This page is structured to provide answers to frequently asked questions about the University's Policy on Sexual and Gender-based Harassment and Other Forms of Interpersonal Violence, such as:
Who is covered by the Policy?
What is Sexual Assault, Stalking, Intimate Partner Violence, and other forms of conduct prohibited by the Policy?
What is Affirmative Consent and how does alcohol affect consent?
What happens when the University investigates a report of sexual or gender-based violence?
What resources are available to help if you or a friend has experienced sexual or gender-based violence?
The University is an institution built upon honor, integrity, trust, and respect. Consistent with these values, the University is committed to providing a safe and non-discriminatory learning, living, and working environment for all members of the University community. The University does not discriminate on the basis of sex or gender in any of its education or employment programs and activities. To that end, the University enacted its Policy on Sexual and Gender-Based Harassment and Other Forms of Interpersonal Violence (“Policy”) on July 1, 2015. The Policy prohibits specific forms of behavior, which the Policy collectively refers to as “Prohibited Conduct”:
Intimate Partner Violence
Complicity in the commission of any prohibited conduct
Retaliation against a person for a good faith report of prohibited conduct, or participation in any investigation under the Policy
Acts of Prohibited Conduct are unlawful. Specifically, they violate Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (“Title IX”); Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”); and/or the Virginia Human Rights Act., undermine the character and purpose of the University, and will not be tolerated. Acts of Prohibited Conduct also require the University to fulfill certain obligations under the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 (“VAWA”) and the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act (“Clery Act”).
In addition to being unlawful, acts of Prohibited Conduct undermine the character and purpose of the University. They will not be tolerated.
More information about each type of Prohibited Conduct can be found by clicking the links above, or scrolling down this page.
PLEASE NOTE: The University had policies to address sexual and gender-based violence prior to adopting the Policy in July 2015. Those previous policies used different definitions of misconduct. Where reports of Prohibited Conduct involve acts that occurred prior to July 2015, the University will apply the definitions in effect at the time of the alleged incident. However, it will investigate and resolve all such reports in accordance with its current procedures. If you would like more information about previous University policies, please follow the links below:
Interim Policy on Sexual and Gender-Based Harassment and Other Forms of Interpersonal Violence (Definitions apply to alleged incidents that occurred between March 30, 2015 and June 30, 2015)
Sexual Misconduct Policy (Definitions apply to alleged incidents that occurred prior to March 30, 2015)
The Policy applies to Students who are registered or enrolled for credit- or non-credit-bearing coursework (“Students”); University employees, consisting of all full-time and part-time faculty, University Staff, Medical Center employees and classified staff, wage (including temps), professional research staff, and post-doctoral fellows (“Employees”); and contractors, vendors, visitors, guests or other third parties (“Third Parties”). This policy pertains to acts of Prohibited Conduct committed by or against Students, Employees and Third Parties when:
the conduct occurs on University Grounds or other property owned or controlled by the University;
the conduct occurs in the context of a University employment or education program or activity, including, but not limited to, University-sponsored study abroad, research, on-line, or internship programs; or
the conduct occurs outside the context of a University employment or education program or activity, but has continuing adverse effects on or creates a hostile environment for Students, Employees or Third Parties while on University Grounds or other property owned or controlled by the University or in any University employment or education program or activity.
The University’s ability to take appropriate corrective action against a Third Party will be determined by the nature of the relationship of the Third Party to the University. The Title IX Coordinator will determine the appropriate manner of resolution consistent with the University’s commitment to a prompt and equitable process consistent with federal law, federal guidance, and this policy.
The University’s Office for Equal Opportunity and Civil Rights (“EOCR”) administers two separate policies that address other forms of discrimination and harassment: (1) the Preventing and Addressing Discrimination and Harassment Policy (the “PADH Policy”), and (2) the Preventing and Addressing Retaliation Policy (together, the “EOCR Policies”). This policy supersedes any conflicting provisions contained in the EOCR Policies. Where Prohibited Conduct violates this policy and also violates either or both of the EOCR Policies, the University’s response will be governed by the procedures referenced in this policy. Questions about which policy applies in a specific instance should be directed to the University’s Title IX Coordinator at (434) 297-7988.
The University defines Sexual Assault as:
Sexual Contact and/or
Sexual Intercourse that occurs without
Sexual Contact is:
Any intentional sexual touching
With any object or body part (as described below)
Performed by a person upon another person
Sexual Contact includes (a) intentional touching of the breasts, buttocks, groin or genitals, whether clothed or unclothed, or intentionally touching another with any of these body parts; and (b) making another touch you or themselves with or on any of these body parts.
Sexual Intercourse is:
With any object or body part (as described below)
Performed by a person upon another person
Sexual Intercourse includes (a) vaginal penetration by a penis, object, tongue, or finger; (b) anal penetration by a penis, object, tongue, or finger; and (c) any contact, no matter how slight, between the mouth of one person and the genitalia of another person.
Affirmative Consent is:
- Informed (knowing)
- Voluntary (freely given)
- Active (not passive), meaning that, through the demonstration of clear words or actions, a person has indicated permission to engage in mutually agreed-upon sexual activity
Affirmative Consent cannot be obtained by Force. Force includes (a) the use of physical violence, (b) threats, (c) intimidation, and/or (d) coercion.
- Physical violence means that a person is exerting control over another person through the use of physical force. Examples of physical violence include hitting, punching, slapping, kicking, restraining, choking, and brandishing or using any weapon.
- Threats are words or actions that would compel a reasonable person to engage in unwanted sexual activity. Examples include threats to harm a person physically, to reveal private information to harm a person’s reputation, or to cause a person academic or economic harm.
- Intimidation is an implied threat that menaces or causes reasonable fear in another person. A person’s size, alone, does not constitute intimidation; however, how a person uses their size may constitute intimidation (e.g., blocking access to an exit).
- Coercion is the use of an unreasonable amount of pressure to gain sexual access. Coercion is more than an effort to persuade, entice, or attract another person to have sex. When a person makes clear that they do not want to participate in a particular form of Sexual Contact or Sexual Intercourse, that they want to stop, or that they do not want to go beyond a certain sexual interaction, continued pressure can be coercive. In evaluating whether coercion was used, the University will consider: (i) the frequency of the application of the pressure, (ii) the intensity of the pressure, (iii) the degree of isolation of the person being pressured, and (iv) the duration of the pressure.
What Should I Know About Affirmative Consent?
- A person who wants to engage in a specific sexual activity is responsible for obtaining Affirmative Consent for that activity.
- Lack of protest does not constitute Affirmative Consent.
- Lack of resistance does not constitute Affirmative Consent.
- Silence and/or passivity also do not constitute Affirmative Consent.
- Relying solely on non-verbal communication before or during sexual activity can lead to misunderstanding and may result in a violation of this Policy.
It is important not to make assumptions about whether a potential partner is consenting. In order to avoid confusion or ambiguity, participants are encouraged to talk with one another before engaging in sexual activity. If confusion or ambiguity arises during sexual activity, participants are encouraged to stop and clarify a mutual willingness to continue that activity.
- Affirmative Consent can be withdrawn at any time.
- An individual who seeks to withdraw Affirmative Consent must communicate, through clear words or actions, that they no longer wish to engage in the sexual activity.
- Affirmative Consent to one form of sexual activity does not, by itself, constitute Affirmative Consent to another form of sexual activity.
- For example, one should not presume that Affirmative Consent to oral-genital contact constitutes Affirmative Consent to vaginal or anal penetration.
- In cases of prior relationships, the manner and nature of prior communications between the parties and the context of the relationship may have a bearing on the presence of Affirmative Consent.
- Affirmative Consent to sexual activity on a prior occasion does not, by itself, constitute Affirmative Consent to future sexual activity.
Affirmative Consent cannot be gained by taking advantage of the incapacitation of another, where the person initiating sexual activity knew or reasonably should have known that the other was incapacitated. Incapacitation means that a person lacks the ability to make informed, rational judgments about whether or not to engage in sexual activity.
A person who is incapacitated is unable, temporarily or permanently, to give Affirmative Consent because of mental or physical helplessness, sleep, unconsciousness, or lack of awareness that sexual activity is taking place. A person may be incapacitated as a result of the consumption of alcohol or other drugs, or due to a temporary or permanent physical or mental health condition.
What Should I Know About Incapacitation?
In evaluating Affirmative Consent in cases of alleged incapacitation, the University asks two questions:
- Did the person initiating sexual activity know that the other party was incapacitated?
- Should a sober, reasonable person in the same situation have known that the other party was incapacitated?
If the answer to either of these questions is “YES,” Affirmative Consent was absent and the conduct is likely a violation of this policy.
Incapacitation is a state beyond drunkenness or intoxication. A person is not necessarily incapacitated merely as a result of drinking or using drugs. The impact of alcohol and other drugs varies from person to person.
One is not expected to be a medical expert in assessing incapacitation. One must look for the common and obvious warning signs that show that a person may be incapacitated or approaching incapacitation. Although every individual may manifest signs of incapacitation differently, typical signs include:
- slurred or incomprehensible speech
- unsteady gait
- emotional volatility
A person who is incapacitated may not be able to understand some or all of the following questions:
- “Do you know where you are?”
- “Do you know how you got here?”
- “Do you know what is happening?”
- “Do you know whom you are with?”
One should be cautious before engaging in Sexual Contact or Sexual Intercourse when either party has been drinking alcohol or using other drugs. The introduction of alcohol or other drugs may create ambiguity for either party as to whether Affirmative Consent has been sought or given. If one has doubt about either party’s level of intoxication, the safe thing to do is to forego all sexual activity.
Sexual Exploitation is purposely or knowingly doing any of the following:
- Exposing another person to a sexually transmitted infection or virus without the other’s knowledge.
- Causing the incapacitation of another person (through alcohol, drugs, or any other means) for the purpose of compromising that person’s ability to give Affirmative Consent to sexual activity;
- Allowing third parties to observe private sexual activity from a hidden location (e.g., closet) or through electronic means (e.g., Skype or livestreaming of images);
- Engaging in voyeurism (e.g., watching private sexual activity without the consent of the participants or viewing another person’s intimate parts (including genitalia, groin, breasts or buttocks) in a place where that person would have a reasonable expectation of privacy);
- Recording or photographing private sexual activity and/or a person’s intimate parts (including genitalia, groin, breasts or buttocks) without consent;
- Disseminating or posting images of private sexual activity and/or a person’s intimate parts (including genitalia, groin, breasts or buttocks) without consent;
- Prostituting another person; or
- Exposing another person to a sexually transmitted infection or virus without the other's knowledge.
Intimate Partner Violence includes any act of violence or threatened act of violence that occurs between individuals who are involved or have been involved in a sexual, dating, spousal, domestic, or other intimate relationship. Intimate Partner Violence may include any form of Prohibited Conduct under this policy, including Sexual Assault, Stalking, and Physical Assault (as defined below).
Physical Assault is threatening or causing physical harm or engaging in other conduct that threatens or endangers the health or safety of any person. Physical Assault will be addressed under this policy if it involves Sexual or Gender-Based Harassment, Intimate Partner Violence, or is part of a course of conduct under the Stalking definition.
For more information about the issue of Intimate Partner Violence and healthy relationships, please visit http://www.virginia.edu/sexualviolence/relationshipviolence/
Stalking occurs when a person engages in a course of conduct directed at a specific person under circumstances that would cause a reasonable person to fear bodily injury or to experience substantial emotional distress.
Course of conduct means two or more acts, including but not limited to acts in which a person directly, indirectly, or through third parties, by any action, method, device, or means, follows, monitors, observes, surveils, threatens, or communicates to or about another person, or interferes with another person’s property. Substantial emotional distress means significant mental suffering or anguish.
Stalking includes “cyber-stalking,” a particular form of stalking in which a person uses electronic media, such as the internet, social networks, blogs, cell phones, texts, or other similar devices or forms of contact.
Complicity is any act taken with the purpose of aiding, facilitating, promoting or encouraging the commission of an act of Prohibited Conduct by another person.
Retaliation means any adverse action taken against a person for making a good faith report of Prohibited Conduct or participating in any proceeding under this policy. Retaliation includes threatening, intimidating, harassing, coercing or any other conduct that would discourage a reasonable person from engaging in activity protected under this policy. Retaliation may be present even where there is a finding of “no responsibility” on the allegations of Prohibited Conduct. Retaliation does not include good faith actions lawfully pursued in response to a report of Prohibited Conduct.
Behavior that violates this policy may also constitute a crime under the laws of the jurisdiction in which the incident occurred. For example, the Commonwealth of Virginia criminalizes and punishes some forms of Sexual Assault, Intimate Partner Violence, Sexual Exploitation, Stalking, and Physical Assault. The criminal statutes that may apply in cases of Physical Assault and Intimate Partner Violence are found in various sections of Chapter 4, Articles 1 (Homicide) and 4 (Assaults and Bodily Woundings), of Title 18.2 of the Code of Virginia. The criminal statutes relating to Sexual Assault are found in Sections 18.2-61 to 18.2-67.10 of the Code of Virginia. Section 18.2-60.3 of the Code of Virginia defines and identifies the penalty for criminal stalking. Finally, Sections 18.2-386.1 and 18.2-386.2 of the Code of Virginia provide for criminal penalties in some cases of Sexual Exploitation. This compilation of criminal statutes is not exhaustive, but is offered to notify the University community that, some forms of Prohibited Conduct may also constitute crimes under Virginia law, which may subject a person to criminal prosecution and punishment in addition to any sanctions under this policy.
When the University receives a report of Prohibited Conduct, the Policy has two different sets procedures for how the matter will be assessed and resolved. The Procedures for Reports Against Students is used when the Respondent (the party accused of Prohibited Conduct is a student. The Procedures for Reports Against Employees is used when the Respondent is an employee.
There are small but significant differences between the Student and Employee procedures, but they also have a lot in common. In both cases, the University engages first in an initial assessment of the report. When conducting an initial assessment, the University:
provides support and assistance to the reporter and Complainant;
provides certain information about preserving evidence, obtaining medical treatment, and contacting police;
obtains information about the preference of the Complainant, (in other words, whether the Complainant requests that the University resolve the report, or requests that the University take no further action, or requests anonymity); and
evaluates the safety of individuals and the Community.
The next phase of University action is a threat assessment of the report. In this phase, the University makes two decisions about how to respond to the report.
The first decision concerns what actions the University will take to resolve or address the report itself. If the Complainant requested some form of University resolution, the University will always grant that request and initiate the appropriate resolution process. If the Complainant requested anonymity, or that no discipline be imposed, or that no further action be taken, the University will balance its desire to honor that request with the need to protect the health and safety of the Complainant and the University community. This means that, depending on the existence of certain risk factors, the University may initiate resolution of a matter even where Complainant has requested no further action.
The second decision concerns whether the University will provide information to outside law enforcement (such as police or prosecuting authorities) pursuant to certain state laws. If the report raises the possibility of a health and safety threat, a particular set of felony crimes, or the involvement of a minor child, the University may need to report certain information to outside law enforcement agencies.
If the University determines that it will take further action to resolve the matter, it can do so through either Alternative Resolution or Formal Resolution. Alternative resolution is an informal process that can take many forms based on the facts of the case. Formal resolution, by contrast, involves a thorough, fair, impartial, and prompt inquiry by trained, designated investigators. The investigators gather evidence from the parties and witnesses in the form of documents and recorded statements. Each party is provided with an equal opportunity to participate, but they may also decline to participate. The parties can consult with an advisor of their choice throughout the process. The investigators then prepare an investigation report, which is shared with both parties in a draft and then final form. The final investigation report contains the investigator’s recommendation as to whether the Respondent should be found responsible for Prohibited Conduct by a Preponderance of the Evidence.
If either party contests the investigator’s finding, or if the finding requires a determination as to a sanction, the matter is heard by a Review Panel. Panelists are trained to determine whether the investigation was indeed thorough, fair, and impartial, and whether the evidence supports the investigators’ findings.
The Title IX Office has prepared flowcharts that summarize the process for each set of procedures:
- Flowchart of Procedures for Reports Against Students
- Flowchart of Procedures for Reports Against Employees
What Does Preponderance of the Evidence Mean?
The University applies a “Preponderance of the Evidence” standard in all cases resolved under the Policy. What that means is that the investigation considers whether it is more likely than not that a violation of the Policy occurred. You may have heard of other legal standards, like the “Beyond a Reasonable Doubt” standard used by criminal courts or the University Honor Committee. A “Preponderance of the Evidence” standard is different than “Beyond a Reasonable Doubt.”
The University offers a wide range of resources for both Students and Employees following any incident of Prohibited Conduct. The University has created separate resource guides and infographics for students and employees to outline these resources.
The University is committed to the prevention of Prohibited Conduct through regular and ongoing education and awareness programs. Incoming Students and new Employees receive primary prevention and awareness programming as part of their orientation, and returning Students and current Employees receive ongoing training and related education.
The University provides training to Students and Employees to ensure they understand this policy and the topics and issues related to maintaining an education and employment environment free from harassment and discrimination.
For a description of the University’s training related to the Policy, as well as a description of the University’s Prohibited Conduct prevention and awareness programs, including programs on minimizing the risk of incidents of Prohibited Conduct and on bystander intervention, see: