A Christian College of the Liberal Arts & Sciences

Policy on Sexual Assault

I.  Introduction

The Houghton College Community condemns sexual abuse and acquaintance or stranger rape. These actions constitute a violation of the Community Standards as well as New York State Law.

Furthermore, as an institution founded upon traditional Christian values that are reflected in its statement of community responsibilities, Houghton College deplores the exploitation of a fellow human being for the selfish purposes or pleasures of another. Because of its private and intimate nature, human sexuality represents an area in which the rights of an individual are especially vulnerable to the unscrupulous. It is the position of this institution that sexual activity should never be initiated with an individual unwilling to participate and/or unable to adequately and competently reflect on the nature or consequences of their participation.

To take advantage of a person who is unwilling or incapacitated-- whether that state is brought about through his/her own behavior or imposed by some external stress or condition-- is reprehensible and totally contrary to the mission and philosophy of Houghton College. Individuals perpetrating such acts should be censured and, where appropriate, be subject to harsh sanctions from the College and/or prosecution by the criminal justice system.

II.  Definitions

For the purposes of clarity in this document, the following definitions are given of sexual assault, rape, and sexual abuse.

A. Sexual Assault: Sexual assault is the committing of a sex offense.  It is a more general term which includes, but is not limited to, the behaviors described below under rape and sexual abuse. For example, attempted rape would be a sexual assault.

B. Rape: Rape is forcing someone to have sexual intercourse, either vaginal, oral, or anal.  The act may be perpetrated by a person who is either a stranger or an acquaintance of the victim. Specifically, if a person is forced to have sexual intercourse or if the person is unable to consent, the behavior of the perpetrator is considered rape. The force necessary can be any threat or physical force which places the victim in fear of injury or death. The perpetrator does not need to use a weapon or to beat the victim in order to make the victim fearful of injury or death.

Persons are considered unable to consent if they are temporarily incapable of appraising or controlling their conduct due to the influence of alcohol or drugs, or physically helpless because they are unconscious or otherwise physically unable to communicate consent; or are disabled because they are suffering from a mental disorder which renders them incapable of appraising the nature of their conduct; or are deemed too young relative to the age of the perpetrator to consent. Having intercourse with a person under such circumstances is considered rape.

C. Sexual Abuse: Forcing a person to engage in any sexual contact other than sexual intercourse, or engaging in sexual contact with one unable to consent to it under the circumstances described in the above definition of rape is to be considered "sexual abuse."
"Sexual abuse" means any touching of the sexual or intimate parts of another, whether directly or through clothing which is offensive to the complainant/victim and which could reasonably be understood as offensive. (See policy on sexual harassment for additional infractions not covered in this document.)

III.  Campus Awareness, Education, and Prevention

A. Education of Incoming Students
In an effort to provide each new student with appropriate information concerning rape/sexual abuse on campus, first year and transfer student orientation programs will address these issues as a part of their curriculum. Topics covered and information provided will include: 
1) education on the nature of sexual assault for creating awareness and prevention on campus; 
2) applicable laws and institutional policies, 
3) availability of counseling and other support services, both on campus and in the community
4) reporting procedures for violations, and contact persons for reporting to on campus and local authorities;
5) information on the detrimental effects of victim-blaming attitudes; and
6) advice and updates for students on security procedures

B. Repeated/Periodic Education of All Students
In addition to providing incoming students with important information concerning sexual assault including rape, sexual abuse and sexual harassment, it is equally important to provide periodic education that is available to the entire student body. This will be accomplished through various workshops, seminars, discussion groups, and video/film presentations. The Residence Life Office and Counseling Services Office will work in cooperation with other groups both on and off campus to implement this series of educational/awareness events. Events of this nature will be scheduled periodically.

C. Education of Faculty/Staff
The personnel of Houghton College have an underlying assumption as a basis for their work: the education and welfare of the students. Consequently, it is necessary that all faculty and staff be informed about an issue so important to its students and the sanctions which the College will impose on college employees if they perpetrate the sexual assault. It is understood that more extensive levels of education will be necessary for personnel whose involvement with students is more direct. Nevertheless, all faculty and staff will be educated for awareness, sensitivity, and prevention of sexual assault, along with the necessity of not discouraging victims from reporting sexual assaults. Personnel in the Residence Life Office, Counseling Services Office, Health Center, and Campus Security will be expected to obtain additional education and training appropriate to assisting victims of rape/sexual abuse in a competent, sensitive, and professional manner.

IV.  Campus Response to Sexual Assault

A.  Committee on Harassment Policy and Prevention
This policy calls for the establishment of an advisory committee with these primary responsibilities:

1)  Provide a means for sharing information both regarding the nature of the problem of sexual assault on the campus and on strategies for prevention.

2)  Annual review of current campus security policy and procedures.  This review shall include making recommendations for improvement in current policies and procedures for (a) educating the campus community, including security personnel and those persons who advise or supervise students about sexual assault; (b) educating the campus community about personal safety and crime prevention; c) reporting sexual assaults and dealing with victims during investigations; (d) referring complaints to appropriate authorities; (e) counseling victims; and (f) responding to inquiries from concerned persons.

3)  Provide for the training of interested personnel to serve as advocates for victims of sexual assault.

4)  Report in writing to the college President its findings and recommendations at least once each academic year, and such report shall be available upon request. 
The committee would be comprised of nine members.  Committee members are appointed or elected in accordance with Chapter 739, Education Laws of 1990 (see end note #2) as follows:

3 members appointed by the president
3 members appointed from the faculty
3 members appointed by the Student Senate (2 females and 1 male)
Elected committee members are determined by their respective groups during the month of April to serve the following academic year.  The committee would meet on a regular basis during the academic year. The committee will have a minimum of five women members.  The chair of the committee will be elected by the committee at its first meeting.

B.  Reporting Incidents  (see end note #1)
Individuals with knowledge of a sexual assault have the responsibility to encourage the victim to report the incident to an appropriate staff person (an RD/RA, Counseling Center staff, Health Center staff, Campus Safety and Security staff, or other Student Life staff member). 
Upon receiving the report, the staff person will discuss with the victim the availability of a campus advocate (see IV. section A number 3) and the advisability of receiving medical attention.  If the victim chooses not to speak to the advocate, the staff person will inform the victim of necessary information regarding medical treatment, counseling availability, criminal prosecution, or college judicial procedures.  Regardless of the student's decision for, or against, taking formal action, a confidential incident report will be filed in the Office of Student Life by the staff member receiving the information.

C. Victim Services  (see end note #1) 
The institution will be responsible for providing the following services and assistance to a victim of a sexual assault:
1)     Availability of a campus advocate to accompany the victim to a medical facility, to give information and support as needed, and assist in notifying proper law enforcement officials.
2)     Transportation to an appropriate medical facility for necessary examination and treatment.
3)     Counseling will be available from the Counseling Center at no charge to the student.
4)     Alteration/modification of living arrangements will be made as appropriate and upon request, should the victim feel unsafe in the current living arrangement.
5)     Academic support (to include extended time limits and alterations of assignments) will be available to any victim as a result of lost class time.
6)     Should the victimized student, as a result of the assault, need or choose to leave campus before the semester is completed, tuition and room and board fees will be prorated and charged only for the portion of the semester the student was present.

D. Criminal Prosecution/College Judicial Procedures (see end note #1)
The victim will be informed of the right to pursue prosecution of the alleged assailant through police and court procedures, as well as by means of the College judicial process.  The victim may choose either or both options, and while not required to make the decision to prosecute immediately, the sooner the victim is able to make decisions regarding police/court involvement, the better. These actions will normally be considered after appropriate medical care has been given. If a victim chooses police or court involvement, a campus advocate will be available to accompany the victim to the State Police, County Sheriff or the offices of other local authorities.

If the victim chooses to bring the matter to the College judicial process, she/he should be assisted in doing so (see appropriate faculty and student handbook or staff manual for complete outline of college judiciary procedure).  If there is good reason to believe that sexual assault did occur, the alleged assailant, if a student or college employee, may be summarily suspended immediately pending a review within the College judicial process.

E. Media policy  (see end note #1)
Sexual assault is simultaneously a sexual violation and an abuse of power.  Consequently, it is desirable that all communication regarding an incident of sexual assault involving a community member be handled with sensitivity toward the privacy of the victim and the rights of the accused.   It is possible that improper communication concerning such a violation may result in further harm to the victim.  This is especially the case when a victim experiences the sense of “losing control” again, this time at the hands of an insensitive media and community in addition to the initial violation of the self by the perpetrator of a sexual assault. As a result, the following guidelines for media communication are suggested.

All campus communication regarding the incident should be made by telephone or person-to-person (i.e., no radios, emails or voice mails should be used). All persons should use the term “sexual assault” until an official statement is issued. All communication to the college community and public must be coordinated through the Vice President for Student Life.  The Vice President for Student Life will insure that the appropriate college officials are notified of the incident.

Finally, it is strongly recommended that any campus “media” communication concerning an incident of sexual assault be shown to the victim prior to its release.  For example, articles for the campus newspaper, spots aired over the campus radio station, announcements in chapel, or any posting (residence halls, bulletin boards, etc.) done on campus to alert students can be made available to the victim (through the Vice President for Student Life to insure the anonymity of the victim).

End Note #1: The policy statement under section IV parts B through E represent general guidelines only. Certain individuals by nature of their profession and relationship to a victim may be under a legal obligation to report an incident to appropriate governmental agencies. It is expected that the appropriate offices will develop expanded and detailed protocols on each issue that can be referenced in regard to the policy statement.

End Note #2: NYS Criteria for appointment of committee:
"Such committee shall consist of a minimum of six members, at least half of whom shall be female; one-third of whom the committee shall be appointed from a list of students that contains at least twice the number to be appointed which is provided by the largest student governance organization on such campus; one-third of whom thereof shall be appointed from a list of faculty members that contains twice the number to be appointed which is provided by the largest faculty organization on such campus; and one-third of whom shall be selected by the president or chief administrative officer."
Source: Chapter 739, NYS Education Laws of 1990 (5/2004)