If you have any questions about terms or definitions, please review the following.
Confidentiality refers to information that has some degree of protection from further disclosure without the consent of the person providing the information.When possible, the University will respect a victim’s request for confidentiality related to a report of sexual misconduct, assault or harassment. However, with limited exceptions, all reports of sexual assault or other criminal conduct must be reported to Police Services for the purpose of maintaining crime statistics under federal law. Even then, the wishes of the victim related to follow up, investigation and criminal and/or University response will be followed where possible. Where the University determines that the conduct reported demonstrates a serious risk of further harm to the victim or to other members of the University community, however, further investigation or follow up will occur, even if the victim does not want to be involved. In these circumstances, efforts will be made to keep the victim informed of the progress of any investigation to the extent that the information would not interfere with or jeopardize a criminal investigation.
If a victim wants to disclose sexual misconduct or assault to a confidential source, the victim should speak with a licensed counselor, mental health professional, or a member of the clergy. Information shared with certified counselors and/or religious clergy is generally legally protected from further disclosure as confidential or “privileged” information. Communications to certified counselors or clergy cannot be further disclosed without consent absent extraordinary circumstances. For instance, a certified counselor cannot disclose information shared within the counseling relationship unless the counselor believes there is an imminent risk of significant harm to the person providing the information or to another person.
UVM Confidential Resources
UVM Victims’ Advocate, Judy Rickstad
UVM Women's Center
34 S. Williams St., Burlington, VT
UVM Counseling (CAPS)
146 S. Williams St., Burlington, VT 05401
Call for Appointment
Under UVM's Sexual Harassment & Misconduct Policy (PDF), consent is defined (in part) as an "understandable exchange of affirmative words or actions, which indicate a willingness to participate in mutually agreed upon sexual activity..."
In summary, consent is...
- Freely and actively given – without coercion, fear or threat of harm.
- Mutually understood.
- Clearly communicated.
- Consent cannot be given by one who is mentally or physically incapable of giving clear consent at the time of the sexual activity.
- Silence, lack of protest, or lack of resistance are not alone sufficient to establish consent.
- It is the responsibility of the person who wants to engage in the sexual activity to ensure that he or she has consent from any other person involved.
Examples of Consent
Before you engage in sexual activity, think ahead of time about various ways that you can ask for consent and or/ communicate about what you want and don’t want to do:
- Do you like it when I . . . ?
- If you’re into it, I could . . .
- Do you want to keep going?
- I’d like to talk about it before we . . .
- If I change my mind, we’ll stop.
It is the responsibility of any person who wants to engage in sexual activity to make sure they have consent.
- Silence or a lack of resistance is NOT consent.
- The existence of a dating or prior sexual relationship is not sufficient to assume consent.
- Just because someone agrees to one type of sexual activity, it doesn’t mean s/he okay with others. You must make sure that consent exists with each new step or activity. If your partner consents to kissing and taking off clothes, it doesn’t mean that s/he is consenting to having sex.
Alcohol, Drugs and Consent
AAEO does not pursue alcohol or drug use violations in connection with investigations.
It’s really important to know that a person who is incapacitated by alcohol, drugs, or any other factor cannot give consent. This means that if your partner or a person you want to have sex with is really drunk or “out of it,” s/he probably cannot give consent, and having sex with him/her may result in you being charged with sexual assault or misconduct. If you aren’t sure if your partner is able to give consent, don’t have sex – it’s not worth putting you or your partner at risk! If the situation seems unclear, stop and make sure you both want the same thing. It’s okay to wait until another time when you are both sober, drug free, and clear about what you want to do.
Some behaviors that indicate a person is too incapacitated by alcohol or drugs to give consent include, but are not limited to:
- Passing out/Blacking Out
- Throwing Up
- Slurred Speech
- Unsteadiness while trying to stand or walk; difficulty getting up
- Mood Swings (e.g., laughing one minute, crying or acting belligerently the next)
People in supportive, loving relationships are more likely to feel healthy, happy and satisfied with their lives and less likely to have mental and physical health problems.
You have relationships with many people – not just your boyfriend/girlfriend, partner, family and friends.
All types of positive relationships can enhance your satisfaction with life!
Take a look at the ways in which you see relationships: how do you foster healthy patterns? In what ways are you able to effectively communicate and how do you care for yourself if a relationship feels unsafe or unhealthy?
Your Relationship is Healthy if:
- You trust your partner.
- You treat each other the way you want to be treated, and accept each other's opinions and interests.
- You each feel physically safe in the relationship.
- Your partner likes your friends and encourages you to spend time with them and wants to include them in his/her life as well as yours.
- You make important decisions together.
- Your partner understands when you spend time away from him or her.
- You don't feel responsible for protecting your partner's reputation or for covering for his/her mistakes.
- Your partner encourages you to enjoy different activities (like joining the volleyball team or football team, running for student government, or being in a play) and helps you reach your goals.
- Your partner likes you for who you are & not just for what you look like.
- You are not afraid to say what you think and why you think that way.
- You like to hear how your partner thinks, and don't always have to agree.
- You have both a friendship and a physical attraction.
- You don't have to be with your partner 24/7.
- Your partner doesn't force sexual activity or insist that you do something that makes you uncomfortable.
How to Foster Relationships:
- Identify obstacles to communication, such as:
- Negative emotions (i.e. anger, sadness, guilt)
- Different communication styles
- Common distractions
- Misjudgments of others’ motives and behavior (e.g., making assumptions about why the other person acted in a certain way, etc.)
- Learn to communicate effectively.
- Take the time to talk.
- Listen with respect.
- Ask questions.
- Share information.
- Fight fair.
- Avoid criticizing.
- Ask for help.
- Seek “win-win” solutions.
It is also important to:
- Take responsibility for yourself.
- Take care of yourself.
- Be flexible.
- Be dependable.
- Have realistic expectations of others.
- Learn and practice coping skills (e.g., stress reduction, problem solving).
- Aim to find balance within the various parts of your life.
Relationship violence is a series of tactics used by a person to gain and maintain control over their partner/girlfriend/boyfriend. These tactics can be physical, psychological and/or sexual in nature.
Tactics used in violent relationships can include (but are not limited to):
Relationship Violence Warning Signs
If you find yourself being uncomfortable with a partner's behavior or the behavior of a friend's partner, there's probably a good reason for it.
- Threatening to harm the person or others
UVM Sexual Assualt Policy (PDF) defines sexual assualt as: A sexual act that occurs (1) without consent of the other person, or (2) by threatening or coercing the other person, or (3) by placing the other person in fear that any person will suffer imminent bodily injury.
When people think of sexual assault, they often associate it with “stranger rape.” In fact, most cases of sexual assault involve assailants that are known to the victim, like a boyfriend, girlfriend, classmate, partner, neighbor, or “friend of a friend.” In 80 - 90% of cases involving completed or attempted rape, the victim and assailant know each other (December 2000 National Institute of Justice Report).
Sexual assault does not have to involve intercourse. Consent can be given verbally, but may also be shown through body language or other behaviors.
Consent has to be given freely; it can’t be coerced or forced. Threatening, belittling, or badgering your partner into participating in sexual activity that s/he may not be comfortable with is not consent.
A Word on Alcohol
It’s really important to know that a person who is incapacitated by alcohol, drugs, or any other factor cannot give consent. This means that if your partner or a person you want to have sex with is really drunk or has taken drugs, s/he probably cannot give consent, and having sex with him/her may result in you being charged with sexual assault or misconduct. If you aren’t sure if your partner is able to give consent, or whether you received clear signals that s/he is consenting freely, don’t do it. It’s not worth putting you or your partner at risk. If the situation seems unclear, stop and make sure you both want the same thing. It’s okay to wait until another time when you are both sober, drug free, and clear about what you want to do.
Sexual harassment means unwelcome advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal, written, visual, or physical conduct of a sexual nature where:
Examples of sexual harassment include but are not limited to:
Not all sexual harassment rises to the level of sexual misconduct. But if the behavior is severe enough, sexual harassment can also be sexual misconduct.
- Submission to the conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of a student’s education access or an employee’s conditions of employment; or
- Submission to or rejection of the conduct is the basis for decisions affecting a student’s education or an employee’s employment; or
- The conduct has the purpose or effect of:
- substantially interfering with or detracting from a student’s educational performance or access to university resources; or
- substantially interfering with or detracting from a an employee’s work performance; or
- creating an objectively intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment.
- unwelcome touching, patting, pinching, or leering;
- unwelcome commentary about an individual's body or sexual activities;
- unwelcome sexual attention or sexual propositions;
- repeated and unwelcome sexually-oriented teasing, joking, or flirting;
- verbal abuse of a sexual nature.
Not all sexual harassment rises to the level of sexual misconduct. But if the behavior is severe enough, sexual harassment can also be sexual misconduct.
College is an exciting time of exploration, learning, and self discovery. During these years, it is not uncommon to explore different majors, career paths, friendships, relationships, and sexualities. For many of us, college is the first time in our lives we are able to really learn about, explore, and embrace our sexuality, by figuring out our likes and dislikes and clarifying our boundaries.
Despite the freedom we gain in college as adults, we are still constrained by media images, peer expectations, and other societal pressures. These and other pressures, can make it difficult to remain true to ourselves and create a healthy personal (and sexual) identity.
Here are some tips to keep in mind while exploring sex in college:
It’s OK to not have sex
This had to come first because the media shows a lot of images of college students having a lot of sex a lot of the time. But those images do not match reality. Many college students attend college without having sex. It is your right to decide whether or not your want to engage with someone sexually.
- Most people think of sexuality in three categories: gay, straight, or bi. Most people don’t fit neatly into these three categories. Instead, most people are somewhere on a spectrum that can look and feel different at different times in someone’s life.
Know what you want from a sexual encounter
- Casual sex may seem like the norm in college (again, the media shows that a lot), but sexual encounters can vary widely. Some encounters can occur within a monogamous committed relationship, a dating relationship, or even a casual relationship. It is important for you and your sexual partner(s) to be clear about your expectations about the meaning of the sexual encounter. For example, if someone is interested in an ongoing relationship and the other person is interested in a one-time hook up, there is the great likelihood that a sexual encounter will result in hurt and disappointment. Be honest and clear about your hopes and expectations before engaging in a sexual encounter and ask the other person about their expectations. If the expectations are not compatible, you or the other person should reconsider having a sexual encounter.
Self-Knowledge is key
- Knowing what you want is the first step to achieving a fulfilling sex life; both for your physical body and for your emotions. Exploring your body to learn what makes it tick and what makes it hum can open the door to a lifetime of pleasure. Masturbation is an important skill in learning about your body. How did you figure out that you liked broccoli or sushi? You gave them a try, and sometimes it took a few tries to enjoy them, right? So give masturbation a try (or many tries). Figure out what gives you pleasure and you’ll be in great shape for having that conversation with that special someone.
- Now that you know what you like, it’s important to communicate to your partner(s) what that is. And to listen to what they like as well. “I want to kiss you, how about you?” “Faster please.” “What would you like?” are all great things to say! When you ask for something, wait for a response before acting and remember you or your partner may change one’s mind at any point during the sexual encounter. It is just like the time you ate pizza and the first bite was great and then the second bite burned your mouth so you stopped eating. Talking about sex, and specifics about what you like can feel awkward at first, but just like anything new, it just takes practice to become familiar, and eventually completely normal.
Sex and Alcohol and Other Drugs
- Sex can be fun. Sex can be wonderful. Unfortunately, engaging in sex when one or both partners is under the influence or incapacitated by alcohol or other drugs, can often becomes a disaster. Alcohol and other drugs will impair judgment and the ability to accurately understand the desires and needs of the other person. Too often sex under the influence of substances has led to hurt feelings, embarrassment, regrets, injury, and even sexual assaults. If you are going to engage with someone sexually, it is best to do so when all parties are aware, alert, and free from the influence of intoxicating substances.
Sexual Exploitation: Non-consensual use of another individual’s nudity or sexuality, other than Sexual Harassment, Sexual Assault, Relationship Violence, and Gender-Based Stalking. Examples of Sexual Exploitation include, but are not limited to, purposely or knowingly:
- Touching the sexual or other intimate parts of a person, or causing such person to touch your sexual or other intimate parts, including intentional touching of the breasts, buttocks, groin, or genitals, whether clothed or unclothed, or intentionally touching another with any of these body parts, and making another touch you or themselves with or on any of these body parts.
- Exposing one’s genitals to another person without consent
- Causing the incapacitation of another person (through alcohol, drugs, or any other means) for the purpose of compromising that person’s ability to give consent to sexual activity
- Engaging in voyeurism (e.g. watching or taking pictures, videos, or audio recordings of another person engaging in a sexual act, in a state of undress, or in a place and time where such person has a reasonable expectation of privacy, such as a changing room, toilet, bathroom, or shower, without the consent of all parties)
- Disseminating, streaming, or posting images or video of private sexual activity and/or a person’s intimate parts (including breasts, buttocks, groin, or genitals) without consent
- Compelling a person through force, fraud, or coercion to engage in a commercial sexual act (e.g. prostitution)
- Possession of sexual materials that are illegal under federal or state law
- Knowingly exposing another person to a sexually transmitted infection or virus without the other individual’s knowledge
- Luring a child under 16, or a person believed to be under 16, by any means, including in person, over the phone, or through electronic communication, to engage in a sexual act or touch the intimate part of the person or child whether clothed or unclothed. This does NOT apply if an actor is younger than 19 and the child is at least 15 and the contact is consensual
Stalking is a series of behaviors or actions occurring more than once that instill fear in the victim, threaten victim safety, and/or cause emotional stress to the victim.
Such behaviors may include (but are not limited to):
- Threatening e-mail, mail, telephone calls or internet messaging;
- Sitting outside the victim’s home, class or workplace;
- Observing, following or “coincidentally” showing up where the victim is located;
- Leaving unwanted notes or flowers;
- Information gathering; or
- Persistent unwanted physical approach and/or requests for dates, meetings, etc.
- Stalking does not have to do with someone liking a person a lot, but with someone wanting to gain control and power over another person.
In the beginning, stalking may take the form of annoying, threatening, or obscene telephone calls, emails or letters. The calls may start with one or two a day but can quickly increase in frequency.
Stalking can happen to anyone and may also include family members, friends, or co-workers. Stalkers may target casual acquaintances or random victims, and can stalk their victims for days, weeks, or even years.