The University of Southern California believes that all members of the university community – students, faculty, staff, and visitors – should pursue their work and education in a safe environment, free from harassment based on protected characteristics, sexual misconduct, and interpersonal violence. The university is committed to stopping prohibited conduct, preventing its recurrence, addressing its effects, and eliminating hostile environments. USC's goal is a safe and transparent university community where these behaviors are universally recognized as intolerable, where those who are harmed are provided support, and where a fair and impartial process is provided to all parties. USC has a Student Misconduct Policy, which contains the policy and procedures around Sexual, Interpersonal and Protected Class Misconduct.
USC's policies were updated February 2019.Back to top
USC defines sexual assault and non-consensual sexual contact in their Student Misconduct Policy.
Sexual assault is penetration, however slight, of the vagina, anus, or mouth by a body part or an object, without consent.
Sexual contact is intentional contact, direct or indirect, without consent (a) of the breasts, genitals, buttocks, or groin of another, (b) of another with any of these body parts; or (c) making another touch you or themselves with or on any of these body parts without their consent.
Acts by strangers, acquaintances, and intimate partners are covered equally in these definitions.
Consent must be affirmative. “Affirmative consent” means affirmative, conscious, and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity. It is positive cooperation in act and attitude made with knowledge and agreement to the nature of the act.
- It is the responsibility of each person involved to ensure they have the affirmative consent of the other(s) to engage in sexual activity. Affirmative consent must be ongoing throughout the sexual activity and can be revoked at any time.
- Lack of protest or resistance does not mean consent, nor does silence mean consent.
- Consent cannot be inferred from an existing or previous dating relationship. Previous sexual activity between the parties cannot, by itself, be assumed to be an indicator of consent. There must be mutual consent to engage in the sexual activity each time it occurs.
- Consent to engage in sexual activity at one time is not consent to engage in the same or different sexual activity at a different time. Consent to engage in sexual activity with one person is not consent to engage in sexual activity with another.
Consent cannot be the product of physical force, threats, or coercion. Coercion is conduct, including intimidation or express/implied threats of immediate or future physical, emotional, financial or reputational harm to the Reporting Party or another, which would place a reasonable person in fear they will be injured or harmed if they do not submit.
Consent cannot be given when someone is incapacitated due to sleep, unconsciousness, or intoxication. Consent cannot be the product of incapacitation. A person who is incapacitated is not capable of giving valid, affirmative consent.
- Incapacitation means a person cannot understand the fact, nature, or extent of the sexual activity. An incapacitated person lacks the physical and mental capacity to make informed, reasonable judgements about whether or not to engage in sexual activity. A person who is incapacitated may not be able to understand where they are, whom they are with, how they got there, or what is happening.
- A person may be incapacitated by a temporary or permanent mental or physical condition, sleep, unconsciousness, or lack of awareness that the sexual act is taking place. Further, a person may be incapacitated as a result of consumption of alcohol or drugs. Incapacitation is a state beyond intoxication or “drunkenness.” Impairment must be significant enough to render a person unable to understand the fact, nature, or extent of the sexual activity. Mere consumption of alcohol or drugs does not necessarily render a person incapacitated. Alcohol and drugs affect individuals differently. Impairment levels vary and are the product of the nature of all substances involved, height, weight, tolerance, quantity and pattern of food and sleep, and drinking pattern.
In evaluating affirmative consent in cases involving incapacitation, the university considers the totality of available information in determining two issues:
(a) Incapacitation of the Reporting Party (you); AND
(b) Knowledge of the Respondent (perpetrator):
- Did the Respondent know the Reporting Party was incapacitated? or
- Should the Respondent reasonably have known that the Reporting Party was incapacitated?
If both (a) and (b) are answered positively, affirmative consent was absent and the conduct a likely violation of this policy.
Reasonable belief in affirmative consent is a defense to sexual assault and non-consensual sexual contact. The totality of circumstances known and reasonably should have been known are evaluated in determining whether a Respondent’s belief is actual and reasonable.
Belief in affirmative consent is not reasonable if it arose from a Respondent’s intoxication or recklessness. Further, such belief is not reasonable if steps are not taken to determine affirmative consent.Back to top
Your Title IX Rights
Title IX is a federal law that protects students against sex discrimination, sexual harassment, and sexual violence regardless of the student’s real or perceived sex, gender identity, and/or gender expression. If you have been subjected to sexual harassment or sexual violence you have an additional set of rights and protections under Title IX. (Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, 20 U.S.C. §1681)
If you believe your Title IX rights have been or are being violated, you can contact your Title IX Coordinator and/or learn how to file a report on the OCR website.Back to top