Definitions of Sexual Violence

Samuel Merritt University holds that sexual violence has no place in the academic environment and the University will not tolerate it.  Additionally, under CA State and Federal laws, sexual violence (inclusive of, but not limited to: sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, dating violence, domestic violence, stalking and sexual assault of employees or students) is illegal.  Samuel Merritt University seeks to eliminate sexual violence through education and by encouraging faculty, staff, and students to report concerns or complaints.  The University takes the matter of sexual violence very seriously; indeed, the University and individual employees and/or students may be legally liable for acts of sexual violence. Therefore, any acts of sexual violence should be reported immediately to the Executive Director of Human Resources (Title IX Coordinator).  After a thorough investigation, anyone found to have violated this policy will be subject to disciplinary action —up to and including dismissal/discharge from the University. See the SMU Sexual Violence Policy and Reporting Page for more information.

The University uses an “affirmative consent” standard, whereas:

  • Consent is informed and an affirmative, unambiguous, and conscious decision by each participant to engage in mutually agreed-upon sexual activity.
  • Consent is voluntary.  It must be given without coercion, force, threats, or intimidation.  Consent is an expression of free will.
  • Consent is revocable.  Consent in some form of sexual activity does not imply consent to other forms of sexual activity.  Consent to sexual activity on one occasion is not consent to engage in sexual activity on another occasion.  A current or previous dating or sexual relationship, by itself, is not sufficient to constitute consent.  Even in the context of a relationship, there must be mutual consent to engage in sexual activity.  Consent must be ongoing throughout a sexual encounter and can be revoked at any time.  Once consent is withdrawn, the sexual activity must stop immediately.
  • Consent cannot be given when a person is incapacitated.  A person cannot consent if she/he/ze is under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or medication, unconscious or coming in and out of consciousness.  A person cannot consent if she/he/ze is under the threat of violence, bodily injury or other forms of coercion.  A person cannot consent if his/her/hir understanding of the act is affected by a physical or mental impairment.
  • For a more information on consent click here

Definition of Sexual Misconduct
Sexual misconduct includes a range of behaviors used to obtain sexual contact against a person's will.  Sexual misconduct is defined as sexual contact without consent by someone you know or a stranger and includes:  intentional touching without consent, either of the victim or when the victim is forced to touch, directly or through clothing, another person's genitals, breast, groin, thighs or buttocks; rape (sexual intercourse without consent whether by someone you know or stranger); attempted rape; sodomy (oral or anal intercourse) without consent; or sexual penetration with an object without consent.

Definition of Sexual Harassment

1.     The prohibition applies to all staff employees and students, and in particular to supervisors (including direct supervisory and other management staff).  A sexual advance violates this policy regardless of whether the advance is expressly related to the affected employee’s/student’s employment/academic status. It is improper to make sexual advances, ask for, demand or seek by subtle pressure sexual favors or activity from an employee/student, or to subject another employee/student to verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature where:

  • The submission to such behavior is a condition of any employment/academic opportunity, benefit, job retention, grade; or
  • The submission to or rejection of such conduct is used as a basis for employment/academic decisions; or
  • Such conduct has the purpose or the effect of unreasonably interfering with the individual’s work/academic performance; or
  • Such conduct creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work/academic environment.

2.     It is improper for an employee/student to make sexual advances or to offer or suggest sexual favors or activity in exchange or in consideration for any personnel/academic action.

3.     It is improper to retaliate against an employee/student for refusing a sexual advance or for refusing a request, demand or pressure for sexual favors or activity or to retaliate against an employee/student who has reported an incident of possible sexual harassment to the University or to any government agency.

4.     It is not possible to identify each and every act which constitutes or may constitute sexual harassment.  However, certain conduct is clearly improper and is strictly prohibited.  Persons engaging in this conduct, or other similar acts, will be subject to discipline up to and including dismissal from the University.  Such acts might include:

a.     Any unwanted, intentional touching of an employee/student by another may be sexual harassment and is prohibited.  Due to the possibility of misinterpretation of acts by other employees/students, the University discourages all roughhousing or physical contact, except that contact necessary and incidental to an employee’s job/student’s academic status. Further, certain kinds of physical conduct in the work/academic environment are particularly inappropriate and may be grounds for immediate discipline, including dismissal from the University. That conduct includes, but is not limited to:

  • Kissing or attempting to kiss an employee/student;
  • Touching or attempting to touch or pretending to touch the breasts, buttocks or genitals of an employee/student;
  • Physically restraining by force or blocking the path of an employee/student when accompanied by other conduct of a sexual nature;
  • Any other touching or attempted touching reasonably interpreted to be of a sexual nature.

b.     Sexual advances, unwelcome requests, demands, or subtle pressure for sexual favors or activity, lewd comments and sexual innuendoes are also prohibited. This conduct includes, but is not limited to:

  • Comments to an employee/student or others about the body of an employee/student which are intended to draw attention to the sex of the employee/student or can reasonably be interpreted to draw attention to the sex of the employee/student;
  • Comments to the employee/student or others about the sexual conduct, capability, or desirability of an employee/student;
  • Cat calls, whistles, or other conduct reasonably interpreted to be of a sexual nature.

c.     Sexually suggestive gestures are also prohibited.

d.     It is improper to subject employees/students to photographs, cartoons, articles, or other written or pictorial materials of a sexual nature after the employee/student has expressed his/her/hir displeasure with such activity. These materials may be offensive to the public as well and should not be on display in offices or public areas in any event.

e.     This policy is not intended to prohibit employees/students from asking other employees/students for social engagements.  However, repeated requests where prior social invitations have been refused can be interpreted as sexual harassment.  Employees/students should refrain from persistent invitations after an employee/student has indicated that such invitations are unwelcome.

Definition of Dating Violence
The term “dating violence” means violence committed by a person:

Who is or has been in a social relationship of a romantic or intimate nature with the victim; and where the existence of such a relationship shall be determined based on a consideration of the following factors: the length of the relationship; the type of relationship; and the frequency of the interaction between the persons involved in the relationship

Definition of Domestic Violence
The term ‘‘domestic violence’’ includes felony or misdemeanor crimes of violence committed by a current or former spouse of the victim, by a person with whom the victim shares a child in common, by a person who is cohabitating with or has cohabitated with the victim as a spouse, by a person similarly situated to a spouse of the victim under the domestic or family violence laws of the jurisdiction receiving grant monies, or by any other person against an adult or youth victim who is protected from that person’s acts under the domestic or family violence laws of the jurisdiction.

Definition of Stalking
The term ‘‘stalking’’ means engaging in a course of conduct, regardless of medium used, that is directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to— (A) fear for his/her/hir safety or the safety of others; or (B) suffer substantial emotional distress.

Definition of Sexual Assault
An offense classified as a forcible or nonforcible sex offense under the uniform crime reporting system of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The conduct described in this policy is strictly prohibited.  If anyone, including non-employees/non-students, engages in such conduct, it is important that the conduct be reported to the Executive Director of Human Resources.  It is not possible for the University to enforce this policy if incidents of harassment are not reported.  The procedure to follow if the student feels that he/she/ze has been subjected to sexual harassment/sexual misconduct is set forth in this Catalog/Handbook


Internet Resources:

Sexual Assault

Dating and Domestic Violence