Definitions of Sexual Misconduct, Consent and Harassment

Sexual Misconduct Policies at Yale

Yale University is committed to maintaining and strengthening an educational, working, and living environment founded on civility and mutual respect. Sexual misconduct is antithetical to the standards and ideals of our community and will not be tolerated.

Yale aims to eradicate sexual misconduct through education, training, clear policies, and serious consequences for violations of these policies. The University’s Title IX Coordinator has responsibility for ensuring compliance with Yale’s policies regarding sexual misconduct.  The University-Wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct (UWC) and the Title IX coordinators in each school will address allegations of sexual misconduct.

Many forms of sexual misconduct are also prohibited by Connecticut and federal law, including Title IX of the education amendments of 1972, and Connecticut statutes relating to sexual offenses, and could result in civil liability or criminal prosecution.

Definition of Sexual Misconduct Including Sexual Harassment

Sexual misconduct incorporates a range of behaviors including sexual assault (which includes rape and any kind of nonconsensual sexual contact), sexual harassment, intimate partner violence, stalking, voyeurism, and any other conduct of a sexual nature that is nonconsensual, or has the purpose or effect of threatening, intimidating, or coercing a person. 

Much sexual misconduct includes nonconsensual sexual contact, but this is not a necessary component. For example, threatening speech that is sufficiently serious to constitute sexual harassment will constitute sexual misconduct. Making photographs, video, or other visual or auditory recordings of a sexual nature of another person without consent constitutes sexual misconduct, even if the activity documented was consensual. Similarly, sharing such recordings or other sexually harassing electronic communications without consent is a form of sexual misconduct.

Violations of Yale’s Policy on Teacher-Student Consensual Relations are a form of sexual misconduct. 

Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is a form of sexual misconduct and is antithetical to academic values and to a work environment free from the fact or appearance of coercion. It is a violation of University policy and may result in serious disciplinary action. Sexual harassment consists of nonconsensual sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature on or off campus, when: (1) submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a condition of an individual's employment or academic standing; or (2) submission to or rejection of such conduct is used as the basis for employment decisions or for academic evaluation, grades, or advancement; or (3) such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual's work or academic performance or creating an intimidating or hostile academic or work environment. Sexual harassment may be found in a single episode, as well as in persistent behavior. Conduct that occurs in the process of application for admission to a program or selection for employment is covered by this policy, as well as conduct directed toward University students, faculty, or staff members.  In addition, conduct by third parties (i.e., individuals who are neither students nor employees, including but not limited to guests and consultants) is covered by this policy. Both men and women are protected from sexual harassment, and sexual harassment is prohibited regardless of the sex of the harasser. Sexual harassment is a matter of particular concern to an academic community in which students, faculty, and staff are related by strong bonds of intellectual dependence and trust. If members of the faculty, whether professors or teaching fellows, or other Yale employees, introduce sex into a professional relationship with a student, they abuse their position of authority. See the University’s Policy on Teacher-Student Consensual Relations.

Definition of Sexual Consent

Sexual activity requires consent, which is defined as positive, unambiguous, and voluntary agreement to engage in specific sexual activity throughout a sexual encounter. Consent cannot be inferred from the absence of a "no"; a clear "yes," verbal or otherwise, is necessary.  Consent to some sexual acts does not imply consent to others, nor does past consent to a given act imply present or future consent. Consent must be ongoing throughout a sexual encounter and can be revoked at any time.

Consent cannot be obtained by threat, coercion, or force. Agreement under such circumstances does not constitute consent.

Consent cannot be obtained from someone who is asleep or otherwise mentally or physically incapacitated, whether due to alcohol, drugs, or some other condition. A person is mentally or physically incapacitated when that person lacks the ability to make or act on considered decisions to engage in sexual activity.  Engaging in sexual activity with a person whom you know -- or reasonably should know -- to be incapacitated constitutes sexual misconduct.

Guidance Regarding Sexual Consent

Consent can only be accurately gauged through direct communication about the decision to engage in sexual activity.  Presumptions based upon contextual factors (such as clothing, alcohol consumption, or dancing) are unwarranted, and should not be considered as evidence for consent.

Although consent does not need to be verbal, verbal communication is the most reliable form of asking for and gauging consent, and you are thus urged to seek consent in verbal form. Talking with sexual partners about desires and limits may seem awkward, but serves as the basis for positive sexual experiences shaped by mutual willingness and respect.

Last updated May 21, 2014