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What is Sexual Misconduct?

The Boston College Student Sexual Misconduct Policy provides definitions for sexual misconduct and the behaviors that are prohibited under the policy. Massachusetts criminal law definitions may be different, and are outlined in the Clery Campus Sexual Violence Response and Prevention Program. We encourage you to visit Boston College's Sexual Misconduct Policy and Resources site at for more information on BC's policey, resources, and response.

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, and 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. 

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.

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 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.

INTIMATE PARTNER VIOLENCE (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. Intimate Partner Violence can be physical, sexual, emotional, economic, or psychological actions or threats of actions that influence another person. Intimate partner 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 Intimate Partner Violence in Massachusetts may seek an abuse prevention order, also known as a "retraining 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.  Note: 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.