Sexual Misconduct Policy

Mars Hill University Sexual Misconduct Policy

Mars Hill University is dedicated to maintaining an environment wherein academic freedom flourishes and in which the rights of each member of the university community are respected. Mars Hill University recognizes and upholds the inherent dignity and value of every person, and each individual’s inalienable right to personal sovereignty. Acts of sexual violation can jeopardize the health and welfare of members of the university community. In an effort to address such threats to the quality of campus life, Mars Hill University adopts this policy.

The university will take seriously every report of sexual misconduct it receives, and if desired by the complainant, will conduct a careful and fair investigation and hearing. The university will work to ensure that complainants are given appropriate support and accused students treated fairly. All forms of sexual misconduct included in this policy are also violations of North Carolina state law. The university always encourages any student that reports an incident of sexual misconduct to also report the incident to university security and law enforcement and pursue prosecution, and seek a timely medical exam to address any health issues and collect forensic evidence.

In keeping with the Christian tradition of Mars Hill University, the existence of this policy does not condone or encourage sexual activity of any kind among its students.

Sexual Misconduct Defined

Sexual misconduct is defined as any act of a sexual nature perpetrated against an individual without consent or when an individual is unable to freely give consent. Acts of a sexual nature include the following:

Non-Consensual Sexual Intercourse: Any sexual intercourse (oral, vaginal, or anal penetration), however slight, with any body part or any object, by a man or a woman upon a man or a woman, without effective consent. This act is commonly referred to as rape or sexual assault.

Non-Consensual Sexual Contact: Any touching (including disrobing or exposure) of a person’s genital areas (i.e. breasts, buttocks, groin area) or the clothing covering those areas, with any body part or any object, by a man or a woman upon a man or a woman, without effective consent. These acts are commonly referred to as sexual battery.

Sexual Exploitation: When a person takes non-consensual; unjust or abusive sexual 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 rape, sexual assault, sexual battery, or sexual harassment. Examples include but are not limited to: Inducing incapacitation with the intent to rape or sexually assault another student; non-consensual video- or audio-recording of sexual activity; allowing others to observe a personal act of consensual sex without knowledge or consent of the partner; voyeurism; knowingly transmitting an STD or HIV to another student; prostituting another student (i.e.-personally gaining money, privilege, or power from the sexual activities of another student).

Consent Defined

The university’s definition of sexual misconduct mandates that each participant obtains and gives consent in each instance of sexual activity. Consent is an affirmative decision to engage in mutually acceptable sexual activity given by clear actions or words. It is an informed decision made actively and free of force by all parties. In order for consent to be effectively and validly given, these conditions must be met:

The person must be willing. The person must agree to the sexual activity of their own free will, meaning that force cannot be present. There are two main types of force:
Physical: Includes but not limited to use of a weapon; punching, kicking, holding, choking, or restraining, kidnapping; use of a drug or substance (including alcohol) to incapacitate the victim.
Emotional: Includes but not limited to use of threats (including threats of use of a weapon or violence); intimidation, coercion, compulsion, duress, or guilt.

The person must be knowing. The person must be able to understand exactly what it is that they are agreeing to.

  • This means that they must be conscious, awake, and not incapacitated.
  • Incapacitation includes intoxication by drugs or alcohol to the point that a person’s state of mind is not clear and their judgment is impaired.
  • When alcohol or other drugs are being used, someone will be considered unable to give valid consent if they cannot appreciate the Who, What, When, Where, Why, or How of a sexual interaction. Individuals who consent to sex must be able to understand what they are doing.
  • To be more precise, an incapacitated person cannot give valid consent. Even if they express willingness to engage in sexual activity but are incapacitated at the time, and that is known or knowable to the accused, any sexual activity that takes place is misconduct, and any factual willingness that may have been expressed is irrelevant.
  • Because of this, “No” always means “No,” but “Yes” may not always mean “Yes.”
  • If a person is slurring their words, having difficulty maintaining equilibrium, passing in and out of consciousness, or is vomiting, they can safely be considered to be incapacitated.
  • Incapacitation may exist in the absence of these symptoms.
  • Incapacity is not dependent on a person’s Blood Alcohol Content level.

If the above conditions cannot be met, then a person cannot effectively or validly given consent for sexual activity. A student who engages in sexual activity with another who has not or is unable to give consent will be considered to have violated the Sexual Misconduct Policy. It should be noted that “intent to rape” is not required under this policy. The requisite intent for rape or sexual assault is demonstrated by engaging in the act of intercourse intentionally.

Relying solely upon non-verbal communication can lead to miscommunication. It is important not to make assumptions; if confusion or ambiguity on the issue of consent arises anytime during the sexual interaction, it is essential that each participant stops and clarifies, verbally, willingness to continue. Agreeing to a particular kind of sexual activity does not imply agreement to any other kind of sexual activity. Students should understand that consent may not be inferred from silence, passivity, or lack of active resistance alone. Furthermore, a current or previous dating or sexual relationship is not sufficient to constitute consent. Consent cannot be implied by attire, or inferred from the buying of dinner or the spending of money on a date. As well, a person who agrees to get in a car with someone or go back to someone’s room does not mean that they are consenting to sexual activity.

Consent to sexual activity may be withdrawn at any time, as long as the withdrawal is communicated clearly; upon clear communication, all sexual activity must cease. If it continues, sexual misconduct has occurred.

The Use of Alcohol or Other Drugs

The use of alcohol or other drugs can have unintended consequences. Alcohol or other drugs can lower inhibitions and create an atmosphere of confusion over whether consent is freely and effectively given. The perspective of a reasonable person will be the basis for determining whether one should have known about the impact of the use of alcohol or drugs on another’s ability to give consent. Being intoxicated or under the influence of drugs does not diminish one’s responsibility to obtain consent and is never an excuse for perpetrating sexual misconduct.

Reporting Sexual Misconduct for University Disciplinary Action

The Director of Student Conduct (689-1388) in the Student Development Office receives complaints of possible violation of this policy. A student may report an incident of sexual misconduct anonymously (student does not identify themselves), confidentially (student identifies themselves but their identity is not shared with anyone else), or as a third party (student was not a victim in the incident but has knowledge that the incident occurred). Any and all such complaints will be filed and reported statistically as required by federal law (Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act). The university may be able to take other actions as well to intercede. However, in order for a complaint to be investigated and adjudicated through the university’s disciplinary process, complainants may meet with Student Conduct staff before submitting a written statement.

Mars Hill University recognizes incidents of sexual misconduct as not only violations of university policy but also illegal and criminal acts. As such, the university will support and encourage a university disciplinary action. However, the university will not automatically file charges with local law enforcement if it is made aware of an incident of sexual violation unless specifically requested by the reporting student. The incident itself must be reported statistically and anonymously in the university’s annual security report, pursuant to federal Clery Act regulations. As well, the incident must be reported statistically to local law enforcement, but the decision to identify the complainant or have the case investigated remains with the complainant. Reporting the incident to law enforcement (Mars Hill Police Department, 689-2301, or 9-911 from the residential facilities) does NOT mean the complainant has to file charges and agree to prosecute the case.

Limited Immunity

The university considers the reporting and adjudication of sexual misconduct cases on campus to be of paramount importance. The university does not condone underage drinking or any violations of law and the university’s alcohol policy. However, the university will extend limited immunity from sanctioning in the case (on campus) of illegal alcohol use to victims and to those reporting incidents and/or assisting the victim’s of sexual misconduct. Limited immunity means that, depending on the nature of the victim’s or the reporting student’s violation, it will still be dealt with by the university, through education or counseling, if possible. The decision rests with the Dean of Students.

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