E.2 Sexual Misconduct
I. Providing a Safe Educational and Residential Environment
1. Expectations for the University Community
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 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. See E.3 I Education.
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 for students 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 standards in this section E.2 apply to any sexual misconduct by a student:
- Sexual activity and behavior which is non-consensual is 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, the accused is responsible if the accused commits sexual misconduct against the complainant (See subsections III.1 and III.4 below, on sexual assault and consent);
- These standards apply both on and off campus; and
- These standards apply whether the accused was acting individually or in concert with others.
3. Privacy and Confidentiality
The university will keep as private as possible the identity of persons who report having been the victim of sexual misconduct, but will inform the person making the report that keeping the victim’s name private may limit the university’s ability to investigate or discipline the responsible student. For information regarding confidential resources for victims of sexual misconduct, please see section E.3 Resources and Support.
II. Sexual Harassment
1. 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 Assault
1. No student may commit sexual assault, defined as any actual or attempted nonconsensual physical sexual act including, but not limited to, intercourse, penetration using a body part or object, fondling, groping or sexual contact as defined in subsection 3 below. Sexual assault includes but is not limited to non-consensual sexual intercourse. Sexual assault occurs where:
- There is no affirmative, conscious and voluntary consent, or consent is not freely given;
- Physical force, threats, coercion or intimidation is used to overpower or control another, or 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
- There is no ability to give or withhold consent due to incapacitation, whether due to the influence of alcohol or other drugs, age or mental incapacity, or unconsciousness. (See subsection 4 below on consent.)
2. Stranger and non-stranger sexual assault are covered equally in this policy.
3. 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.
An affirmative consent standard applies in the determination of whether consent was given by both parties to sexual activity. “Affirmative consent” means affirmative, conscious, and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity. 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. Lack of protest or resistance does not mean consent, nor does silence mean consent. Affirmative consent must be ongoing throughout a sexual activity and can be revoked at any time. 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.
It shall not be a valid excuse that the accused believed that the complainant affirmatively consented to the sexual activity under either of the following circumstances:
- The accused’s belief in affirmative consent arose from the intoxication or recklessness of the accused.
- 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 shall not be a valid excuse that the accused believed that the complainant affirmatively consented to the sexual activity if the accused knew or reasonably should have known that the complainant was unable to consent to the sexual activity under any of the following circumstances:
- The complainant was asleep or unconscious.
- 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.
- The complainant was unable to communicate due to a mental or physical condition.
5. Rape and sexual battery are crimes as defined under California law and may be subject to criminal prosecution.
IV. Other Sexual Misconduct
No student may commit sexual misconduct. In addition to the sexual misconduct addressed elsewhere in this Section E.2., sexual misconduct also includes, but is not limited to:
- non-consensually observing or recording (by photography, video, or audio recording) another’s nudity or sexual activity;
- allowing another to observe or record a person’s nudity or sexual activity without that person’s consent;
- non-consensual sharing of images or recordings of the nudity or sexual activity of another;
4. non-consensually exposing one’s genitals to another; and
5. inducing incapacitation for the purpose of making another person vulnerable to sexual assault.
V. Domestic Violence, Dating Violence, and Intimate Partner Violence
1. No student may commit domestic violence, dating violence, or 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.
B. Intimate partner violence means violence by a person who is or has been in a romantic or intimate relationship with the victim.
2. Dating violence and domestic violence are crimes as defined under California law and may be subject to criminal prosecution.
3. The university will keep as private 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, but will inform the person making the report that keeping the victim’s name private may limit the university’s ability to investigate or discipline the responsible student.
No student may engage in stalking or tormenting behavior.
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.
A. Stalking is a non-consensual 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, surveilling, or communicating to or about a person, or interfering with a person’s property.
B. For purposes of this policy, “tormenting behavior” is defined as non-consensual 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. Stalking is a crime as defined under California law and may be subject to criminal prosecution. 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:
- Posting picture(s) or information on social networking sites or other Websites.
- Sending unwanted or unsolicited email or chat requests.
- Posting private or public messages on school bulletin boards or Internet sites.
- Installing spyware on another person’s computer.
- 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.”
- 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. The university will keep as private as possible the identity of persons who report having been the victim of stalking to the fullest extent of the law, but will inform the person making the report that keeping the victim’s name private may limit the university’s ability to investigate or discipline the responsible student.
VII. 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 of a child. Please see the University Policy on Protecting Minors, at policy.usc.edu.
Revised October 2014