This page provides definitions of some of the important terms used throughout the SAOC Web site.

Sexual Assault

From the Middlebury College Handbook's Sexual Misconduct Policy ("Definitions"):

Sexual Misconduct

Sexual misconduct and attempted sexual misconduct violate the rights of others, and demonstrate flagrant disregard for the principles of this community. Middlebury seeks to prevent all forms of sexual misconduct, and desires to establish and maintain a safe and healthy environment for all members of the community through sexual misconduct prevention, education, support, and a fair adjudication process. Use of alcohol or other drugs does not minimize or excuse a person’s responsibility for conduct that violates this policy.

Sexual misconduct comprises two categories of prohibited behavior: sexual assault, and inappropriate sexual conduct. This division of categories is intended to provide clarity, and does not suggest that one category is more severe or violating than the other. Students may be found to have violated one or both of the categories of sexual misconduct in this policy.

A) Sexual Assault

Sexual assault occurs when a person engages in a sexual act, as defined in this subsection, with another person or compels that person to participate in a sexual act without consent; by threat or coercion; by placing the other person in fear that any person will suffer imminent bodily injury; by impairing substantially the ability of another person to appraise or control conduct by administering or employing drugs or intoxicants without the knowledge or against the will of the other person; or when a person is under the age of 16.

A sexual act for purposes of this subsection is conduct between persons consisting of genital or anal contact or penetration, including oral contact with or penetration of the genitals or the anus.

Sexual assault can be committed by any person against any other person, regardless of gender identity, sexual orientation, or past or current relationship status. Sexual assault may occur with or without physical resistance or violence, and may occur even if individuals are under the influence of alcohol or other drugs.

B) Inappropriate Sexual Conduct

Inappropriate sexual conduct includes unwelcome sexual conduct that does not meet the definition of sexual assault but is sexually violating in nature. It includes but is not limited to the following:

  • Nonconsensual physical contact of a sexual nature. This includes intentional contact with the breasts, buttocks, groin, mouth, genitals, or any other body parts;
  • Sexually exploitative behavior. Examples include but are not limited to:

Capturing through any means images of sexual activity, sexually explicit images, or another’s nudity without consent, and/or sharing this material with others without all participants’ consent;

Viewing or allowing or aiding others to view sexual activity or another’s nudity without participants’ consent.

Exception: This section is not intended to prohibit the use of sexually explicit materials that are reasonably related to the academic mission of the College. Specifically, this section is not intended to proscribe or inhibit the use of sexually explicit materials, in or out of the classroom, when in the judgment of a reasonable person they arise appropriately to promote genuine discourse, free inquiry, and learning.

Sexual Harassment and Retaliation

From the Middlebury College Handbook's Anti-Harassment/Discrimination Policy:

(ii). Sexual Harassment

Harassment may also include so-called quid pro quo sexual harassment, meaning unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal, written, visual or physical conduct of a sexual nature when:

i. submission to that conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of employment or educational status; or

ii. submission to or rejection of such conduct is used as a component of or as the basis for employment decisions (such as wages, evaluation, advancement, assigned duties or shifts) or educational/student life-related decisions (such as grades, class assignments, or letters of recommendation, or residence-related decisions) affecting an individual.

Examples of sexual harassment include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • touching or grabbing a sexual part of a student’s or employee's body;
  • touching or grabbing any part of a student’s or employee's body after that person has indicated, or it is known or reasonably should be known, that such physical contact was unwelcome;
  • continuing to ask a student or employee to socialize on or off-duty when that person has indicated s/he is not interested;
  • displaying or transmitting sexually suggestive pictures, objects, cartoons, or posters if it is known or reasonably should be known that the behavior is unwelcome;
  • continuing to write sexually suggestive notes or letters if it is known or reasonably should be known that the person does not welcome such behavior;
  • referring to or calling a person a sexualized name if it is known or reasonably should be known that the person does not welcome such behavior;
  • regularly telling sexual jokes or using sexually vulgar or explicit language in the presence of a person if it is known or reasonably should be known that the person does not welcome such behavior;
  • derogatory or provoking remarks about or relating to a student’s or employee's sex or sexual orientation;
  • harassing acts or behavior directed against a person on the basis of his or her sex or sexual orientation.

3. Retaliation

Retaliating against a person who has in good faith filed, supported, or participated in an investigation of a complaint of any type of discrimination, harassment, or sexual misconduct as defined above is prohibited. Retaliation includes but is not limited to, ostracizing the person, pressuring the person to drop or not support the complaint, or adversely altering that person's educational, living, or work environment. Retaliation may be unlawful depending upon the circumstances, whether or not the discrimination, sexual misconduct, or harassment complaint is ultimately found to have merit.

Acquaintance Rape

The vast majority of sexual assaults are committed by assailants who are known to the survivor. Acquaintance rape is a non-legal term defining a person being subjected to unwanted sexual intercourse, oral sex, anal sex, or other sexual contact through the use of force or threat of force by someone the survivor knows. When it occurs between individuals who have been in a dating relationship, it is often referred to as date rape. Because survivors of date rape are typically and erroneously viewed as less harmed by the experience than other rape survivors, and perpetrators of date rape are typically and erroneously viewed as less culpable, this term is generally discouraged.

Acquaintance rape is the most common type of rape. Like stranger rape, it is a crime of violence and an attempt by the attacker to assert power. Acquaintance rape often occurs within a context that is confusing for both the rapist and the survivor. While their behavior may legally constitute rape, many assailants committing acquaintance rape do not think of themselves as rapists. The survivor may also be unclear about whether or not s/he has been raped, and may fail to label forced sex by someone s/he knows as rape. Survivors may feel guilty or responsible for the assault when they know their assailant, and may also question their judgment and/or have difficulty trusting people. If the survivor was using drugs or alcohol at the time of the forced sex, s/he may also be reluctant to report the crime, especially if s/he is under age. Loss of self esteem appears to be a particular problem when the perpetrator is known to the survivor.


From the Middlebury College Handbook Sexual Misconduct Policy:

5.  Confidentiality

People who have concerns about sexual misconduct often ask for assurances about confidentiality.

In general, the law recognizes and protects the confidentiality of communications between a person seeking care and a medical or mental health professional or religious advisor. The medical, mental health, and religious professionals at Middlebury College respect and protect confidential communications from students, faculty and staff to the extent they are legally able to do so. These professionals may have a responsibility to report, however, when they perceive an immediate and/or serious threat to any person or property. In addition, medical and mental health professionals are required by law to report any allegation of sexual assault of a person under age 18.

General inquiries to College officials other than those identified above about policies or procedures may remain private. In all cases, Middlebury College will endeavor to protect the privacy of individuals to the extent it can do so consistent with its obligations to uphold relevant policies, and to protect the safety of the community. The College has an obligation to investigate complaints of sexual misconduct and/or harassment, however, and to take reasonable steps to prevent sexual misconduct or ongoing harassment (see below), so strict confidentiality may not be guaranteed.

If a complainant insists that his or her name or other identifiable information not be revealed, Middlebury will evaluate the request in the context of its responsibility to provide a safe and nondiscriminatory environment for all students, staff, and faculty. Thus, Middlebury may weigh the request for confidentiality against the following factors: the seriousness of the alleged conduct, whether there have been other sexual misconduct or sexual harassment complaints about the same individual, and the extent of any threat to the College community.

Middlebury College is also part of a larger community and context. If there is an independent investigation or lawsuit related to a sexual misconduct, harassment, or retaliation matter, those involved or others may be required by law to provide documents or testimony.


From the Middlebury College Handbook's Sexual Misconduct Policy:


Consent means mutually understandable words or actions, freely and actively given by each party, which a reasonable person would interpret as a willingness to participate in agreed-upon sexual conduct.

Consent cannot be given when: a person’s judgment is substantially impaired by alcohol or drugs; when intimidation, coercion or threats are involved; when physical force is used; when mental or physical incapacitation/impairments prevent knowing and voluntary participation; or when a person has not achieved the age required for consent, as defined by state law.

Silence, non-communication, or a lack of resistance does not necessarily imply consent. Previous relationships or consent do not imply consent to future sexual conduct.  Consent to one form of sexual activity does not imply consent to other forms of sexual activity.  Consent can be rescinded at any time.

The use of alcohol or drugs does not minimize or excuse a person’s responsibility for sexual assault and/or misconduct.


State Definition

This information may be found under Vermont Statutes, Title 13: Crimes and Criminal Procedure; Chapter 72: Sexual Assault:

The State of Vermont defines consent as "words or actions by a person indicating a voluntary agreement to engage in a sexual act." In discussion prosecution of a crime, the following specifications are offered regarding consent:

1) Lack of consent may be shown without proof of resistance.

2) A person shall be deemed to have acted without the consent of the other person where the actor:

A) Knows that the other person is mentally incapable of understanding the nature of the sexual act or lewd and lascivious conduct; or

B) Knows that the other person is not physically capable of resisting, or declining consent to, the sexual act or lewd or lascivious conduct; or

C) Knows the other person is unaware that a sexual act or lewd and lascivious conduct is being committed; or

D) Knows that the other person is mentally incapable of resisting, or declining consent to, the sexual act or lewd and lascivious conduct, due to mental illness or mental retardation, as defined in section 3061 of Title 14.




From the Middlebury College Handbook Sexual Misconduct Policy:


Coercion is defined as compelling someone to act based on pressure, harassment, threats or intimidation. When someone makes clear that he or she does not want sex, wants it to stop, or does not wish to go past a certain point of sexual interaction, continued pressure beyond that point is coercive.


Survivor, used throughout this site, requires elaboration in two areas. First, the word survivor, rather than victim, honors the strength and courage of the women and men who survive sexual, physical, and emotional violence. Survival is a physical and emotional process that is experienced differently by each individual, and progresses at an individual pace.

In addition, it is important to note that the word survivor on this site does not connote or imply any legal status, either of an individual or of the encounter s/he experienced. Regardless of legal definitions of rape or sexual assault, or of outcomes of formal internal or external judicial processes, survivor on this site refers to anyone who has suffered a distressing sexual encounter.

Partner Violence

Partner violence, also referred to as dating violence, relationship violence, or domestic violence, is a pattern of assaultive and coercive behaviors including physical, sexual, verbal, psychological, sexual and emotional attacks that individuals use against their intimate partners. Examples include hitting, yelling, pushing, stealing money, sexual assault, sexual harassment, and other expressions of power and intimidation. Partner violence often coincides with the isolation of one partner by another, be it through physical restraint, psychological isolation, or taking away mechanisms that would allow a partner to leave, like money or self-confidence. Partner violence occurs in all types of relationships, and people of all genders, sexualities, abilities, races, and ages can be perpetrators and survivors. Physical violence or intimidation of any kind, and some forms of emotional violence, are violations of Middlebury College’s Community Standards policies. For more information, see If you are in a violent or dangerous situation, or are feeling harassed.

Regretted Sex

People can consent to be sexually intimate and feel bad about it or regret it afterward. This is often called “regretted sex.” It is not sexual assault, because both individuals consented, but it is not healthy sex, because one or both individuals feel guilty, uneasy, or unhappy about what happened afterward.

Sexual assault prevention typically focuses on ending non-consensual sex, but regretted consensual sex is a common and upsetting occurrence on college campuses, and can be damaging to those who experience it.

Reasons for having regretted sex include peer pressure, sexual inexperience,  poor communication skills, and feelings of insecurity, such as having sex out of fear a partner will lose interest or be offended. Students who are struggling with experiences of regretted sex are encouraged to seek help from the counseling center or other resources listed under Seeking care and seeking action. Remember that all individuals in distress of any kind deserve care and support.


Throughout this site, we use the word “reporting” to reflect a process in which survivors share information to create a formal record of their experience, often in order to initiate action of some kind, including any of the following:

  • To ensure that there is a College record of your experience;
  • To address your safety, such as a arranging for room change, or requesting a No-Contact Order or a No-Trespass Order, both of which restrict the alleged assailant’s ability to communicate with you or go near you;
  • To press charges on campus;
  • To press charges off campus.

It is important to understand that when a member of the staff or faculty is notified of behavior that may constitute harassment, the College is obligated to investigate, and to make the harassment stop. For more information about various ways of reporting, see Seeking care, and seeking action.