Policies and Definitions
Sexual Misconduct, Relationship Violence and Stalking
Merrimack College has a thorough policy on sexual misconduct, relationship violence and stalking, which can be found in the Student Handbook. Violations of Community Standards are enforced by the Office of Community Standards in collaboration with the Title IX coordinator and the Merrimack College Police Department.
Merrimack College policies are broader than legal definitions. The College will determine whether there has been a violation of its policies, not whether there has been a violation of law, which can only be determined by a court of competent jurisdiction.
Sexual assault and sexual misconduct are considered sexual harassment which is a form of sex discrimination, all of which are strictly prohibited.
Title IX is a federal civil-rights law that prohibits sex discrimination in education. It addresses sexual harassment, gender-based discrimination and sexual violence. It applies to all students, faculty and staff.
Effective consent is defined as informed, freely and actively given, mutually understandable words or actions that indicate a willingness to participate in mutually agreed upon sexual activity. Consent can never be given by the following:
- Minors (in Massachusetts, those not yet 16 years of age).
- Mentally disabled persons.
- Individuals who are incapacitated, voluntarily or involuntarily, as a result of alcohol or other drug consumption.
- Individuals who are unconscious, unaware or otherwise physically helpless.
- Individuals who are forced, coerced, intimidated or threatened.
In Massachusetts, domestic violence is defined as abuse, assault or threats against one or more of the following:
- A spouse or former spouse.
- A dating partner or a former dating partner.
- A relative by blood or marriage.
- The parent of your child.
- A person with whom you have or have had a substantial relationship.
There are protections, such as restraining orders, available for survivors of domestic violence under Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 209A.
Any sexual penetration (anal, oral or vaginal), however slight, with any object or sexual intercourse by a man or woman upon a man or woman, without effective consent, by force or by threat of bodily injury. Sexual penetration includes vaginal or anal penetration by a penis, object, tongue or finger, and oral copulation by mouth-to-genital contact or genital-to-mouth contact.
- Any intentional sexual touching, however slight, with any object, by a man or woman upon a man or woman, without effective consent. Sexual touching includes any bodily contact with the breasts, groin, genitals, mouth or other bodily orifice of another, or any other bodily contact in a sexual manner.
- Any disrobing of another, or exposure to another, by a man or woman, without effective consent.
Sexual exploitation occurs when a person takes nonconsensual or abusive sexual advantage of another or to benefit or advantage anyone other than the one being exploited, and that behavior does not otherwise constitute another form of sexual misconduct. Examples of sexual exploitation include but are not limited to prostitution; nonconsensual video- or audio-taping of sexual or other private activities exceeding the boundaries of consent, e.g., permitting others to hide in closest and observe sexual activity; videotaping a person using the bathroom. This shall include nonconsensual dissemination of photos, video or text that occurs when a person takes abusive advantage of another to benefit or sexually exploit that person.
Sexual harassment is any unwelcomed verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature that has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work or academic performance, or that creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive working, educational or living environment. A form of sexual harassment exists when submission to or rejection of unwelcomed sexual advances, requests for sexual favors or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature results in adverse educational or employment action, or the threat of such adverse action, or when submission is made a condition of educational or employment advancement.
Relationship violence is defined as behavior between two or more individuals that is used to institute power and/or control over one or more other people through fear and intimidation. This behavior can be verbal, nonverbal, emotional and/or physical. Examples of relationship violence include, but are not limited to, domestic violence, dating violence, repeated name-calling, profanity, humiliation, harassment of a former partner or spouse, threats of abuse, slapping, hair-pulling, punching and kicking.
Stalking is defined as any behavior or pattern of behavior occurring on more than one occasion that instills fear in one or more other people and/or threatens their safety or mental or physical health. Such behaviors or activities may include, but are not limited to, nonconsensual communication (face-to-face, telephone, email, texting and social media); threatening or obscene gestures; surveillance; pursuit; following; visiting outside an individual’s classroom or residence; sending gifts; or making threats. For a more complete definition, please see Massachusetts General Laws c. 265, § 43.