Sexual Offenses Policy
The University affirms that sexual relationships are designed by God to be expressed solely within a marriage between husband and wife. Sexual acts of any kind outside the confines of marriage are contrary to the teachings and moral values of the Catholic Church and are prohibited in the University’s Code of Student Conduct. The Catholic University of America promotes respect for persons' bodily integrity, chastity, and the sacredness of human sexuality.
While sexual activity outside of marriage violates the Church’s teaching and the University’s Code of Student Conduct, “sexual offenses,” defined below, are unlawful behaviors that will not be tolerated; violations can result in disciplinary sanctions including expulsion, as well as criminal prosecution or other legal action.
The University encourages reporting of sexual offenses and seeks to remove any barriers to making a report. At times, students may be hesitant to report a sexual offense to University officials because they are concerned that they may be subject to student conduct action for lesser policy violations (such as visitation or alcohol violations) that occurred during the incident. These behaviors are not condoned by the University, but the importance of dealing with an alleged sexual offense is the paramount consideration to the University. Consequently, students who report a sexual offense in good faith, as a complainant or witness, will not be subject to student conduct action for other policy violations that occurred during the incident as long as such violations did not place the health and safety of any other person at risk. The University may, however, require students to participate in educational activities or health interventions for any conduct that comes to the University’s attention as deemed appropriate.
Students who report sexual offenses (“complainants”) shall be informed of and encouraged to use all appropriate University, law enforcement, and community resources. Students accused of sexual offenses (“respondents”) shall be informed of and encouraged to use all appropriate University and community resources and shall receive due process in accordance with University policies and procedures.
This policy applies when a violation is alleged against a student or student employee. Allegations of sexual offenses involving non-student employees (faculty and staff), or a third party (such as a vendor, independent contractor, visitor, or guest) who is a participant in a University-sponsored activity or program are addressed in accordance with the University’s Sexual Offenses Policy (Employees and Third Parties).
Actual or threatened retaliation, or any act of intimidation to prevent or obstruct the reporting of a sexual offense or the participation in proceedings related to a sexual offense, is prohibited.
The University believes that no person should bear the effects of a sexual offense alone. When such incidents occur, the University’s paramount concern is for the safety, health, and well-being of those affected. To support and assist students, the University provides a wide range of services and resources. Please see the section below on Resources for Medical, Counseling and Pastoral Care and the Dean of Student’s Sexual Assault and Violence Education website.
Additional information about identifying, reporting and dealing with sexual assault is set forth in the following policy, on the University’s Title IX Website (http://title9.cua.edu/) and in the Related Policies listed above.
II. Prohibited Conduct and Definitions
A. Sexual Offense¹ – Sexual Offenses are prohibited in all forms. “Sexual Offense” is a broad term encompassing a range of behaviors including, but not limited to: sexual assault; sexual harassment; dating violence; domestic violence; stalking;indecent exposure; sexual exhibitionism; use of communication systems to send unwanted sexual material and messages; prostitution or the solicitation or employment of a prostitute; peeping or other voyeurism; allowing others to view consensual sexual activity; the non-consensual video or audio recording of sexual activity; or any conduct prohibited by applicable law.
1. Sexual Assault is sexual intercourse or sexual contact with another person without consent. Sexual assault is a criminal offense under D.C. law and includes the following:
• Oral, vaginal, or anal penetration, no matter how slight, with any object or body part without consent.
• Non-consensual touching of another person in a sexual manner. This includes, but is not limited to, the touching either directly or through clothing of another person’s genitalia, breasts, inner thigh, or buttocks with a clothed or unclothed body part or object.
2. Sexual Harassment means unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when either:
• Submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of employment, education, on-campus living environment, or participation in a University activity or program; or
• Submission to or rejection of such conduct is used or threatened to be used as the basis for decisions affecting employment, education, on-campus living environment, or participation in a University activity or program; or
• Such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work or educational performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment for employment, education, on-campus living, or participation in a University activity or program.
Sexual harassment can occur between and among supervisors or managers and subordinates, faculty and staff or students, peers, vendors/subcontractors/visitors and employees or students, or any combination thereof. Often, but not always, the harasser is in a position of authority, trust, or influence that provides the opportunity to take advantage of the unequal positions of the parties.
3. Dating Violence² means violence committed by another person who is or has been in a social relationship of a romantic or intimate nature with the victim, and where the existence of such a relationship shall be determined based on a consideration of the following factors: a) the length of the relationship, b) the type of relationship, or c) the frequency of interaction between the persons involved in the relationship.
4. Domestic Violence² means violence committed by a 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 D.C. (including past or present marriage, domestic partnership, romantic, dating, or sexual relationship), by a former spouse or similarly situated person against a victim who is in a subsequent relationship with a former spouse or similarly situated person, or by any other person against a victim who is protected from that person’s acts under the domestic or family violence laws of D.C.
5. Stalking² means purposely engaging in a course of conduct directed at a specific individual that would cause a reasonable individual to fear for his or her safety or the safety of another person, feel seriously alarmed, disturbed or frightened, or suffer emotional distress.
A student can face significant disciplinary sanctions, including expulsion, as well as criminal prosecution or other legal action, for committing asexual offense.
B. Consent is informed, freely given, mutually understandable words or actions that indicate a willingness to participate in sexual activity. Effective consent may never be obtained when there is a threat of force or violence, or any other form of coercion or intimidation. A current or previous dating or sexual relationship is not sufficient to constitute consent, and consent to one form of sexual activity does not imply consent to other forms of sexual activity. Consent cannot be obtained from a minor, someone who is mentally disabled, or someone who is unable to understand or who cannot communicate a lack of consent. This includes someone who is incapacitated due to drugs, alcohol, or some other condition. Silence or lack of active resistance does not imply consent. Voluntary intoxication is not an excuse for failure to obtain consent.
C. Incapacitation means the inability, temporarily or permanently, to give consent, because an individual is mentally and/or physically helpless, asleep, unconscious, or unaware that sexual activity is occurring. The impact of alcohol and drugs and medications will vary from person to person. Warning signs that a person may be approaching incapacitation may include, but are not limited to, vomiting, incoherent speech, and difficulty walking or standing up. The perspective of a sober, reasonable person in the position of the respondent will be the basis for determining whether a respondent should have been aware that the complainant was incapacitated and therefore unable to consent.
The definitions above describe the minimum legal standards for conduct, and they set forth terms that help determine criminal liability and legal responsibility. The University and the Church have higher expectations. They affirm that sexual activity is intended by God as an expression of love and commitment between a husband and wife, and therefore belongs exclusively within marriage. Sexual activity by unmarried persons lacks that essential level of commitment and responsibility, and harms moral growth and development. It undermines the Christian view of sexual activity embraced and promoted by the Church and the University, a view which insists upon mutual respect, moral integrity, and the sacredness of human sexuality.
C. Responsible Employee means an employee who has:
1. The authority to take action to redress sexual violence or other sexual offenses; or
2. Been given the duty of reporting incidents of sexual violence or other sexual offenses to the Title IX Coordinator, or who a student could reasonably believe has this authority or duty.
III. Reporting Sexual Offenses
Filing a report of an alleged sexual offense does not obligate a student to participate in the disciplinary process. A student always has the option to pursue a criminal complaint, to pursue the University’s disciplinary process, or to pursue both processes simultaneously.
A. Where to Make a Report
To report a sexual offense, contact the Department of Public Safety (DPS) at tel. (202) 319-5111. DPS is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and will contact the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) or other local law enforcement agencies as appropriate. An individual who has been subjected to a sexual offense is always free to report it directly to local law enforcement, but also should contact DPS, who will assist him or her in contacting the appropriate authorities. DPS shall notify the Dean of Students and the Title IX Coordinator of the report, normally within 48 hours.
A student also has the option of contacting the Office for Civil Rights regarding sex discrimination issues at: Washington D.C. (Metro), Office for Civil Rights, U.S. Department of Education, 400 Maryland Avenue, SW, Washington, D.C. 20202-1475, Telephone: (202) 453-6020, FAX: (202) 453-6021; TDD: 800-877-8339, e-mail: OCR.DC@ed.gov.
If a report of a sexual offense is made to any staff or faculty member of the University who is a Responsible Employee (defined above), the faculty or staff member must contact the Title IX Coordinator who shall inform DPS and the Dean of Students as appropriate. All other members of the University community, except those designated as confidential resources in legally-protected roles (see section III.C below) are strongly encouraged to report sexual offenses in accordance with the reporting processes above.
The University is committed to protecting the privacy of all individuals involved in a reported sexual offense. Information related to a report of an offense, aside from information disclosed to persons in legally-protected roles as described below, will only be shared with individuals whose duties require access to such information. No other persons will receive any information related to the report or investigation absent a valid subpoena or court order.
If a reported sexual offense discloses an immediate threat to the campus community, the University shall issue a timely notice of the incident in the interests of the health and safety of the campus community.
If a report is made to the University, the University also recognizes that a complainant may desire confidentiality and may not want the University to investigate or attempt to resolve the incident. While the University will make every reasonable effort to honor the complainant’s request for confidentiality, the University must balance this request against its responsibility to protect the community. In light of this responsibility, the University reserves the right to investigate and to take whatever steps are necessary to ensure a safe and nondiscriminatory environment for all students. When the University cannot comply with a student’s request for confidentiality, the University will consult with that individual and keep the student informed throughout the process.
If an individual desires to seek confidential assistance without a report to the University, that individual may speak with certain persons in legally-protected roles. Information disclosed about the alleged offense to persons in legally-protected roles acting in their professional capacities may not be revealed to any other person without the express permission of the disclosing individual, unless there is an immediate threat to health or safety, the conduct involves the abuse of a minor (see section IX, below), or there is another basis for disclosure permitted or required by law. Legally-protected roles where confidential assistance may be sought include:
1. Professional mental health counselors (including but not limited to those in the University Counseling Center)
2. Physicians and others licensed to practice medicine in the District of Columbia who are acting in their health care role per D.C. Code §14.307 (including but not limited to those in University Student Health Services)
3. Clergy when the communication is made in their professional capacity of giving religious or spiritual advice, and
4. Appropriately licensed rape crisis/sexual assault counselors
Note: If the employees listed in the categories above are made aware of crimes or offenses outside of their professional capacities, those employees may be considered Responsible Employees (defined above) for reporting sexual offenses.
Actual or threatened retaliation, or any act of intimidation to prevent or obstruct the reporting of a sexual offense or the participation in proceedings related to a sexual offense, is prohibited pursuant to the University’s Non-Retaliation Policy (http://policies.cua.edu/governance/nonretaliation.cfm) and will result in disciplinary action regardless of the outcome of the underlying complaint of a sexual offense.
V. University Response to Reports of Sexual Offenses
If a student report of a sexual offense is made to DPS, DPS shall notify the Title IX Coordinator and the Dean of Students of the report, normally within 48 hours. The Title IX Coordinator will work with the Dean of Students so that the student can immediately receive support, be informed of available services, and, if necessary, be protected (e.g., no contact order, class rescheduling). The Title IX Coordinator will track all investigations for the University, and advise participants in the process as appropriate. The University will conduct prompt and thorough investigations into all reported instances of sexual offenses.
A student who has made a report of a sexual offense will be referred to the Dean of Students, who will appoint a trained resource person to help explain and navigate the available support services. This includes information regarding counseling, educational support, pastoral care, medical treatment, and information about filing a complaint under the Code of Student Conduct for University disciplinary action.
Upon receipt of a report of an alleged sexual offense in which the accused is a current Catholic University student or student employee, the Dean of Students shall issue no-contact orders, as appropriate, to the complainant and the respondent.
The Dean of Students shall also provide assistance to the affected students, such as rearranging class schedules and housing; every effort will be made to accommodate all reasonable requests, to protect the students and the campus community, and to minimize the impact on the students’ educational programs.
VI. Resources for Medical, Counseling and Pastoral Care
It is especially important that students who report having been subjected to sexual assault seek immediate and appropriate medical treatment. Following such incidents, students should not shower, eat, change clothes, or brush teeth prior to seeking medical attention.
Student Health Services (SHS) is open from Monday through Friday from 9 am – 5 pm and on Saturday from 9 am – 1 pm during the academic year and is equipped to provide confidential and professional medical care. SHS can be reached in the Kane Health & Fitness Center or at tel. (202) 319-5744. While the SHS staff is unable to collect evidence for the purposes of pursuing criminal prosecution, they can provide assistance and support when a student requests or requires transportation to the hospital.
The SANE (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner) Program³ at Washington Hospital Center (WHC) provides comprehensive nursing care, medical testing, forensic evidence collection, and support services free of charge within four days (96 hours) of an incident of sexual assault.
Collection of evidence by a SANE nurse does not require that a student file a police report, although a student is always free to do so. The SANE Program will hold evidence collected for 90 days should the complainant choose to file a report with MPD within that time.
A student who goes to a hospital other than WHC may request to be transported to WHC for evidence collection and a physical exam.
The University Counseling Center is staffed by trained professionals who can provide specialized support and assistance to students who have been subjected to a sexual offense. Current students may seek counseling at any time, no matter how long ago the incident occurred. Counseling services also are available to friends of a victim who may need support in assisting the student. The Counseling Center can be reached at tel. (202) 319-5765 or at http://counseling.cua.edu/.
The Campus Ministry staff is trained to provide pastoral counseling and support to students or to friends who wish to support and assist them. Campus Ministry can be reached at tel. (202) 319-5575 or at http://ministry.cua.edu/.
The on-campus resources listed above are available to all Catholic University students including victims, accused students and witnesses in sexual offense cases.
VII. Prevention Education
The University’s Sexual Assault Prevention education is coordinated through the Office of the Dean of Students. Through collaborative efforts with other University departments, the Office of the Dean of Students works to prevent sexual violence and harassment through a variety of educational and awareness programs and initiatives. See Sexual Assault and Violence Education for further information.
VIII. University Disciplinary Action
While sexual activity outside of marriage violates the Church’s teaching and the University’s Code of Student Conduct, “sexual offenses,” as defined in this policy, are unlawful behaviors that will not be tolerated; violations can result in disciplinary sanctions including expulsion, as well as criminal prosecution or other legal action.
Allegations of sexual offenses may be adjudicated under the disciplinary procedures outlined in the Code of Student Conduct and set forth in the University’s Sexual Offenses Grievance Procedures, regardless of whether they are also reported as a crime to local police or the subject of any criminal or civil action. Disciplinary action at the University may proceed while criminal or civil proceedings are pending, and will not be subject to challenge on the grounds that criminal charges involving the same incident have been dismissed or reduced, that no criminal charges have been brought, or that any civil action has been dismissed. Penalties shall be administered independent of any pending civil or criminal action or settlement reached. The full range of disciplinary sanctions, including expulsion from the University, may be considered, depending on the nature and severity of the offense.
Both the complainant and the respondent shall have the same opportunities to have an advisor present during a disciplinary proceeding and shall be informed of the final determination and any sanctions imposed against the accused student for a finding of a sexual offense. Proceedings will not be dismissed simply because the complainant or respondent withdraws from the University.
IX. Mandatory Reporting of Child Sexual Assault/Abuse
The District of Columbia requires that any person over 18 years of age report known or suspected sexual abuse of an individual less than 16 years of age to the D.C. Child and Family Services Agency at tel. (202) 671-7233 or to MPD at 911.
The District of Columbia also requires that persons in certain occupations and professions report known or suspected mental or physical abuse or neglect of an individual under the age of 18 years of age. The professions are called Mandatory Reporters and include but are not limited to the following: teacher/faculty member, athletic coach, physician, psychologist, registered nurse, licensed practical nurse, person involved in the care and treatment of patients, law-enforcement officer, school official, social service worker, day care worker, and mental health professional. Mandatory Reporters must report information of neglect or abuse learned in their official or professional capacity including whether the child is in immediate danger of such abuse or neglect. Reports must be made to the D.C. Child and Family Services Agency at (202) 671-7233 or to the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) at 911.
Priests are required to report sexual assault or abuse of a minor in accordance with the Archdiocese of Washington Child Protection Policy.
Any employee that makes a report to the D.C. Child and Family Services Agency or MPD must also make a report to the University’s Department of Public Safety. Any employee who is unsure or unclear of the responsibilities or legal obligations under this section should contact the Office of General Counsel for advice at (202) 319-5142.
¹ While this definition is derived from applicable law, the University’s offenses encompass more than conduct proscribed by law.
² Defined by the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 (VAWA) and the District of Columbia Code.
³ Compassionate and understanding care should be given to a person who is the victim of sexual assault. Health care providers should cooperate with law enforcement officials and offer the person psychological and spiritual support as well as accurate medical information. A female who has been raped should be able to defend herself against a potential conception from the sexual assault. If, after appropriate testing, there is no evidence that conception has occurred already, she may be treated with medications that would prevent ovulation, sperm capacitation, or fertilization. It is not permissible, however, to initiate or to recommend treatments that have as their purpose or direct effect the removal, destruction, or interference with the implantation of a fertilized ovum. Source: Directive 36 of the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, Fifth Edition, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (November 17, 2009).