Gender-Based and Sexual Misconduct Policy

Dominican University’s mission is to “prepare students to pursue truth, to give compassionate service, and to participate in the creation of a more just and humane world.” Translating Dominican’s twin values of veritas and caritas into practice requires that each person who studies, teaches, works, or lives within the university community, as well as all those with whom we interact, be respected and cared for as a unique individual, within an environment that affirms our shared humanity and pursues the common good.

This requirement includes creating and maintaining an environment that is free of gender-based and sexual misconduct. We are committed to supporting the dignity of every human person and the development of a community marked by truth, love and justice. Gender-based and sexual misconduct compromise the integrity of human relationships and threaten the security and well-being of all individuals. Not only are gender-based and sexual misconduct unlawful but they also undermine the atmosphere of trust and respect that is essential to creating an authentic, supportive community. The Dominican community expects that interpersonal relationships and interactions will be grounded in mutual respect, open communication and clear consent. Through these policies, the University strives to eliminate all forms of gender-based and sexual misconduct as well as prevent their recurrence, and address their effects on individuals and our entire community.

  • Members of the university community, guests and visitors have the right to be free from all forms of gender based and sexual misconduct. This includes the right to be free from discrimination and harassment based on gender identity and expression.
  • In order to foster a campus environment that is safe space for all, Dominican University has a responsibility to investigate and resolve allegations of gender-based and sexual misconduct.  When an allegation of such behavior emerges from the community or from any individual making a complaint, the University will take prompt action to maintain the safety of its community members and will act to protect all parties.  If an investigation reveals violations of the gender-based and sexual misconduct policy, the University will impose sanctions and/or other corrective actions to address the violation and prevent its recurrence.

Definitions and Dimensions of Gender-Based Misconduct

Gender-based misconduct is the umbrella term for a wide range of behaviors that violate community standards and are therefore, inappropriate. We use the terms sexual misconduct when actions are gender-based, but manifest themselves in sexual actions.

  • Gender-Based DiscriminationGender-Based Discrimination is defined as actions that deprive members of the community of educational or employment access, benefits or opportunities on the basis of gender.
  • Gender identityGender identity is defined as a person’s identification with masculine, feminine, or other gender characteristics.  These characteristics need not correspond to the sex assigned to that person at birth. A person’s expression of gender identity may include manners of dress, styles and tones of speech, or physical gestures.
  • Gender identity discrimination: Gender identity discrimination is defined as denying access to University educational programs, services or employment opportunities, determining opportunities for advancement and pay increases, or creating a hostile institutional environment for someone because of that person’s gender identity.

Definitions and Dimensions of Consent

The expectations of our community regarding sexual misconduct can be summarized as follows:

In order for individuals to engage in sexual activity of any type with each other, there must be clear, knowing and voluntary consent prior to and during sexual activity.

Consent, which is required for any sexual activity, is a voluntary, positive agreement between participants to engage in specific sexual activity. Consent is clear, knowing, voluntary, present and ongoing. Any person can withdraw consent at any time, at any point in a sexual interaction. Once consent has been withdrawn, the other person must stop the sexual activity. If someone stops responding or communicating, they may be withdrawing consent.

The individual initiating sexual content is required to ensure that consent is present before acting and is present during the sexual activity. The absence of no is not consent; this means there are many ways someone may refuse sexual contact besides simply saying “no” verbally. Just because someone doesn’t say no doesn’t mean they are saying “yes.”

What is Consent?

  • Consent is clear. Active consent must be clearly understood in words or actions that reveal agreement to engage in a specific sexual activity.
  • Consent is knowing. Consent demonstrates that all individuals understand, are aware of, and agree to the sexual activity.
  • Consent is voluntary. Consent must be greely given and not the result of force, threats, intimidation, coercion or fraud.
  • Consent is present and ongoing. Consent must exist at the time of the activity. Consent to previous sexual activity does not imply consent to later sexual acts.

Consent is active, not passive. Silence, in and of itself, cannot be interpreted as consent. Consent can be given by words or actions, as long as those words or actions create mutually understandable clear permission regarding willingness to engage in (and the conditions of) sexual activity.

  • Consent to any one form of sexual activity cannot automatically imply consent to any other forms of sexual activity.
  • Previous relationships or prior consent cannot imply consent to future sexual acts.
  • Additional considerations related to consent to perform sexual activity
  • Possession, use, distribution or administration to another of any of these substances, including Rohypnol, Ketamine, GHB, Burundanga, that diminish or remove a person’s capacity for conscious decision-making about sex is a violation of this policy. Click here for more information on these drugs.
  • Use of alcohol or other drugs will never function as a defense for any behavior that violates this policy.
  • The sexual orientation and/or gender identity of individuals engaging in sexual activity does not affect whether an individual is protected by this policy.
  • Involved parties need to understand all of the potential risks in order to consent. These risks may include but are not limited to, sexually transmitted infections and unwanted pregnancy.  Failure to inform a partner of a known STI or actively lying about one constitutes a breach of informed consent, as does deception about the presence/nature of birth control.

Communicating consent

  • Consent to sexual activity can be communicated in a variety of ways, but one should presume that consent has not been given in the absence of clear, positive agreement.
  • While verbal consent is not an absolute requirement for consensual sexual activity, verbal communication prior to engaging in sex helps to clarify consent. Communicating verbally before engaging in sexual activity is imperative. A person who is passive, unresponsive or actively resists is demonstrating defective or withdrawn consent.

Persons who are unable to give consent:

  • Persons who are asleep or unconscious
  • Persons who are incapacitated due to the influence of drugs, alcohol or medication
  • Persons who are unable to communicate consent due to mental or physical conditions.
  • Persons who have not reached the age of consent. The age of consent in Illinois is 17 but rises to 18 if the accused is a family member or holds a position of trust, authority or supervision in relation to the victim/survivor.

Coercion and Force

Consent must happen without force or coercion. Force is the use of physical violence and/or imposing on someone physically to gain sexual access. Proving the use of physical force is not necessary to show that sexual activity was coerced or non-consensual. Coercion is the use of pressure to compel another individual to initiate or continue sexual activity against an individual’s will. Coercion can include a wide range of behaviors, including intimidation, manipulation, threats, and blackmail. A person’s words or conduct are sufficient to constitute coercion if they wrongfully impair another individual’s freedom of will and ability to choose whether or not to engage in sexual activity.

Coercive behavior differs from seductive behavior based on the type of pressure someone uses to get consent from another. When someone makes clear to you that they do not want sex, that they want to stop, or that they do not want to go past a certain point of sexual interaction, continued pressure beyond that point can be coercive.

Examples of coercion include but are not limited to:

  • threatening to “out” someone based on sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression
  • threatening to harm oneself if the other party does not engage in the sexual activity
  • threatening to harm the person who does not engage in the sexual activity
  • threatening to tell others private or intimate information one has shared, or information about sexual activities, if one does not engage in certain sexual behaviors

Definitions and Dimensions of Sexual Misconduct

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits sex discrimination—which includes sexual violence—in educational programs and activities. All public and private schools, school districts, colleges and universities receiving federal funds must comply with Title IX. Title IX prohibits all types of sex discrimination, including sexual assault and other forms of sexual misconduct.

Sexual Misconduct includes, but is not limited to:

  • Sexual Harassment
  • Sexual Assault which can be divided into two different categories:
  • Non-Consensual Sexual Contact (or attempts to commit same)
  • Non-Consensual Sexual Penetration (or attempts to commit same)
  • Sexual Exploitation
  • Relationship Violence including Domestic Violence and Dating Violence (Intimate Partner Violence)
  • Physical Assault
  • Stalking
  • Retaliation

Sexual Harassment

Sexual Harassment is:

  • §  unwelcome, sexual verbal or physical conduct that is,
  • §  sufficiently severe, persistent or pervasive that it,
  • §  unreasonably interferes with, denies or limits someone’s ability to participate in or benefit from the university’s educational program and/or activities,
  • §  based on power differentials (quid pro quo), the creation of a hostile environment, or retaliation.

Whether conduct constitutes sexual harassment may depend on how the conduct is viewed by the person who is subject to the conduct – the subjective view of the victim is important to determining the offense regardless of the intent of the accused.

A single, isolated incident of sexual harassment alone may create a hostile environment. The more severe the conduct, the less need there is to show a repetitive series of incidents to create a hostile environment, particularly if the harassment is physical.

Examples of sexual harassment include: sexual assault; sexual exploitation; an attempt to coerce an unwilling person into a sexual relationship; to repeatedly subject a person to egregious, unwelcome sexual attention; to punish a refusal to comply with a sexually-based request; to condition a benefit on submitting to sexual advances; sexual violence; domestic violence or stalking that is sexual in nature; gender-based bullying that is sexual in nature.

Sexual harassment can take many forms. Sexual harassment:

  • May be blatant and intentional and involve an overt action, a threat or reprisal, or may be subtle and indirect, with a coercive aspect that is unstated.
  • Does NOT have to include intent to harm, be directed at a specific target, or involve repeated incidents.
  • May be committed by anyone, regardless of gender, age, position, or authority. While there is often a power differential between two persons, perhaps due to differences in age, social, educational, or employment relationships, harassment can occur in any context.
  • May be committed by a stranger, an acquaintance, or someone with whom the complainant has an intimate or sexual relationship.
  • May be committed by or against an individual or may be a result of the actions of an organization or group.
  • May occur by or against an individual of any sex, gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation.
  • May occur in the classroom, in the workplace, in residential settings, over electronic media (including the internet, telephone, and text), or in any other setting.
  • May be a one-time event or part of a pattern of behavior.
  • May be committed in the presence of others or when the parties are alone.
  • May affect the complainant and/or third parties who witness or observe harassment.

Sexually harassing behaviors differ in type and severity and can range from subtle verbal harassment to unwelcome physical contact. There is a wide range of behaviors that fall within the general definition of sexual harassment and many differing notions about what behaviors are and are not acceptable. Key determining factors are that the behavior is unwelcome, is gender-based, sexual in nature and is perceived as offensive and objectionable by the target and can be perceived as such by others.

Sexual Assault

The term "sexual assault" covers behavior from unwanted touching to non-consensual penetration/rape. These definitions are gender neutral because sexual assault can happen to any gender.

Dominican University considers both non-consensual sexual contact and non-consensual sexual penetration as sexual assault.

Non-Consensual Sexual Contact is: any intentional sexual touching, however slight, with any object, that is without consent and/or by force.

Sexual Contact includes, but is not limited to: Intentional contact with the breasts, buttocks, groin, or genitals, or touching another with any of these body parts, or making another touch him- or herself with or on any of these body parts; any intentional bodily contact in a sexual manner, though not involving contact with/of/by breasts, buttocks, groin, genitals, mouth or other orifice.

Non-Consensual Sexual Penetration is: any sexual penetration, however slight, with any object, that is without consent and/or by force.

Penetration includes: vaginal penetration by a penis, object, tongue or finger, anal penetration by a penis, object, tongue, or finger, and oral copulation (mouth to genital contact or genital to mouth contact), no matter how slight the penetration or contact.

Sexual penetration by force or threat of force or an act of sexual penetration when the victim was unable to understand the nature of the act or was unable to give knowing consent.

Illinois law defines sexual penetration as:

Any contact, however slight, between the sex organ or anus of one person by an object, the sex organ, mouth, or anus of another person, or any intrusion, however slight, of any part of the body of one person or of any object into the sex organ or anus of another person, including but not limited to cunnilingus, fellatio, or anal penetration. Evidence of emission of semen is not required to prove sexual penetration.

Sexual Exploitation

Sexual Exploitation is an act or acts committed through non-consensual abuse or exploitation of another person’s sexuality for purposes including, but not limited to: sexual gratification, financial gain, personal benefit or advantage. The act or acts of sexual exploitation are prohibited even though the behavior does not constitute one of the other sexual misconduct offenses.

Examples of sexual exploitation include, but are not limited to:

  • Invasion of sexual privacy;
  • Prostituting another individual;
  • Non-consensual video or audio-taping of sexual activity or nudity;
  • Engaging in voyeurism without consent from all parties involved;
  • Knowingly transmitting an STI or HIV to another;
  • Exposing one’s genitals in non-consensual circumstances; inducing another to expose their genitals;
  • Possession, use, distribution or  administration to another of substances, including Rohypnol, Ketamine, GHB, Burundanga, that diminish or remove a person’s capacity for conscious decision-making about sex (Click here for more information on these drugs.);
  • Sexually-based stalking and/or bullying may also be forms of sexual exploitation.

Relationship Violence

Relationship violence occurs when one partner attempts to dominate or exploit another, including but not limited to physical, psychological, financial, and sexual domination. Relationship violence includes multiple dimensions such as domestic violence, dating violence, and intimate partner violence.

Domestic violence occurs when a family member, household member, partner or ex-partner attempts to dominate or exploit another. Domestic violence often refers to violence between spouses, or spousal abuse but can also include cohabitants and non-married intimate partners. Domestic violence occurs in all cultures; people of all races, ethnicities, religions, sexes and classes can be perpetrators of domestic violence. Domestic violence is perpetrated by both men and women.  Child abuse and elder abuse can also be considered domestic violence.

Intimate partner violence is also referred to as dating violence, domestic violence, and relationship violence. Intimate partner violence includes any act of violence or threatened act of violence against a person who is, or has been involved in, a sexual, dating, domestic, or other intimate relationship with that person.

It may involve one act or an ongoing pattern of behavior. Intimate partner violence can encompass a broad range of behavior, including, but not limited to, physical violence, sexual violence, emotional violence, and economic abuse. Intimate partner violence may take the form of threats, assault, property damage, or violence or threat of violence to one’s self, one’s sexual or romantic partner, or to the family members or friends or pets of the sexual or romantic partner.

Intimate partner violence affects individuals of all genders, gender identities, gender expressions, sexual orientations, races, ethnicities, religions, ages, and social and economic backgrounds.

Physical Assault

Physical Assault is purposeful action meant to hurt another person, which includes, but is not limited to, threatening or causing physical harm, extreme verbal abuse, or other conduct which threatens or endangers the health or safety of any person.

Examples include, but are not exclusive to kicking, punching, hitting with or throwing an object, or biting. When these acts occur in the context of intimate partner violence or when the behavior is perpetrated on the basis of sex or gender, the conduct will be resolved under the Gender-Based and Sexual Misconduct Policy.


Stalking, defined as repetitive and/or menacing pursuit, following, harassment and/or interference with the peace and/or safety of a member of the community; or the safety of any of the immediate family or members of the community. Stalking occurs when a person engages in a course of conduct or repeatedly commits acts toward another person, including following the person without proper authority, under circumstances that demonstrate either of the following:

  • Placing the person in fear of bodily injury; or
  • Causing substantial emotional distress to the person.

Stalking includes the concept of cyber-stalking, a particular form of stalking in which electronic media such as the internet, social networks, blogs, cell phones, texts, or other similar devices or forms of contact are used to pursue, harass, or to make unwelcome contact with another person in an unsolicited fashion.

Examples of stalking include:

  • Unwelcome and repeated visual or physical proximity to a person;
  • Repeated oral or written threats;
  • Extortion of money or valuables; 
  • Unwelcome/unsolicited written communication, including letters, cards, emails, instant messages, and social media;
  • Unwelcome/unsolicited communications about a person, their family, friends, or co-workers; or
  • Sending/posting unwelcome/ unsolicited messages with another username;
  • Implicitly threatening physical conduct or any combination of these behaviors directed toward an individual person


Retaliation is any act or attempt to retaliate against or seek retribution from any individual or group of individuals involved in the investigation and/or resolution of an alleged violation of this policy. Retaliation can take many forms, including continued abuse or violence, threats and intimidation. Any individual or group of individuals, not just a complainant or respondent, can engage in retaliation.

Other Misconduct Offenses (will fall under this policy when sex or gender-based)

  • Intimidation, defined as implied threats or acts that cause an unreasonable fear of harm in another;
  • Hazing, defined as acts likely to cause physical or psychological harm or social ostracism to any person within the university community, when related to the admission, initiation, pledging, joining, or any other group-affiliation activity (as defined further in the Hazing Policy);
  • Bullying, defined as repeated and/or severe aggressive behavior likely to intimidate or intentionally hurt, control or diminish another person, physically or mentally.