What Is Sexual Violence?

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Clear definition of terms is a foundational aspect of Wheaton College's approach to sexual violence prevention and response.

Definition of Sexual Violence

Sexual violence is a particular type of sexual harassment that includes physical sexual acts perpetrated when consent is not present, where a person is incapable of giving consent, or coercion and/or force is used. This includes non-consensual sexual contact as well as non-consensual sexual intercourse or penetration, which the Policy defines as follows:

  • Non-consensual sexual contact (or attempts to commit the same) is the intentional touching or fondling of a person’s genitals, breasts, thighs, groin, or buttocks, or any other contact of a sexual nature (including by bodily fluids) when consent is not present or coercion and/or force is used. This includes not only direct contact, but also contact through clothing and/or with an object. It also includes causing or inducing a person, when consent is not present, to similarly touch, fondle, or contact oneself or another.
  • Non-consensual sexual intercourse or penetration (or attempts to commit the same) is any penetration of the sex organs or anus of another person or penetration of the mouth of another with one’s sex organs when consent is not present or coercion or force is used. This includes penetration or intrusion, however slight, by an object or any part of the body.

As explained further below, sexual violence includes sexual contact, intercourse, and/or penetration while knowing or having reason to know that the individual was incapacitated due to alcohol and/or drug consumption or was otherwise unable to consent. Inducing incapacitation for sexual purposes includes using drugs, alcohol, or other means with the intent to affect or having an actual effect on the ability of an individual to consent or refuse to consent (as "consent" is defined in this policy) is strictly forbidden.

Definition of Consent

Consent means voluntary, informed, and mutual agreement to engage in sexual activity, and may be withdrawn at any time. Refusal to consent does not have to be verbal; it can be expressed with gestures, body language, or attitude. However, a lack of verbal or physical resistance or submission resulting from the use or threat of force, coercion, manipulation, or intimidation does not constitute consent. Likewise, a person’s manner of dress, consent to prior sexual activity, consent to sexual activity with a different person, or relationship status with the person does not constitute consent. It is the responsibility of the initiator of any sexual activity to ensure that he or she has the other person’s consent before engaging in sexual activity.

A person cannot consent to sexual activity if that person is unable to understand the nature of the activity or give knowing consent. Sexual contact with anyone who is under the legal age of consent, is asleep or unconscious, or who the person knows or reasonably should know is incapacitated due to consumption of alcohol, drugs, medication, or a mental or physical impairment is a violation of this Policy. People who are unconscious or physically unable to communicate are incapable of giving consent for purposes of this Policy. Therefore, a Respondent’s belief that the Complainant consented to the sexual activity due to the Respondent’s intoxication or recklessness is not a defense.