E.2 Sexual Misconduct

I. Introduction

1. a. The University of Southern California expects that all members of the university community – students, faculty, staff and friends – should be able to pursue their work and education in a safe environment, free from sexual harassment, gender-based violence, coercion, violence and sexual intimidation. The university community is committed to fostering a safe campus environment where sexual misconduct and violence are unacceptable, and where those who believe they were harmed by another in violation of this policy are provided support and avenues of redress as appropriate.

b. All incoming students are required to participate in mandatory educational programs about preventing sexual harassment and assault and promoting a culture of caring for and respecting one another.

c. All members of the university community are expected to conduct themselves in a manner that does not infringe upon the rights of others. This University Sexual Misconduct policy and the procedures set out in Section 17 have been developed to reaffirm these principles and to provide recourse for individuals whose rights have been violated.

2. Students should understand that the following circumstances apply to any of the standards in Section E.2 or any other kind of sexual misconduct by a student whether acting individually or in concert with others:

  • Sexual activity and behavior which is not consensual is defined as sexual misconduct whether the assailant is a stranger or an acquaintance of the complainant;
  • Intoxication of the accused does not diminish his or her responsibility for an act of sexual misconduct;
  • In situations where the complainant is incapacitated or incapable of giving consent (which includes but is not limited to when the complainant is unable to consent due to consumption of alcohol or drugs) the accused is responsible if the accused commits sexual misconduct against the complainant. (See subsection E.2.III. 4 on consent.)

II. Sexual Harassment

I. No student may commit sexual harassment, defined as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when:

  • submission to such conduct is either explicitly or implicitly made a term or condition of an individual’s educational environment, employment, living environment, appointment, admission, or academic evaluation; or
  • submission to such conduct is used as a basis for evaluation in academic evaluations, educational opportunities, admissions evaluations, financial aid, or personnel decisions affecting an individual; or
  • such conduct has the effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work or academic performance, or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working or learning environment or student living environment.

2. Sexual harassment includes, but is not limited to, the following examples, if a reasonable person would have perceived them as objectively offensive:

  • written instances: suggestive or obscene communication via letters, notes, text messages, emails, and any material distributed via social media, or any type of digital communication.
  • verbal instances: derogatory comments, slurs, jokes, or epithets of a sexual nature or sexist remarks, discussions about sex or sexual activities not related to a specific course topic, requests for sexual favors, repeated and unwelcome propositions for dates, or offensive sexual remarks about an individual’s looks, clothing, or body parts when related to sex or gender.
  • physical instances: leering, stalking, assaults, impeding or blocking movement, touching, or body contact.
  • visual instances: inappropriate display of sexually explicit objects, pictures, cartoons, posters, computer screen savers, websites, movies, drawings, or sexual gestures.

III. Sexual Misconduct, Including Sexual Assault, Domestic Violence, Dating Violence, and Intimate Partner Violence

1. University policy prohibits sexual misconduct, which includes sexual assault (including groping, fondling, or sexual contact as defined in subsection E.2.III.1) , , domestic violence, and dating violence or intimate partner violence (as defined in subsection E.2.III.2).

2. Sexual Assault

(a) No student may commit sexual assault, defined as any physical sexual act (including, but not limited to, actual or attempted intercourse, sexual contact (as defined in subsection E.2.III.2(c)), penetration using a body part or object, fondling, or groping) perpetrated upon a person:

  • without their affirmative, conscious and voluntary consent, or where consent is not freely given;
  • where the assailant uses physical force, threat, coercion or intimidation to overpower or control another; or where the person assaulted fears that he or she, or another person, will be injured or otherwise harmed if he or she does not submit; or
  • where the ability to give or withhold consent is impaired due to the influence of alcohol or other drugs, or due to age or mental incapacity, or because of unconsciousness or blackout. (See subsection E.2.III.4 on consent.)

(b) Stranger and non-stranger sexual assault are covered equally in this policy

(c ) Sexual contact includes intentional contact with the intimate parts of another, causing another to touch one’s intimate parts, or disrobing or exposure of another without permission. Intimate parts may include the breasts, genitals, buttocks, groin, mouth or any other part of the body that is touched in a sexual manner.

3. Other Sexual Misconduct

(a) Sexual misconduct also includes surreptitiously observing or recording (by photography, video, or audio recording) another’s nudity or sexual activity, allowing another to observe or record another’s nudity or sexual activity, non-consensual sharing of images or recordings of nudity or sexual activity of another.

(b) Sexual misconduct includes exposing one’s genitals.

(c) Sexual misconduct also includes inducing incapacitation for the purpose of making another person vulnerable to non-consensual sexual activity

4. Consent

Valid consent must be informed and knowing. When people consent to sexual activity, they will have indicated, verbally or otherwise, that they are participating willingly, freely and voluntarily; silence, in and of itself, cannot demonstrate consent. It is the responsibility of each person involved in the sexual activity to ensure that he or she has the affirmative consent of the other or others to engage in the sexual activity. Consent is an ongoing process in any sexual interaction and may be withdrawn at any time during a sexual interaction. The existence of a dating relationship between the persons involved, or the fact of past sexual relations between them, should never, by itself, be assumed to be an indicator of consent. The absence of consent is presumed, but may be rebutted, when there is a difference in power or authority (either due to differences in physical strength, or differences in real or perceived authority).

It shall not be a valid excuse to the charge of sexual assault that the accused believed that the complainant consented to the sexual activity under either of the following circumstances: (a) the accused’s belief arose from the intoxication or recklessness of the accused, or (b) the accused did not take reasonable steps, in the circumstances known to the accused at the time, to ascertain whether the complainant affirmatively consented,

It is not a valid excuse if (a) the accused knew or reasonably should have know that the complainant was unable to consent because he or she was asleep or unconscious, (b) the complainant was incapacitated due to the influence of drugs, alcohol, or medication, so that the complainant could not understand the fact, nature, or extent of the sexual activity, or (c)the complainant was unable to communicate due to a mental or physical condition.

5. Domestic Violence, Dating Violence, Intimate Partner Violence

a. Domestic Violence or dating violence means abuse committed against a person who is a spouse or former spouse, a cohabitant or former cohabitant, a person with whom he or she has a child, or with whom he or she has, or had, a dating or engagement relationship.

Intimate partner violence means violence by a person who is or has been in a romantic or intimate relationship with the victim.

Dating violence and domestic violence are crimes under California law and may be subject to criminal prosecution.

b. Confidentiality (See also Section E.2. III, About Confidentiality)

The University will keep as confidential as possible the identity of persons who report having been victims of domestic violence, dating violence, or intimate partner violence to the fullest extent of the law, and will inform the person making the report that keeping the victim’s name confidential may limit the university’s ability to discipline or sanction the responsible student.

IV. Child Abuse

No student may commit an act of child abuse, including sexual abuse of an individual under 18 years of age. All students have a personal responsibility to report any instances of known or suspected abuse, molestation or neglect relating to children. Please see the University Policy on Protecting Minors, at usc.edu/policies.

V. Stalking

1. Stalking is experienced by women and men of all races, ethnicities, religions, ages, abilities and sexual orientations. It can affect every aspect of a victim’s life. It often begins with phone calls, emails, text messages or letters and may escalate to include physical violence.

No students may engage in stalking or tormenting behavior. Stalking is a crime in California and is subject to criminal prosecution.

a. Stalking is defined as a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to fear for the person’s safety or the safety of others or suffer substantial emotional distress. “Course of conduct” means behavior composed of two or more acts, including, but not limited to, acts in which the “stalker” directly, indirectly, or through third parties, by any action, method, device, or means, engages in any of the following: monitoring, following, observing, threatening, surveiling, or communicating to or about a person, or interferes with a person’s property.

b. For purposes of this policy, “tormenting behavior” means willful conduct directed at a specific person that seriously alarms, annoys, or terrorizes the person, that would have that effect on a reasonable person, and that serves no legitimate purpose.

2. Under California law, Any person who willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly follows or willfully and maliciously harasses another person and who makes a credible threat with the intent to place that person in reasonable fear for his or her safety, or the safety of his or her immediate family is guilty of the crime of stalking.

3. Some illustrative examples of behavior that may come under this definition:

  • Non-consensual communication, including face-to-face, telephone calls, voice messages, emails, text messages, postings on social networking sites, written letters, gifts or any other communications that are undesired.
  • Use of online, electronic or digital technologies, including:
  1. Posting picture(s) or information on social networking sites or other Websites.
  2. Sending unwanted or unsolicited email or chat requests.
  3. Posting private or public messages on school bulletin boards or Internet sites.
  4. Installing spyware on another person’s computer.
  5. Using Global Positioning Systems (GPS) to monitor another person.
  • Pursuing, following, waiting or showing up uninvited at or near a course, classroom, residence, workplace or other places frequented by the victim.
  • Surveillance or other types of observation, including staring or “peeping.”
  • Trespassing.
  • Vandalizing property.
  • Non-consensual touching.
  • Verbally or physically threatening.
  • Gathering information about an individual from friends, family or co-workers.
  • Threatening to harm self or others.
  • Defaming by lying to others about the victim (e.g., rumors of infidelity, etc.).
  • Third-party stalking or stalking by proxy.

4. Confidentiality. (See also Section E.2. III, About Confidentiality)

The University will keep as confidential as possible the identity of persons who report having been the victim of stalking to the fullest extent of the law, and will inform the person making the report that keeping the victim’s name confidential may limit the university’s ability to discipline or sanction the responsible student.

 Revised August 2014