Sexual violence is a broad term which includes sexual assault, sexual harassment, street harassment, relationship violence, child sexual abuse and stalking. While each of these types of violence may look different, they all involve an attack on a person's sense of self, their sexuality, their body and/or their feeling of safety. It can happen to anyone of any gender and of any sexual orientation.
Sexual misconduct incorporates a variety of behaviors, including sexual assault, sexual violence, sexual harassment, stalking, domestic violence, dating partner violence, sex-based cyber harassment, hazing of a sexual nature, peeping, voyeurism, going beyond the boundaries of consent (such as secretly allowing others to watch a sexual encounter), and any other conduct of a sexual nature that is nonconsensual or has the purpose or effect of threatening, intimidating, coercing or interfering with the rights of another person or persons. Much sexual misconduct includes nonconsensual sexual contact, but this is not a necessary component. Threatening or intimidating speech, which meets the definition of sexual harassment, for example, will constitute sexual misconduct. Photographs, video, or other visual or auditory records of sexual activity made or shared without explicit consent constitute sexual misconduct, even if the activity documented was consensual. Domestic violence and dating partner violence constitute sexual misconduct, regardless of whether the intimate or sexual relationship between the parties is consensual.
Sexual assault is defined as sexual contact, including but not limited to penetration, without consent. Sexual assault is a form of sexual violence and a severe form of sexual harassment. Sexual assault includes, but is not limited to rape (including sodomy and sexual assault with an object); fondling (the touching of the private body parts of another person, without the consent of the victim); incest; and statutory rape.
Sexual contact, under Minnesota law includes, but is not limited to, the intentional touching by the respondent of the complainant's breasts, inner thighs, buttocks, genitals and/or groin area, whether clothed or unclothed; or the coerced touching by the complainant of another's intimate parts. Sexual contact also includes the intentional removal or attempted removal of clothing covering the complainant's intimate parts.
Words or overt actions by a person indicating a freely given present agreement to perform a particular sexual act with the actor. Consent must be informed and freely and actively given.
a. Consent requires more than the existence of a prior or current social or sexual relationship between the actor and the complainant.
b. Consent to one sexual act does not imply consent to another. Consent has to be specific to the act and persons involved. Past consent to sexual activity does not imply ongoing future consent. Consent can be revoked at any time. Although consent does not need to be verbal, verbal communication is the most reliable form of asking for and gauging consent.
c. Simple silence, the lack of a negative response, or failure to resist is not consent. It is the responsibility of the actor to obtain consent to any and all sexual involvement that occurs.
d. The use or threatened use of force or other forms of coercion or intimidation take away a person's ability to give consent to sexual contact. Consent is not present when another person fears the consequences of not consenting. Coercion includes intimidation, threats, misuse of authority, manipulation, tricking or bribing with actions and/or words.
e. A person who is asleep, unconscious or whose judgment is impaired by drugs, alcohol, disability, or other means, or who lacks full knowledge or information of what is happening cannot give valid consent to a sexual act. This is true regardless of whether the person voluntarily or involuntarily consumed the drugs or alcohol. Use of drugs or alcohol by the initiator of the sex, however, is not a defense against allegations of sexual misconduct and does not diminish personal accountability or criminal liability.
f. A person who has not reached the legal age of consent cannot give consent. The legal age of consent may vary depending on the circumstances and the applicable state law.
Sexual harassment is a form of discrimination based on sex, and is defined in part as follows:
a. Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual or gender-based nature when:
i. submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual's employment or educational experience; or submission or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis of employment decisions or academic or education-related decisions affecting such individual (Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment); or
ii. such conduct has the purpose or effect of substantially and unreasonably interfering with an individual's work or educational experience or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working, residential, or educational environment. (Hostile Environment Sexual Harassment).
b. Examples of Sexual Harassment. The determination of what constitutes sexual harassment depends upon the specific facts of each situation in the context in which the conduct occurs. Sexual harassment may take many forms. It may be subtle and indirect, or blatant and overt. It may be conduct affecting an individual of the opposite sex or conduct affecting an individual of the same sex. It may occur between peers or between individuals in a hierarchical relationship. If it meets the conditions set forth in the above definition, conduct such as the following may be considered sexual harassment:
i. Non-verbal harassment may include suggestive or insulting sounds, leering, whistling, obscene gestures, and visual displays;
ii. Verbal harassment may include statements (written or spoken) drawing upon sexual innuendo, suggestive comments, insults, humor or jokes emphasizing gender-specific traits or clothing, sexual propositions (including repeated unwelcome invitations to social engagements), or sexual threats;
iii. Physical harassment may include unwanted touching, pinching, patting, hugging, or brushing of one's body. In its most extreme form, sexual harassment includes sexual assault.
iv. Gender-based harassment may include non-verbal, verbal or physical harassment directed at an individual or a group of individuals solely on the basis of gender, whether or not such conduct is sexual in nature. It also may include harassment based on stereotypical notions of what is female/feminine and male/masculine or a failure to conform to those gender stereotypes.
v. In some cases, consensual romantic or sexual relationships may form the basis for a claim of sexual harassment when the relationship gives undue access or advantage, restricts opportunities or creates a hostile and unacceptable environment for others.
Dating Violence is violence committed by a person who is or has been in a social relationship of a romantic or intimate nature with the victim. The existence of such a relationship shall be determined based on the reporting party's statement and a consideration of the following factors: (i) the length of the relationship; (ii) the type of relationship; and (iii) the frequency of interaction between the persons involved in the relationship. Dating violence includes, but is not limited to, sexual or physical abuse or the threat of such abuse.
Domestic Violence is violence committed by a current or former spouse or intimate partner 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 or intimate partner, by a person similarly situated to a spouse of the victim under the domestic or family violence laws of Minnesota, or by any other person against an adult or youth victim who is protected from that person's acts under domestic or family violence laws. In addition to the relationships described above, Minnesota law defines domestic violence to include violence committed between parents and children, blood relatives, persons who are presently residing together or who have resided together in the past, and persons involved in a significant romantic relationship. While not exhaustive, the following are examples of conduct that can constitute domestic violence include physical harm, bodily injury or assault; the infliction of fear of imminent physical harm, bodily injury, or assault; terroristic threats; criminal sexual conduct; or interference with an emergency call.
Stalking means engaging in a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to fear for his or her safety or the safety of others or to suffer substantial emotional distress. For purposes of this definition, "course of conduct" means two or more acts, including, but not limited to, acts in which the stalker directly, indirectly, or through third parties, by any action, method, device, or means, follows, monitors, observes, surveils, threatens, or communicates to or about a person, or interferes with a person' s property. Stalking can be a form of sexual harassment. Stalking behavior includes, but is not limited to:
a. Repeated, unwanted, intrusive, and frightening communications by phone, mail, text, email, and/or social media;
b. Repeatedly leaving or sending victim unwanted items, presents, or flowers;
c. Following or laying-in-wait for the victim at places such as home, school, work, or recreation place;
d. Making direct or indirect threats to harm the victim, the victim's children, relatives, friends, or pets;
e. Damaging or threatening to damage the victim's property;
f. Posting information or spreading rumors about the victim on the internet, in a public place, or by word of mouth;
g. Unreasonably obtaining personal information about the victim by accessing public records, using internet search services, hiring private investigators, going through the victim's garbage, following the victim, contacting victim's friends, family work, or neighbors, etc.
As defined by Minnesota law, stalking means " to engage in conduct which the actor knows or has reason to know would cause the victim under the circumstances to feel frightened, threatened, oppressed, persecuted, or intimidated, and causes this reason on the part of the victim regardless of the relationship between the actor and victim."