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What is sex discrimination, sexual harassment and sexual misconduct

Sex Discrimination

Sex discrimination involves conduct directed at a specific individual, or group of identifiable individuals, which subjects the individual or group to treatment that adversely affects their employment or education on account of their gender.

Behaviors that, depending on the totality of the circumstances present, may constitute sex discrimination include, but are not limited to:

  • Exclusion from educational resources or activities on the basis of one's gender;
  • Being subjected to jokes or derogatory comments about one's gender; or
  • Being held to different standards or requirements on the basis of one's gender.

Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is difficult to define because it involves feelings and perceptions. What is considered acceptable behavior by one person may be perceived as sexual harassment by another. Generally, sexual harassment is repeated, oppressive behavior directed at someone because of his or her gender. It can consist of unwanted, unwelcome and offensive verbal comments and visual images as well as physical advances, in which:

  • Submission to, or toleration of, such conduct is a condition of employment or participation in other System-related activities; or,
  • Submission to or rejection of the advances is used as a basis for making employment or academically-related decisions affecting such individual; or,
  • Such conduct creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment which unreasonably interferes with an individual's normal work performance.

Hostile Environment

Hostile Environment includes any situation in which there is harassing conduct that is sufficiently severe, pervasive and objectively offensive. In the investigation of a hostile environment report, the university will consider:

  • the frequency of the conduct;
  • the nature and severity of the conduct;
  • whether the conduct was physically threatening;
  • whether the conduct was humiliating;
  • the effect of the conduct on the alleged victim's mental or emotional state;
  • whether the conduct was directed at more than one person;
  • whether the conduct arose in the context of other discriminatory conduct;
  • whether the conduct unreasonably interfered with the alleged victim's educational or work performance;
  • whether the statement is a mere utterance of an epithet which engenders offense in an employee or student, or offends by mere discourtesy or rudeness
  • Whether the speech or conduct deserves the protections of academic freedom or the 1st Amendment.

Quid Pro Quo and Retaliatory Harassment

Quid pro quo sexual harassment exists when there are unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature; and submission to or rejection of such conduct results in adverse educational or employment action.

Retaliatory harassment is any adverse employment or educational action taken against a person because of the person's participation in a complaint or investigation of discrimination or sexual misconduct. Examples include:

  • an attempt to coerce an unwilling person into a sexual relationship;
  • to repeatedly subject a person to egregious, unwelcome sexual attention;
  • to punish a refusal to comply with a sexual based request;
  • to condition a benefit on submitting to sexual advances;
  • sexual violence;
  • intimate partner violence, stalking;
  • gender-based bullying.

Examples of Sexual Harassment:

  • Offensive sexual flirtations, advances, or propositions, including propositions of sex for grades;
  • Faculty led classroom discussions about sexual experiences not in any way germane to the subject matter of class.
  • Verbal abuse of a sexual nature or threat of physical sexual harm;
  • Graphic verbal comments about an individual's body or sexual behaviors;
  • Sexually degrading words used to describe an individual;
  • Unwelcome touching or physical contact;
  • The display of sexually suggestive objects, videos, posters, or pictures;
  • Whistling, obscene gestures, suggestive or insulting sounds; and
  • Unwelcome, repeated requests for dates.

Non-Consensual Sexual Contact

Non-consensual sexual contact is any intentional sexual touching, however slight, with any object, by a man or a woman upon a man or a woman, that is without consent and/or by force.

Examples of sexual contact includes intentional contact with the breasts, buttock, groin, or genitals, or touching another with any of these body parts, or making another touch you or themselves with or on any of these body parts; any intentional bodily contact in a sexual manner, though not involving contact with/of/by breasts, buttocks, groin, genitals, mouth or other orifice.

Non-Consensual Sexual Intercourse

Non-consensual sexual intercourse is any sexual intercourse however, slight, with any object, by a man or woman upon a man or a woman, that is without consent and/or by force.

Examples of sexual intercourse includes vaginal penetration by a penis, object, tongue or finger, anal penetration by a penis, object, tongue, or finger, and oral copulation (mouth to genital contact or genital to mouth contact), no matter how slight the penetration or contact.

Sexual Exploitation

Sexual exploitation occurs when a student takes non-consensual or abusive sexual advantage of another for his/her own advantage or benefit, or to benefit or advantage anyone other than the one being exploited, and that behavior does not otherwise constitute one of other sexual misconduct offenses. Examples of sexual exploitation include, but are not limited to:

  • Invasion of sexual privacy;
  • Prostituting another student;
  • Non-consensual video or audio taping of sexual activity;
  • going beyond the boundaries of consent (such as letting your friends hide in the closet to watch you having consensual sex);
  • engaging in voyeurism;
  • knowingly transmitting an STI or HIV to another student;
  • Exposing one's genitals in non-consensual circumstances; inducing another to expose their genitals;
  • Sexually-based stalking and/or bullying

Source: Association of Title IX Administrators (ATIXA) and the NCHERM Group, LLC