourse, a decision to stop, or a decision not to go beyond a certain sexual interaction, continued pressure can be coercive. In evaluating whether coercion was used, the university will consider: (i) the frequency of the application of the pressure, (ii) the intensity of the pressure, (iii) the degree of isolation of the person being pressured, and (iv) the duration of the pressure.

Affirmative consent cannot be gained by 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 or not to engage in sexual activity.

A person who is incapacitated is unable, temporarily or permanently, to give affirmative consent because of mental or physical helplessness, 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.

University Guidance on Affirmative Consent/Assessing Incapacitation

A person who wants to engage in a specific sexual activity is responsible for obtaining affirmative consent for that activity. Lack of protest does not constitute affirmative consent. Lack of resistance does not constitute affirmative consent. Silence and/or passivity also do not constitute affirmative 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.

Don't make assumptions about whether a potential partner is consenting. 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 that activity.

Affirmative consent to one form of sexual activity does not, by itself, constitute affirmative consent to another form of sexual activity. For example, don't presume that affirmative consent to oral-genital contact constitutes affirmative consent to vaginal or anal penetration.

Affirmative consent to sexual activity on a prior occasion does not, by itself, constitute affirmative consent to future sexual activity. In cases of prior relationships, the manner and nature of prior communications between the parties and the context of the relationship may have a bearing on the presence of affirmative consent.

Affirmative consent may be withdrawn at any time. An individual who seeks to withdraw affirmative consent must communicate, through clear words or actions, a decision to cease the sexual activity. Once affirmative consent is withdrawn, the sexual activity must cease immediately.

In evaluating affirmative consent in cases of alleged incapacitation, the university asks two questions:

  • Did the person initiating sexual activity know that the other party was incapacitated?
  • If not, should a sober, reasonable person in the same situation have known that the other party was incapacitated?

If the answer to either of these questions is “YES,” affirmative consent was absent, and the conduct is likely a violation of this policy.

Incapacitation is a state beyond drunkenness or intoxication. A person is not necessarily incapacitated merely as a result of drinking or using drugs. The impact of alcohol and other drugs varies from person to person.

People are not expected to be medical experts in assessing incapacitation. Look for the common and obvious warning signs that show that a person may be incapacitated or approaching incapacitation. Although every individual may manifest signs of incapacitation differently, typical signs include slurred or incomprehensible speech, unsteady gait, combativeness, emotional volatility, vomiting, or incontinence.

A person who is incapacitated may not be able to understand some or all of the following questions:

  • Do you know where you are?
  • Do you know how you got here?
  • Do you know what is happening?
  • Do you know whom you are with?

Be cautious before engaging in sexual contact or sexual intercourse when either party has been drinking alcohol or using other drugs. The introduction of alcohol or other drugs may create ambiguity for either party as to whether affirmative consent has been sought or given. If there is doubt about either party’s level of intoxication, the safe thing to do is to forego all sexual activity.

Being impaired by alcohol or other drugs is no defense to any violation of this policy.


Sexual Exploitation

Sexual exploitation is purposely or knowingly doing any of the following:

  • Causing the incapacitation of another person (through alcohol, drugs, or any other means) for the purpose of compromising that person’s ability to give affirmative consent to sexual activity;
  • Allowing third parties to observe private sexual activity from a hidden location (e.g., closet) or through electronic means (e.g., Skype or livestreaming of images) without consent of all parties;
  • Engaging in voyeurism (e.g., watching private sexual activity without the consent of the participants or viewing another person’s intimate parts (including genitalia, groin, breasts or buttocks) in a place where that person would have a reasonable expectation of privacy);
  • Recording or photographing private sexual activity and/or a person’s intimate parts (including genitalia, groin, breasts or buttocks) without consent;
  • Disseminating or posting images of private sexual activity and/or a person’s intimate parts (including genitalia, groin, breasts or buttocks) without consent;
  • Prostituting another person; or
  • Exposing another person to a sexually transmitted infection or virus without the other’s knowledge.

Intimate Partner Violence

Intimate partner violence includes any act of violence or threatened act of violence that occurs between individuals who are involved or have been involved in a sexual, dating, spousal, domestic, or other intimate relationship. Intimate partner violence may include any form of prohibited conduct under this policy, including sexual assault, stalking, and physical assault (as defined below).

Physical assault is threatening or causing physical harm or engaging in other conduct that threatens or endangers the health or safety of any person. Physical assault will be addressed under this policy if it involves sexual or gender-based harassment, intimate partner violence, or is part of a course of conduct under the stalking definition.


Stalking

Stalking occurs when a person engages in a course of conduct directed at a specific person under circumstances that would cause a reasonable person to fear bodily injury or to experience substantial emotional distress.

Course of conduct means two or more acts, including but not limited to acts in which a person directly, indirectly, or through third parties, by any action, method, device, or means, follows, monitors, observes, surveils, threatens, or communicates to or about another person, or interferes with another person’s property. Substantial emotional distress means significant mental suffering or anguish.


Sexual or Gender-Based Harassment

Sexual harassment is any unwelcome sexual advance, request for sexual favors, or other unwanted conduct of a sexual nature, whether verbal, non-verbal, graphic, physical, or otherwise, when the conditions outlined in (1) and/or (2), below, are present.

Gender-based harassment includes harassment based on gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression, which may include acts of aggression, intimidation, or hostility, whether verbal or non-verbal, graphic, physical, or otherwise, even if the acts do not involve conduct of a sexual nature, when the conditions outlined in (1) and/or (2), below, are present.

(1) Submission to or rejection of such conduct is made, either explicitly or implicitly, a term or condition of a person’s employment, academic standing, or participation in any university programs and/or activities or is used as the basis for University decisions affecting the individual (often referred to as “quid pro quo” harassment); or

(2) Such conduct creates a hostile environment. A hostile environment exists when the conduct is sufficiently severe, persistent, or pervasive, it unreasonably interferes with, limits, or deprives an individual from participating in or benefiting from the university’s education or employment programs and/or activities. Conduct must be deemed severe, persistent, or pervasive from both a subjective and an objective perspective.

Those who make an accusation are known as complainants. Those who are being accused are referred to as respondents.

In evaluating whether a hostile environment exists, the university will consider the totality of known circumstances, including, but not limited to:

  • The frequency, nature and severity of the conduct.
  • Whether the conduct was physically threatening.
  • The effect of the conduct on the complainant’s mental or emotional state.
  • Whether the conduct was directed at more than one person.
  • Whether the conduct arose in the context of other discriminatory conduct.
  • Whether the conduct unreasonably interfered with the complainant’s educational or work performance and/or university programs or activities.
  • Whether the conduct implicates concerns related to academic freedom or protected speech.

A hostile environment can be created by persistent or pervasive conduct or by a single or isolated incident, if sufficiently severe. The more severe the conduct, the less need there is to show a repetitive series of incidents to prove a hostile environment, particularly if the conduct is physical. A single incident of sexual assault, for example, might be sufficiently severe to constitute a hostile environment. In contrast, the perceived offensiveness of a single verbal or written expression, standing alone, is typically not sufficient to constitute a hostile environment.


Retaliation

Retaliation means any adverse action taken against a person for making a good-faith report of prohibited conduct or participating in any proceeding under this policy. Retaliation includes threatening, intimidating, harassing, coercing or any other conduct that would discourage a reasonable person from engaging in activity protected under this policy. Retaliation may be present even where there is a finding of “no responsibility” on the allegations of prohibited conduct. Retaliation does not include good-faith actions lawfully pursued in response to a report of prohibited conduct.


Complicity

Complicity is any act taken with the purpose of aiding, facilitating, promoting or encouraging the commission of an act of prohibited conduct by another person.