Some Common Questions

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At MIT, Sexual misconductis a broad term used to encompass a range of behaviors including sexual harassment, nonconsensual sexual contact (sexual assault), nonconsensual sexual penetration (rape), and sexual exploitation. Some behaviors covered by these definitions might be referred to as rape, sexual assault, or sexual battery in criminal statutes. Terms that are also used culturally include date rape, acquaintance rape, or intimate partner violence. Sexual misconduct can occur between individuals who know each other, have an established relationship, have previously engaged in consensual sexual activity, and between individuals who do not know each other. Sexual misconduct can be committed by persons of any gender identity, and it can occur between people of the same or different sex.

MIT students are expected to engage in sexual behavior of any kind only with the fully informed and effective consent of all parties involved. Effective consent must be obtained for each instance and each escalation of sexual activity. Obtaining effective consent is the responsibility of the party initiating sexual activity. Doing otherwise may constitute sexual misconduct and is a violation of MIT policy.

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At MIT, Sexual Harassment is unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature, such as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature, when:

•Submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a condition of an individual’s employment or academic standing; or

•Submission to, or rejection of, such conduct is used as the basis for employment decisions (such as advancement, performance evaluation, or work schedule) or academic decisions (such as grading or letters of recommendation); or

Such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s working conditions, academic experience, or living conditions, or of creating a hostile working, academic, or living environment.

Even one instance of sexual harassment, if severe enough, may create a hostile environment. A non-exhaustive set of examples of conduct that might constitute sexual harassment are included below. One or more of these actions will be considered sexual harassment only when that conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with another individual’s working conditions, academic experience, or living conditions, or of creating a hostile working, academic, or living environment.

Examples of verbal sexual harassment may include unwelcome conduct such as unwelcome sexual flirtation, advances or propositions or requests for sexual activity or dates; asking about someone else's sexual activities, fantasies, preferences, or history; discussing one’s own sexual activities, fantasies, preferences, or history; verbal abuse of a sexual nature; suggestive comments; sexually explicit jokes; turning discussions at work or in the academic environment to sexual topics; and making offensive sounds such as smacking or licking lips, kissing sounds, or "wolf whistles."

Examples of nonverbal sexual harassment include unwelcome conduct such as displaying sexual objects, pictures or other images; invading a person's personal body space, such as standing closer than appropriate or necessary or hovering; displaying or wearing objects or items of clothing which express sexually offensive comments; making sexual gestures with hands or body movements; looking at a person in a sexually suggestive or intimidating manner; or delivering unwanted letters, gifts, or other items of a sexual nature. In addition, nonconsensual sexual contact, sexual exploitation, and nonconsensual sexual penetration may constitute nonverbal instances of sexual harassment.

Sexual harassment does not include material or discussion that is appropriately related to course subject matter or curriculum, and this policy shall not abridge academic freedom or the Institute’s educational mission.

Project 06

Nonconsensual sexual contact (sexual assault) is defined as any physical contact with another person of a sexual nature without that person’s effective consent. The touching of a person’s intimate parts (such as genitalia, groin, breast, buttocks, mouth, or clothing covering same); touching a person with one’s own intimate parts; or forcing a person to touch another’s intimate parts would be violations of this policy if they occur without effective consent.

Nonconsensual sexual penetration (rape) is defined as the sexual penetration of any bodily opening with any object or body part without effective consent. This could be committed by force, threat, intimidation, coercion, or through exploitation of another’s mental or physical condition (such as lack of consciousness, incapacitation due to drugs or alcohol, age, or disability) of which the respondent was actually aware or which a reasonable person in the respondent’s position should have been aware.

Being forced to penetrate someone else is also a form of sexual violence that is unacceptable.

Drug facilitated assault: when drugs or alcohol are used to compromise an individual's ability to consent to sexual activity. In addition, drugs and alcohol are often used in order to minimize the resistance and memory of the victim of a sexual assault. Alcohol remains the most commonly used chemical in crimes of sexual assault, but there are also substances being used by perpetrators including: Rohypnol, GHB, GBL, etc.

Project 06

Effective Consent is:

• Informed;
• Freely and actively given;
• Mutually understandable words or actions which indicate a willingness to participate in a mutually agreed upon sexual activity.


• Initiators of sexual activity are responsible for obtaining effective consent.
• Silence or passivity is not effective consent.
• The use of intimidation, coercion, threats, force, or violence negates any consent obtained.
• Consent is not effective if obtained from an individual who is incapable of giving consent due to one or more of the following or other reasons: a mental, intellectual, or physical disability; or is under the legal age to give consent; or is asleep, unconscious, or physically helpless; or is incapacitated by alcohol or other drugs.
• Consent to one type of sexual activity does not imply consent to any other or all types of sexual activity.
• A person can withdraw consent at any time.
• Consent to sexual activity at one time does not imply consent to the same or other sexual activity at any other time.
• Refusal, lack of consent, or non-consent may be expressed in many ways, verbally or physically. Physical resistance is not necessary to communicate a lack of consent. It is not necessary to resist physically or express verbally to indicate a lack of consent. It is the responsibility of the initiator of the sexual activity to obtain effective consent.

Individuals who initiate sexual activity assume responsibility for their behavior and must understand that the use of alcohol or other drugs does not reduce accountability for their actions. The question is whether or not the person who initiated the sexual activity knew or whether a sober and reasonable person in the same position should have known whether the other person gave effective consent.

Incapacitation is the physical and/or mental inability to make informed, rational judgments and decisions. States of incapacitation include sleep and blackouts. Where alcohol or other substances are involved, incapacitation is determined by how the substance impacts a person’s decision-making capacity, awareness of consequences, and ability to make informed judgments.

Coercion is to force one to act based on fear of harm to self or others. Means of coercion may include, but are not limited to, pressure, threats, emotional intimidation, or the use of physical force. Force may include words, conduct, or appearance. Force includes causing another’s intoxication or impairment through the use of drugs or alcohol. Coercion, intimidation, and non-physical threats can all be forms of force.

Project 06

Silence or passivity is NOT effective consent

The use of intimidation, coercion, threats, force, or violence negates any consent obtained.

Consent is not effective if obtained from an individual who is incapable of giving consent due to one or more of the following or other reasons: • a mental, intellectual, or physical disability
• is under the legal age to give consent
• is asleep, unconcious, or physically helpless
• is incapacitated by alcohol or other drugs

Consent cannot legally be given if a person is impaired, intoxicated, drugged, underage, mentally challenged, unconscious, or asleep.

Learn more at Jane Doe Inc.

Project 06

Sexual exploitation means taking sexual advantage of another person and includes, without limitation: indecent exposure; causing or attempting to cause the incapacitation of another person in order to gain a sexual advantage over him or her; causing the prostitution of another person; recording, photographing, or transmitting images of private sexual activity and/or the intimate parts of another person without effective consent; allowing third parties to observe private sexual acts without effective consent; engaging in voyeurism without effective consent; and knowingly or recklessly exposing another person to a significant risk of sexually transmitted infection, including HIV.

Project 06

Here are some tips on what to do when someone tells you they are in an abusive relationship, experienced abuse in the past, are being harassed or stalked, or have been sexually assaulted:

1. Listen
Be sure to listen while the person is talking. Don’t do anything else while listening to the survivor; give them your full attention.
Often survivors just want someone to listen, rather than “fix” or “solve” anything.

2. Acknowledge, Validate and Believe the Survivor
“I know it can be hard to talk about this stuff. Thank you so much for trusting me enough to tell me.”
“So what I hear you saying is…” Use the language the survivor uses. NEVER use “rape” or “abuse” unless the survivor is using those words.
There is no “normal” way to react to trauma. Any reaction is normal. Let them know that however they may be feeling is okay.

3. Empathize
“I am so sorry that this happened, but I am glad you came to me. There are people on campus who are really helpful in these types of situations, would you like their information?”

4. Sensitivity
Some people may tell you about something that happened that day, the day before, weeks ago, or years ago. Regardless of when it took place, you should communicate that you recognize the seriousness of the event and the impact it may have had on the survivor.
It is important to remember to be sensitive in your response, no matter what the circumstances are. For example, it is not appropriate to ask the survivor what they were doing or what they did to “cause” the incident.

5. Offer resources
Offer VPR as a resource: let them know they can call the hotline (617-253-2300) or email to talk to a VPR advocate, or offer to pass their information on to VPR so VPR can contact them directly.

Project 06

MIT prohibits stalking. Stalking is defined as a course of conduct involving more than one instance of unwanted attention, harassment, unwanted physical or verbal contact, use of threatening words and/or conduct, or any other course of conduct directed at an individual that could be reasonably regarded as alarming or likely to place that individual in fear of harm or injury, including physical, emotional, or psychological harm.

Stalking can take many forms. Examples include, but are not limited to, more than one instance of the following behaviors that could reasonably be regarded as alarming or likely to place the recipient in fear of harm of injury:

• following a person
• appearing at a person’s home, class, or work
• continuing to contact a person after receiving requests not to
• leaving written messages, objects, or unwanted gifts
• vandalizing a person’s property; photographing a person
• other threatening, intimidating, or intrusive behavior.

Stalking may also involve the use of electronic media such as the internet, social networks, blogs, cell phones, texts, or other similar devices (often referred to as cyber-stalking). Such behaviors may include, but are not limited to, non-consensual communication, telephone calls, voice messages, emails, texts, letters, notes, gifts, or any other communication that are repeated, undesired, and place another person in fear.

Project 06

Remember that every situation is different, and allow the person being stalked to make choices about how to handle it. Here are some suggestions for you to consider:

• Listen. If someone says they are being stalked, believe them.
• Do not blame your friend for the crime.
• Show support.
• Do not respond to the stalker in any way.
• Advise your friend to document everything. You can also document any incidences of stalking that you witness. A sample documentation log can be found here.
• Do not give any information out about your friend, no matter what the stalker may say.
• Offer to accompany your friend to places so they do not have to be alone.
• Refer your friend to a local shelter or victim service program.

For more information about stalking, particularly in MA, visit the following websites:

Project 06

MIT prohibits intimate partner violence. Intimate partner violence is defined as the use of physical violence, coercion, manipulation, threats, intimidation, isolation, or other forms of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse toward a partner in a current or former intimate relationship. For this policy, “intimate relationship” means marriage, domestic partnership, engagement, casual or serious romantic involvement, and dating. Intimate partner violence can occur between persons of any gender identity, any sexual orientation, and it can occur in any type of intimate relationship including monogamous, non-committed, and relationships involving more than two partners. Intimate partner violence can be a single act or a pattern of behavior. Intimate partner violence is sometimes referred to as dating violence, relationship abuse, or domestic violence.

Intimate partner violence can take many forms. Examples include, but are not limited to, situations in which the following behaviors are directed toward a partner in a current or former intimate relationship: hitting, kicking, punching, strangling, or other violence; property damage; threat of violence to one’s self, one’s partner, or the family members, friends, pets, or personal property of the partner; threat to disclose personal or sensitive information; and depriving the partner access to their residence.

Learn more here

Project 06

Listen, be supportive, avoid criticizing anyone involved in the situation (including the abuser), find resources to have on hand if needed, let the person know they can get in touch with you (or someone else, you can plan this out together) at any time for support or help

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