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What is Sexual Assault and What is Prohibited at Boston College?


The University prohibits all forms of sexual misconduct, including but not limited to, sexual harassment, sexual assault, stalking, and relationship violence, whether perpetrated by a stranger or acquaintance, whether occurring on or off campus, and whether directed against a member of the Boston College community or someone outside the University community. Such behavior by a Boston College student is a violation of University policy, and in certain cases, may also be a criminal violation.

Sexual misconduct complaints against faculty or staff will be addressed in accordance with Boston College’s Discriminatory Harassment Policy.

The University does not limit its ability to respond to inappropriate sexual behavior and forms of sexual misconduct that may not be specifically described in this policy or that does not constitute criminal behavior. None of the definitions below may be read to inhibit the University’s ability to address any incident or behavior that it reasonably deems to constitute sexual misconduct or create a discriminatory environment.


The Campus Sexual Violence Response and Prevention Program includes definitions of relevant terms under Massachusetts criminal law. For the purposes of this policy, the following terms have the meanings given to them below. Some of these terms may have different meanings in other contexts, such as criminal statutes, and they are not mutually exclusive of each other.

SEXUAL MISCONDUCT is a broad term that encompasses a range of behaviors including all forms of sexual harassment, including sexual assault, as well as other forms of misconduct or violence of a sexual nature, including, without limitation, relationship violence, stalking, and sexual exploitation. 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 gender

SEXUAL HARASSMENT is unwanted or offensive sexual behavior that has the purpose or effect of creating a hostile or stressful living, learning, or working environment, or whenever toleration of such conduct or rejection of it is the basis for a personnel or academic decision affecting an individual. Examples of behavior that may constitute sexual harassment include, but are not limited to, sexual advances, any form of retaliation or threat of retaliation against an individual who rejects such advances, sexual epithets, jokes, or comments, comment or inquiry about an individual’s body or sexual experiences, unwelcome leering, whistling, brushing against the body, sexual gestures, and displaying sexually suggestive images.

Sexual harassment includes any conduct or incident that is sufficiently serious that it is likely to limit or deny a student’s ability to participate in or benefit from the University’s educational programs, which may include a single incident of sexual assault or other serious sexual misconduct.

SEXUAL ASSAULT is any sexual penetration or sexual contact with another individual without consent.

CONSENT is the clear and voluntary agreement to engage in particular sexual activity, communicated through mutually understandable words or actions.  Consent is always freely informed and actively given. Silence or lack of resistance cannot be assumed to imply consent.  Consent must be ongoing, and it may be withdrawn at any time. Consent for one sexual act does not imply consent for any subsequent sexual activity. Consent may never be obtained through use of coercion, intimidation, force, or threats.

Consent cannot be obtained from an individual who is incapable of giving consent because the person:
•    Has a mental, intellectual, or physical disability; or
•    Is under the legal age to give consent (16 years of age in Massachusetts); or
•    Is asleep, “blacked out,” unconscious, or physically helpless; or
•    Is incapacitated, including through the consumption of alcohol or drugs.

INCAPACITATION is the inability to make informed, rational judgments and decisions. If alcohol or drugs are involved, incapacitation may be assessed by evaluating how the substance has affected a person’s decision-making capacity, awareness, and ability to make informed judgments. The impact of alcohol and drugs varies from person to person; however, warning signs of possible incapacitation include slurred speech, unsteady gait, impaired coordination, inability to perform personal tasks such as undressing, inability to maintain eye contact, vomiting, and emotional volatility.

COERCION is to force a person 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.

SEXUAL CONTACT includes intentional contact with the intimate parts of another person, causing another person to touch one’s intimate parts, or disrobing or exposure of another person 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. Sexual contact also includes attempted sexual penetration.

SEXUAL PENETRATION includes vaginal or anal penetration, however slight, with a body part (e.g., penis, tongue, finger, hand, etc.) or object, or oral penetration involving mouth to genital contact.

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 consent; observing or allowing third parties to observe private sexual acts or otherwise violating a person’s sexual privacy without consent; and knowingly or recklessly exposing another person to a significant risk of sexually transmitted infection.

(also known as Dating Violence or Domestic Violence) is a pattern of abusive behavior that is used by an intimate partner to gain or maintain power and control over the other partner. Relationship violence can be physical, sexual, emotional, economic, or psychological actions or threats of actions that influence another person. Relationship violence is violence committed by a person who is or has been in a social relationship of a romantic or intimate nature with the victim, where the existence of such a relationship is determined based on the following factors: the length of the relationship, the type of relationship, and the frequency of interaction between the persons involved in the relationship. Individuals who are victims of domestic abuse in Massachusetts may seek an abuse prevention order, also known as a “restraining order” or “209A order,” in addition to pursuing criminal charges and charges through the student conduct system, if the offender is a Boston College student. For more information on Massachusetts law, see

STALKING is engaging in a course of behavior directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to fear for his or her safety or the safety of others, or suffer substantial emotional distress. Generally, stalking involves a course of conduct which is defined as 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, follows, monitors, observes, surveils, threatens, or communicates to or about a person, or interferes with a person's property. Examples include but are not limited to: following a person; appearing at a person’s home, class or work; making frequent phone calls, emails, text messages, etc.; continuing to contact a person after receiving requests not to; leaving written messages, objects or unwanted gifts; vandalizing a person’s property; and threatening, intimidating or intrusive behavior.