Policy on Student Sexual Harassment, Sexual Misconduct, and Sexual Assault
Sarah Lawrence College is an intellectual community founded on mutual respect and is committed to providing a living, learning, and working environment that is free from sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, and sexual assault. Such offenses can impair or limit the educational and occupational opportunities of any person at Sarah Lawrence and have no place in this community. This policy applies to all Sarah Lawrence students, both undergraduate and graduate. A similar policy for Sarah Lawrence College employees (faculty, staff, and student employees) can be found here. This policy defines unacceptable behavior, identifies resources for persons who have experienced a sexual offense, and describes the College’s prevention and education efforts. The discipline process for alleged violations of this policy can be found here.
Sexual offenses are prohibited under New York state and federal laws and may be prosecuted in the criminal justice system. Legal definitions may vary from definitions used by the Sarah Lawrence community as outlined here. Pursuing campus resolution does not preclude one from pursuing legal action or seeking the assistance of law enforcement authorities now or in the future; similarly, the pursuit of legal action and/or reporting the conduct to the police does not preclude pursuit of campus resolution under this policy and the corresponding Student Discipline Process.
Anyone can experience sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, or a sexual assault regardless of gender or sexual orientation. Perpetrators also can be anyone: a stranger, someone you have known for a long time, or someone you have just met.
The College has named Dean Allen Green as its Title IX coordinator; his role is to oversee College compliance with Title IX regulations. Dean Green will:
- Serve as a resource for students wishing to report any acts of sexual violence or sexual harassment, i.e., violations of Title IX.
- Provide oversight for all Title IX complaints and identify patterns, issues, or problems re: those same complaints. Note that as Title IX coordinator, Dean Green is a resource and facilitator, but does not have a role in the sexual assault/harassment investigation, hearing, and/or discipline process, which is described in the Sexual Assault Reporting Procedures and in the Student Handbook.
- Review and support the informational initiatives enabling students, staff and faculty to fully understand sexual violence and sexual harassment as forms of sexual discrimination and further educate the community about College policy and procedures.
Dean Green’s office is located on the second floor of Westlands. His extension is 2252 and his e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Definitions of Prohibited Conduct
Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment is defined as unwelcome sexual advances or requests for sexual favors or other unwelcome verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when submission to or rejection of such advances, requests, or conduct is made, either explicitly or implicitly, (i) a term or condition of educational benefits, privileges, or placement services or as a basis for the evaluation of academic achievement of a student or (ii) a term or condition of employment or a basis for employment decisions concerning any employee.
Sexual harassment is also defined as unwelcome sexual advances or requests for sexual favors or other unwelcome verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature that is so severe or pervasive that it has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with a student’s education or an employee’s work performance or of creating an intimidating, hostile, humiliating, or sexually offensive educational, living, or working environment, when judged by the standards of a reasonable person.
Sexual harassment also includes stalking, as defined by the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). The definition of stalking as set forth in the VAWA law is discussed below, in the second section entitled “2013Violence Against Women Act Section 304 Definitions."
Sexual harassment does not refer to compliments or other behavior of a socially acceptable nature. It does not refer to discussions of material with a sexual component which might offend some but which was introduced in class or conference for intellectual purposes.
Sexual Misconduct: Sexual misconduct is the deliberate contact with an intimate body part of another person without that person’s consent. Intimate body parts include the genitalia, the anus, the groin, the buttocks, or the breasts.
Sexual misconduct includes domestic violence and dating violence, as defined by the Violence Against Women Act, if the violence involved fits the definition below. The definitions of domestic violence and dating violence as set forth in the VAWA law are discussed below, in the section entitled “2013 Violence Against Women Act Section 304 Definitions.”
Sexual Assault: Sexual assault is the penetration, however slight, of another person’s vagina or anus with any object or body part, or of the mouth with a penis or sexual object, without that person’s consent.
Sexual assault also includes dating violence and domestic violence, as defined by the Violence Against Women Act, if the violence involved fits the definition below.*
*2013 Violence Against Women Act Section 304: The Violence Against Women Act and its proposed regulation also require the inclusion of certain New York State definitions in a campus’ Annual Security Report and that those definitions be provided in campaigns, orientations, programs, and trainings for employees and students. Definitions required include consent, dating violence, domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking.
Dating Violence: the term “dating violence” means violence committed by a person (A) who is or has been in a social relationship of a romantic or intimate nature with the victim; and (B) where the existence of such a relationship shall be determined based on a consideration of the following factors: (i) the length of the relationship, (ii) the type of relationship, and (iii) the frequency of interaction between the persons involved in the relationship.
New York State does not specifically define “dating violence.” However, under New York law, intimate relationships are covered by the definition of domestic violence when the act constitutes a crime listed elsewhere in this document and is committed by a person in an “intimate relationship” with the victim.
Domestic Violence: The term “domestic violence” includes felony or misdemeanor crimes of violence committed by the 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.
New York State defines domestic violence as an act which would constitute a violation of the penal law, including, but not limited to acts constituting disorderly conduct, harassment, aggravated harassment, sexual misconduct, forcible touching, sexual abuse, stalking, criminal mischief, menacing, reckless endangerment, kidnapping, assault, attempted murder, criminal obstruction or breaching of blood circulation, or strangulation; and such acts have created a substantial risk of physical or emotional harm to a person or a person’s child. Such acts are alleged to have been committed by a family member. The victim can be anyone over the age of 16, any married person, or any parent accompanied by his or her minor child or children in situations in which such person or such person’s child is a victim of the act.
Stalking: The term “stalking” means engaging in a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to (A) fear for his or her safety or the safety of others; or (B) suffer substantial emotional distress.
New York State defines stalking in various progressive degrees to include when a person intentionally engages in a course of conduct directed at a specific person, and knows or reasonably should know that such conduct is likely to cause reasonable fear of harm to that person or such person’s family. For a full definition of stalking under New York State law, refer to the appendix at the end of this policy.
A critical factor that distinguishes acceptable sexual behavior from unacceptable sexual behavior is the consent of the parties involved. Note that the definition of consent at Sarah Lawrence may differ from, and be more specific than, definitions of consent under relevant criminal or civil laws. Consent is informed, and freely and actively given. Consent is communicated through mutually understandable words or actions which indicate willingness by all of the involved parties to engage in the same sexual activity, at the same time, and in the same way.
Clear and open communication is an essential element to conveying and understanding consent. Any person who contemplates initiating any form of sexual activity is strongly encouraged to talk with all involved parties before engaging in such activity. While it is the responsibility of the initiator of a specific sexual activity to obtain consent, individuals should communicate as clearly and verbally as possible with all parties about what they do and do not want.
Elements of Consent:
Consent cannot be freely given if the person’s ability to understand and give consent is impaired. Examples of those who are impaired and therefore cannot give consent include but are not limited to:
- Any person who is incapacitated due to the use of alcohol and/or other drugs.
- Any person who is unconscious or for any reason is physically incapacitated.
- Any person who is mentally impaired.
- Any person less than 17 years old.
- Any person who has experienced the explicit or implicit use of force, coercion, threats and/or intimidation.
- Ideally, consent is given verbally. However, consent (or lack of consent) may also be expressed through gestures, body language, and/or attitude. For example, active reciprocation could express consent, and pushing someone away, or simply moving away, could express lack of consent.
- Silence does not equal consent.
- Consent to one form of sexual activity does not necessarily imply consent to other forms of sexual activity. Consent may be given for specific activities and not for others.
- Any party has the right to change their mind and withdraw consent at any time. Once consent is withdrawn, the sexual activity occurring must cease.
- A prior sexual history between the participants does not constitute consent.
- A person’s ability to freely give consent may be jeopardized if the initiator is in a position of power over the person. Examples might include if the initiator is a faculty member or supervisor of the person.
Statement about Relationships Between Students and Employees
The College considers it unwise for faculty, staff, or contractors to engage in sexual relationships with students, or for department heads or supervisors to engage in sexual relationships with employees under their supervision and potentially subject to their judgment concerning personnel actions, and therefore strongly advises against engaging in such behavior. While both parties may consider the relationship a matter of mutual consent, the imbalance of power and authority and the potential for manipulation and misunderstanding inherent in such relationships can undermine the freedom and equity of the academic and work setting. All members of the Sarah Lawrence community should be aware that initial consent to a sexual relationship does not preclude the potential for charges of sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, or sexual assault should consent be withdrawn by either party.
Faculty members may not engage in sexual relations or romantic relationships with students who are in their classes or with students with whom they are in a formal advisory relationship or with students whose academic work is currently being evaluated by the faculty member.
As a condition of employment, Public Safety, Operations and Facilities, Student Affairs, and Health Services staff members may not engage in sexual relations or romantic relationships with students regardless of whether the student consents to such interaction.
As a condition of employment, members of the Physical Education and Athletic Staff may not engage in sexual relations or romantic relationships with any student-athletes or any student employee of the Athletics & Physical Education Department regardless of whether the student consents to such interaction.
Enforcement of this Policy
The College will promptly investigate all reports of sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, or sexual assault and take necessary steps to remedy such situations. A student found to have violated this policy is subject to disciplinary action, up to and including suspension or expulsion.
All students and employees are expected to cooperate fully with any sexual offense investigation. The College does not tolerate retaliation or discrimination against any person, and/or their family and friends, who brings forward a report, who cooperates in the investigation of a report, or who participates in the process for an alleged violation of this policy. Anyone who believes they have been retaliated against as a result of their involvement with an investigation and/or discipline process for an alleged violation of the Sexual Harassment, Sexual Misconduct, and Sexual Assault Policy should report the alleged retaliation to the director of public safety and security immediately. An independent investigation will be conducted and appropriate disciplinary action will be taken, up to and including suspension or expulsion from the College, in the case of a student, and up to and including termination of employment, in the case of an employee.
Who Can You Talk To?
Confidential vs. Non-Confidential Communications
In times of distress it can be confusing to figure out whom you can contact to obtain information about your options and resources both on and off campus. Depending on whom you choose to speak with, there are limits on the confidentiality of the information shared. Before making a decision about who to talk with, you may want to consider the following.
Confidential Communications: Confidential communications are those communications which legally cannot be disclosed to another person without the reporter’s consent, except under very limited circumstances such as an imminent threat or danger to self or others.
Examples of confidential communications include those with:
- Sarah Lawrence College Health Services counseling staff (psychiatrists, psychologists, clinical social workers, etc.)
- Sarah Lawrence College Health Services medical staff (physicians, nurses, or nurse practitioners)
- The Sarah Lawrence College on-call doctor
- Off-campus support agencies
Non-Confidential Communications: The College is required by law to investigate and respond to reports of sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, and sexual assault. The law also makes many College employees, other than those referenced in the Confidential Communications passage above, Mandated Reporters with respect to claims of sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, or sexual assault, even if those employees have been requested by the person confiding in them to keep the discussion confidential. Non-confidential communications consist of those communications that will be disseminated to others on a need-to-know basis in order to ensure that necessary steps are taken to protect the community as a whole and appropriate disciplinary measures are considered and taken.
The College also has an agreement with the Yonkers Police Department which obligates the College to notify the police and request an investigation of any violent felony that occurs on College property. The Police Department is obligated to respond to College notifications and take appropriate action.
Examples of non-confidential communications include those with:
- Residence Life staff members including resident advisers (RAs) and graduate hall directors (GHDs)
- Student Affairs staff
- Public Safety staff
- All faculty members, including dons
- All other College employees (with the exception of Health Services staff )
Non-confidential reporters will make every effort to refer you to confidential reporters as described above before you have disclosed a situation that requires response and investigation.
What to Do if You Have Experienced Sexual Harassment
- Get to a safe place if you feel that you are in immediate danger or if you need assistance.
- Discuss the incident/behavior with someone to seek support and information.
- File a complaint with the College discipline process or seek mediation.
Mediation is an option in sexual harassment cases if both the complainant and the respondent agree to participate. You are never required to mediate a claim of sexual harassment; it is merely an option available to the parties in such cases. If sexual misconduct and/or assault are part of the complaint, mediation is not an option. Any person interested in pursuing mediation for resolving a sexual harassment case should contact the hearing who will arrange for mediation to occur. The hearing coordinator will inform the respondent in writing of the complaint and require a written response to the complaint. The hearing coordinator will choose one trained mediator from among the dean of studies and student life staff members. Mediation normally will begin within one week of the respondent’s receipt of the complaint. The goal of mediation is an agreement between the two parties resolving the matter between them. That agreement may include a specific action or action(s) to be taken or refrained from on the part of the respondent. At the conclusion of a successful mediation process, both the complainant and the respondent will sign a statement that they are satisfied with the outcome and regard the matter as resolved between them. If the complainant believes the mediation process was unsuccessful, the complainant may choose to bring a complaint through the College’s discipline process.
What to Do if You Have Experienced Sexual Assault
- Get to a safe place as soon as possible.
Contact 911 if you are in immediate danger or if you need assistance. If the incident occurred on campus, call Public Safety at (914) 395-2222 for transportation to the Lawrence Hospital emergency room and/or assistance in talking with the police.
- Seek medical attention.
The Health Services medical staff is available for assistance Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and will hold the information of your case in confidence unless there is an immediate threat to self or others. Health Services staff can document and treat any injuries resulting from an assault, screen for STIs and pregnancy, and provide important information about available resources and the options you have for reporting the incident to both on- and off-campus authorities. Health Services staff can also assist you in coordinating care at the emergency room.
For after-hours assistance, the College’s on-call doctor is available for consultation. To speak with the on-call doctor, call Westlands Desk at (914) 395-2209 and ask to speak with the doctor on call. The Westlands Desk staff member will page the on-call doctor, who will contact you directly. In order to ensure confidentially, you need not reveal the nature of your call to the Westlands Desk staff; simply ask the staff member to contact the on-call doctor on your behalf.
If you are considering filing criminal charges, or want to keep your options open in the future, you are encouraged to get an exam to collect medical evidence. Health Services staff can assist you in coordinating this exam at the emergency room. Health Services staff (or you, if you prefer not to go through Health Services) can request that a SAFE (Sexual Assault Forensic Examiner) clinician be called to do the exam at the hospital. Before going to the hospital, try to preserve any physical evidence; do not wash, bathe, douche, go to the bathroom, or change clothing. It is best to collect evidence as soon after the assault as possible; however, an exam can be completed up to five days after an assault.
Regardless of whether a SAFE exam is performed, you are encouraged to seek medical care in order to receive treatment and medication to prevent pregnancy or STDs/STIs.
- Discuss the incident/behavior with someone to seek support and information.
- File a complaint through the College’s discipline process.
- File a police report.
The College strongly encourages students to report all crimes or alleged crimes to the Yonkers Police Department. Since the College is situated within the city limits of the city of Yonkers, those crimes must be reported to the Yonkers Police Department. Filing a police report will provide legal documentation in the event of a future offense by the same person, or if the decision is made to prosecute in the future. A police report can be filed at any time, though evidence is likely to be stronger the sooner a report is filed after the incident. Filing a police report does not necessarily mean that further legal action must be taken. You may file a police report directly with the Yonkers Police or, upon request, the director of public safety will assist you in filing a police report. Filing a police report is distinct from making a complaint through the College’s discipline process
- Seek ongoing support.
In addition to providing medical care following an assault, Sarah Lawrence College Health Services mental health staff offer confidential counseling services. Counseling options include brief individual therapy, longer-term process groups, and a support group for those who have been sexually assaulted. Same-day appointments are available daily for both medical and mental health services. Appointments can be made online (my.slc.edu/healthservices) or by calling Health Services at (914) 395-2530 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Filing a Complaint
If you have experienced sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, and/or sexual assault, you are strongly encouraged to file a complaint with the College, with the police, or with both. To file a complaint and initiate the College’s discipline process for an alleged violation of this policy, contact any of the people listed below. They will explain the complaint procedures and discipline process as well as coordinate the College’s response with the hearing coordinator.
- Dean of Student Affairs, (914) 395-2575
- Dean of the College, (914) 395-2303
- Vice President of Human Resources, (914) 395-2365
- Dean of Studies/Title IX Coordinator, (914) 395-2249
Reporting sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, or a sexual assault incident to any College employee other than Health Services staff will initiate a campus investigation. All College employees (including faculty, staff with the exception of Health Services staff, and resident advisers) who become aware of an incident of sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, and/or sexual assault are required to notify the director of public safety and security who will initiate a campus investigation into the matter. The College is required to report incidents of sexual misconduct or sexual assault that constitute a violent felony under the New York State Campus Safety Act, to the local police. The director of public safety will coordinate such notification to the Yonkers Police.
Note: You are encouraged to file a complaint promptly. While there is no deadline for filing a complaint, in order for a hearing to occur the respondent must be enrolled at the College at the time the complaint is made and throughout the hearing process. The College will, however, investigate all complaints made by students and about students who are no longer enrolled at the College or employees who are no longer employed by the college. The investigation of such complaints will be performed by Public Safety. A determination or decision about the results of the investigation may or may not take the form of a hearing as described in the discipline process for violations of this policy (see disciplinary procedures). A student on a leave of absence who is accused of violation of this policy may not return until a hearing has been held.
Prevention and Education
All members of the Sarah Lawrence community play a role in creating a culture of safety and respect and in eliminating sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, and sexual assault. You can protect yourself from hurting others by educating yourself on what consent really means. Without consent, anyone is at risk of committing a violation of this policy.
The majority of people do not commit sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, or sexual assault. However, many people witness varying degrees of sexually offensive conduct. The actions you take by intervening at any level send the clear message that disrespectful, demeaning, and violent behavior is not acceptable. Such an intervention may serve to educate and prevent someone from committing a sexual offense in the future, and may empower and validate the person experiencing the behavior. Making a choice to denounce violence of any kind supports a peaceful, respectful, and vibrant community.
The following are steps you can take to help make this a safer community (Safe Bystander Intervention):
- Call Public Safety if you witness a violent or potentially violent situation, are aware of an assault taking place, or are concerned for someone’s safety.
- Intervene if you believe someone’s boundaries are being violated or that they are in a potentially uncomfortable or unsafe situation; ask if they are comfortable with the situation and if they are in need of any assistance. Alternatively, you may alert other sources of assistance (e.g., Public Safety, Residence Life staff, or other employees in the vicinity). If you are not able to say something at the time of the incident, or if you are still concerned about the person’s well-being, follow up with them later by asking how they felt about the incident and if the person would like assistance in getting support.
- If you hear someone acting, speaking, or telling jokes in a manner that is offensive, demeaning, or abusive to a targeted person or group of people, ask them to stop.
- If you are aware that an incident of sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, or sexual assault has taken place, encourage the targeted person to report the incident and seek support. The College provides a variety of educational programs for students, faculty, and staff regarding sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, and sexual assault. Examples of such programs include:
- The College requires all employees to participate in an interactive online program that outlines current laws against sexual harassment and provides examples that clearly illustrate situations and behaviors to be avoided. Employees can access this program through MySLC. Employees must take the program when first employed and then at least once every three (3) years thereafter throughout employment.
- Workshops sponsored by Public Safety and Security on sexual assault prevention and self-defense.
- Annual mandatory new student orientation programs on campus and community safety and security issues, including sexual assault prevention.
- Information provided by Health Services and the Office of Student Affairs about risk reduction and prevention, as well as resources for sexual assault education and prevention tips, including a Web site and brochures.
- Programs sponsored by the Health and Wellness Subcommittee throughout the year.
- Public Safety staff participates in annual training in conjunction with the local Victims Assistance Services.
- All new incoming students are required to take an online Consent and Respect Course
- Poster communications on “What to Do if You Have been Sexually Assaulted” are posted throughout campus.
- Ongoing workshops regarding consent and sexual violence are presented during each academic year.
- Bystander Training will be offered during new student orientation.
College and Community Resources
The following resources are available to students and other members of the Sarah Lawrence community for information and support concerning sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, and sexual assault.
Sexual Harassment/Sexual Assault Liaison, (914) 395-2350: The College’s Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Liaison is available in a confidential setting to provide information regarding on- and off- campus resources, on- and off-campus reporting options, and the College’s discipline process. The liaison is available weekdays between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.
Health Services, (914) 395-2350: You may speak with a Health Services staff member openly and without fear of initiating an investigation, so long as there is no imminent danger to yourself or others. Therapists are available to provide confidential support and counseling; medical staff can answer medical questions and provide follow-up medical care, including emergency contraception. Health Services staff are available in Lyles House from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Public Safety, (914) 395-2222: Sarah Lawrence Public Safety staff members are available to respond to and intervene in dangerous or potentially dangerous situations, can transport you to the hospital, and can help you stay safe. Public Safety staff members are available to assist 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Student Affairs, (914) 395-2575: Student Affairs staff members are available to assist you in accessing support resources and answer questions about College policy and the discipline process. Student Affairs staff are available 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. For after-hours emergencies, a member of the Student Affairs staff is available by calling Public Safety at (914) 395-2222.
The following organizations provide 24-hour assistance for persons dealing with violence:
Westchester County Victims Assistance Services Crisis Helpline (for anyone)
(855) VAS-CALL (Toll-Free)
My Sisters’ Place Domestic Violence Shelter and Hotline (for women)
(800) 298-SAFE (7233)
New York City Gay & Lesbian Anti-Violence Project Hotline (for the lesbian, gay, transgender, bisexual, and HIV-affected communities)
National Sexual Assault Hotline; operated by RAINN (Rape, Abuse, Incest, National Network)
(800) 656-HOPE (4673)