What is sexual violence?

The Department of Education Office for Civil Rights defines “sexual violence” as “physical sexual acts perpetrated against a person’s will or where a person is incapable of giving consent.” Sexual violence includes rape, sexual assault or battery, sexual abuse and sexual coercion. While the use of force is sometimes present in an act of sexual violence, it need not be. Any form of sexual conduct without consent, with a minor (who by law cannot give consent) or with a person who is temporarily incapacitated from giving knowing consent (e.g., because of the influence of drugs or alcohol, sleep, illness, or any other reason) also constitutes sexual violence. All forms of sexual violence, as well as other forms of sexual harassment, are prohibited by the Policy Against Discrimination, Harassment, Sexual Violence, Relationship Violence, and Retaliation.


Use of pressure to compel another individual to initiate or continue sexual activity against an individual’s will. Coercion can include a wide range of behaviors, including intimidation, manipulation, threats, and blackmail. A person’s words or conduct are sufficient to constitute coercion if they wrongfully impair another individual’s freedom of will and ability to choose whether or not to engage in sexual activity. Examples of coercion include threatening to “out” someone based on sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression and threatening to harm oneself if the other party does not engage in the sexual activity.


Consent to sexual activity requires voluntary, positive agreement between the participants to engage in specific sexual activity. Consent is active, not passive. Signals of consent must be part of a mutual and ongoing process, offered freely and knowingly.

It is the responsibility of the person who initiates the sexual activity to make sure that he/she has the other person’s consent.

It is important to remember:

  • Silence, by itself, cannot constitute consent
  • Consent to one sexual act does not constitute or imply consent to a different sexual act.
  • Previous consent cannot imply consent to future sexual acts. Consent is required regardless of the parties' relationship status or sexual history together.
  • A verbal "no," even if it may sound indecisive or insincere, always indicates a lack of consent.

Communicating consent:

  • Consent to sexual activity can be communicated in a variety of ways, but one should presume that consent has not been given in the absence of clear, positive agreement.
  • While verbal consent is not an absolute requirement for consensual sexual activity, verbal communication prior to engaging in sex helps to clarify consent. Communicating verbally before engaging in sexual activity is imperative. However potentially awkward it may seem, talking about your own and your partner's sexual desires, needs, and limitations provide a basis for a positive experience.
  • Consent must be clear and unambiguous for each participant at every stage of a sexual encounter. The absence of "no" should not be understood to mean there is consent.
  • A prior relationship does not indicate consent to future activity.

Alcohol and drugs:

  • A person who is asleep or mentally or physically incapacitated, either through the effect of drugs or alcohol or for any other reason, is not capable of giving valid consent.
  • The use of alcohol or drugs may seriously interfere with the participants' judgment about whether consent has been sought and given.
  • Being under the influence of alcohol or drugs does not absolve the initiator of sexual activity from responsibility to obtain clear consent.
  • Being under the influence of alcohol or drugs does not make the non-initiating party responsible for non-consensual sexual conduct.

Dating Violence

Dating violence means violence by a person who has been in a romantic or intimate relationship with the victim. Whether there was such relationship will be gauged by the duration, type, and frequency of interaction.

Domestic Violence

Domestic violence includes violent misdemeanor and felony offenses committed by the victim's current or former spouse, current or former cohabitant, or other person similarly situated under domestic or family violence law. Domestic violence can be a single event or a pattern of behavior.


Use of physical violence (such as pushing, hitting, pinning down), threats (direct or indirect expressions of harm to self or others), intimidation (implied or indirect threats or abuse of power), and/or coercion (unreasonable pressure applied after someone communicates (verbally or nonverbally) they want to stop or not go past a certain point).


An individual lacks the ability to make informed, rational judgements and cannot consent to sexual activity. Incapacitation is defined as the inability, temporarily or permanently, to give consent because the individual is mentally and/or physically helpless, asleep, unconscious, or unaware that sexual activity is occurring.

Incapacitation may result from the use of alcohol and/or drugs. Incapacitation is a state beyond drunkenness or intoxication. The impact of alcohol and other drugs varies from person to person; however, warning signs that a person may be approaching incapacitation may include slurred speech, vomiting, unsteady gait, odor of alcohol, combativeness, or emotional volatility. Evaluating incapacitation requires an assessment of how the consumption of alcohol and/or drugs affects an individual’s:

  • decision-making ability;
  • awareness of consequences;
  • ability to make informed judgments; or
  • capacity to appreciate the nature and the quality of the act.

Evaluating incapacitation also requires an assessment of whether a respondent should have been aware of the complainant’s incapacitation based on objectively and reasonably apparent indications of impairment when viewed from the perspective of a sober, reasonable person in the respondent’s position.


Retaliation is defined as adverse action against an individual who has (1) complained about alleged Prohibited Conduct, (2) participated as a party or witness in an inquiry, investigation or hearing relating to such allegations, or (3) participated as a party or witness in a court proceeding or administrative investigation relating to such allegations. Retaliation by any member of the campus community, including students, faculty and staff, is prohibited by state and federal law and violates North Park Policy. Some examples of unlawful retaliation include:

  • A professor giving a student a lower grade because s/he reported harassment;
  • A student barring a classmate from membership in a student-run organization because s/he filed a complaint with the Title IX coordinator;
  • A member of Campus Safety refusing to investigate an incident because a student filed a prior complaint under the University’s anti-discrimination policy;
  • Any member of the campus community encouraging others not to participate in an investigation relating to a complaint of discrimination;
  • Denying a campus employee a raise or promotion because he or she participated in a faculty disciplinary hearing.

Sexual Misconduct

Sexual misconduct includes sexual assault, inducing incapacitation for sexual purposes, and sexual exploitation.

Sexual assault is defined as forcing, threatening, or coercing an individual into sexual contact against the individual's free will with or without the individual's consent. It includes, but is not limited to, inappropriate touching, sexual intercourse of any kind without consent, rape, or attempted rape against that individual's free will. Sexual assault includes having sexual contact with a victim while knowing or having reason to know that the victim was under the influence of alcohol or other drugs or was otherwise unable to consent. Verbal misconduct or any misconduct that does not involve unwanted sexual touching does not constitute sexual assault under the University's policy but may constitute sexual harassment or another form of misconduct.


Stalking is defined as repetitive and/or menacing pursuit, following, harassment and/or interference with peace and/or safety that causes a reasonable person to fear for his/her own safety or the safety of an immediate family member or other person with whom a family-like relationship exists (e.g., a roommate).

Student studying
Getting Help

If you have experienced sexual violence, your first step is to get to safety and seek medical assistance if needed. Then reach out to individuals and resources at North Park who can help you through the process of reporting the violence and seeking support.