Definition of Terms

Coercion is the 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 is a crucial part of both the Williams Code of Conduct and Massachusetts law.  The Williams College Code of Conduct requires affirmative consent for all sexual activity.

Consent means that at the time of the sexual contact, words and conduct indicate freely given approval or agreement, without coercion, by all participants in the sexual contact.  Consent may not be inferred from silence or passivity. In addition, consent once given may be withdrawn at any time. If consent is withdrawn, whatever sexual contact is occurring must immediately stop.

Individuals are unable to give consent if they are:

  • substantially physically or mentally impaired by illness, alcohol or drugs
  • forced, coerced, threatened or subject to intimidation
  • physically incapable of communicating, asleep, or unconscious

Consent while under the influence of alcohol or drugs is valid consent unless the person is under the influence to the point of being substantially impaired.

Relationship Abuse  Williams prohibits relationship abuse. Relationship abuse is defined as the use of physical force, coercion, threats, intimidation, isolation, or other forms of physical, or sexual abuse toward a partner in a current or former personal, intimate relationship.   Relationship abuse also includes manipulation or other forms of emotional abuse if they have the effect of creating fear*, isolation, or restriction of access to resources, education or work.  Relationship abuse includes behaviors that are defined as dating and/or domestic violence for purposes of remedies under Massachusetts law, Title IX, and for Clery Act reporting.

Relationship abuse is directed primarily against a person who is or has been involved in a sexual, dating, domestic or other emotionally, romantically, and/or physically intimate relationship with the respondent, although the abuse may be directed toward the family members, friends, pets, or property of the targeted partner.

Relationship abuse can encompass a broad range of behavior including, but not limited to, coercive, abusive, or violent behaviors that are physical, sexual and/or economic in nature. They also include psychological, verbal and/or emotional abuse if they have the effect of creating fear*, isolation, or restriction of access to resources, education or work.  The behaviors generally form an ongoing pattern of behavior, although one severe instance of physical or sexual abuse may be sufficient to establish relationship abuse.

Examples include, but are not limited to, situations in which the following behaviors are directed toward the targeted individual:

  • Threats and intimidation: coercion and manipulation, including threats of self-harm, used to compel the targeted individual(s) to behave as directed; exhibiting extreme possessiveness or jealousy to control or compel the targeted partner(s) behavior; threatening to share information which could damage the target’s reputation or relationships with others to compel the targeted partner’s behavior; threatening to harm the target’s family, friends, pets, or property; threatening the target with physical or sexual harm;
  • Isolation and restriction of freedom: isolating or confining the target for a substantial period of time; repeatedly depriving the target of personal freedom of movement or access to friends, family, or support systems;
  • Resource abuse: forcible or coercive denial of use or access to owned or shared assets, or limiting or controlling access to education or work; words and/or actions aimed at manipulating the financial or legal situation of the target;
  • Harm to property or pets: attempting to cause or causing damage or injury to property owned or controlled by the target, or the target’s pets; interfering with the target’s access to property they own or control, or their pets;
  • Physical abuse: attempting to cause or causing the target bodily injury or offensive physical contact;
  • Sexual assault, sexual exploitation, and sexual harassment as defined elsewhere in the Code of Conduct;
  • Stalking as defined elsewhere in the Code of Conduct

* In adjudication of cases, behavior that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear will be interpreted as constituting relationship abuse by this standard.

Non-Consensual Sexual Intercourse means any sexual penetration (anal, oral or vaginal), however slight, with any body part or object, by any person upon any other person, without effective consent.

Non-Consensual Sexual Contact means any sexual touching, however slight, with any body part or object, by any person upon any other person, without effective consent.

Preponderance of the Evidence is the standard of proof that the College uses in adjudicating cases of alleged sexual misconduct.  It means “more likely than not.” Where a person is alleged to have committed a particular act of sexual misconduct, the allegation is established by a preponderance of the evidence when the evidence is such that it is more likely true than not true that the person committed the act.

Responsible employee means a College employee who has the duty to report or authority to address sexual misconduct by a member of the College community, or who a student reasonably could believe has such duty or authority.

Retaliation is harmful action taken against someone who has filed a complaint, provided testimony, or in some other way participated in a disciplinary investigation or process. It could also include actions taken against someone who has intervened as a bystander to stop or attempt to stop harassment, discrimination, or misconduct.

It can include intimidating, threatening, coercing, or discriminating against an individual because of their participation in a disciplinary process, or because they opposed behavior that was in violation of our Code of Conduct.

If the actions directed at that individual would deter a reasonable person in the same circumstances from reporting misconduct, participating in a disciplinary process, or opposing behavior in violation of our Code of Conduct, it is deemed retaliatory.

Sexual Assault means any non-consensual sexual intercourse or other non-consensual sexual contact.

Sexual Exploitation occurs when a person takes nonconsensual, unjust or abusive 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 sexual misconduct. Examples of sexual exploitation include prostituting another person, nonconsensual video or audiotaping of sexual activity, going beyond the boundaries of consent (such as letting your friends watch you have consensual sex), engaging in peeping tommery, knowingly transmitting STD or HIV to another person, and inducing incapacitation with the intent to sexually assault another person.

Sexual Harassment means unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when (1) submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual’s employment, instruction or participation in other College activities; (2) submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as a basis for making academic, employment or personnel decisions affecting that individual; or (3) such conduct has the purpose or effect of creating an intimidating or hostile educational or working environment.

Sexual Misconduct means any form of sexual assault, sexual harassment, sexual exploitationdating or domestic violence, or stalking.

Stalking refers to a pattern of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear, or to fear for the health or safety of a person they are close to, such as a friend or family member.  Stalking behaviors can include, but are not limited to:

  • non-consensual communication including in-person communication, telephone calls, voice messages, text messages, emails, social media site postings or messages, instant messages, posting of pictures or information on websites, written letters, gifts, or any other communications that are undesired or place another person in fear
  • following, pursuing, waiting, or showing up uninvited at a workplace, place of residence, classroom, or other locations frequented by the victim
  • surveillance or other types of observation, whether by physical proximity or electronic means
  • trespassing, for example in a victim’s dorm room
  • vandalism
  • non-consensual touching
  • direct physical and/or verbal threats against a victim or a victim’s loved ones
  • gathering of information about a victim from family, friends, co-workers, and/or classmates
  • manipulative or controlling behaviors such as threats to harm oneself, or threats to harm someone close to the victim
  • defamation or slander against the victim, for example by spreading rumors

Substantially impaired means an individual lacks the ability 
to make informed, rational judgments and/or to coherently communicate those judgments.  Substantial impairment may result from illness or from the use of alcohol and/or other drugs. Substantial impairment 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 is or may be approaching substantial impairment may include (but are not limited to) slurred speech, vomiting, unsteady gait,  combativeness, or unusual emotional volatility.

Williams College encourages the reporting of sexual misconduct, including sexual assault.  Under this policy, if an individual reports or seeks care for an incident of sexual misconduct during which they consumed alcohol or drugs, they will not be subject to disciplinary action regarding the alcohol or drug use.

This policy is applicable to any student reporting an incident of sexual misconduct, whether they themselves experienced the incident or whether they observed misconduct against another person.