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Sexual Violence Policy and Information

The complete State University Equal Opportunity, Diversity, and Affirmative Action Plan is available at the following link. Below is an outline of the policy as it relates to sexual violence, sexual harassment, gender-based harassment, domestic violence, dating violence, stalking, and retaliation.

1. Overview

MCLA is committed to creating and maintaining an environment where sexual violence, sexual harassment, gender-based harassment, domestic violence, dating violence, stalking, and retaliation are not tolerated, are strictly prohibited, and where all members of the College community are educated in preventing and reporting such incidents. All reports of sexual violence, sexual harassment, gender-based harassment, domestic violence, dating violence, stalking, and retaliation will be investigated and, if substantiated, result in disciplinary action up to and including dismissal from the College. The College will provide a prompt, fair, and impartial investigation and resolution of any and all reports.

Acts of sexual violence are violations of Commonwealth law; the State University Equal Opportunity, Diversity, and Affirmative Action Plan; and Title IX. Any person charged with an act of sexual violence may be prosecuted under Massachusetts criminal statutes. An MCLA student may also be sanctioned following a Title IX investigation in accordance with the State University Equal Opportunity, Diversity, and Affirmative Action Plan. These laws and policies are violated in the case of same sex conduct as well. If found responsible following a Title IX investigation, a student could be removed from College residence areas and/or suspended or dismissed from the College. Even if criminal justice authorities choose not to prosecute an alleged respondent, disciplinary action may be pursued if the College believes a policy violation occurred.

If the College suspects a violation under the State University Equal Opportunity, Diversity, and Affirmative Action Plan was committed by an enrolled MCLA student, the College may immediately suspend the respondent from the residence areas and/or College pending the outcome of a formal investigation. Alternative academic or living arrangements for the respondent and/or the complainant may also be made by the College, regardless of whether the respondent is an enrolled student, if appropriate and reasonably available.

Many survivors of sexual violence experience emotional distress. Victims become survivors by regaining control of their lives. The process of surviving begins by making sure individuals receive the physical and emotional care needed. Also, it is important for individuals to learn about their rights. A student, staff or faculty member who is the victim of sexual violence, sexual harassment, gender-based-harassment, domestic violence, dating violence, stalking or retaliation is strongly encouraged to immediately report the crime to the Department of Public Safety. The College provides support through a variety of resources including Counseling Services, Health Services, the Department of Public Safety, Residential Programs & Services, the Student Affairs Division Office, and Human Resources. It is each individual’s decision to report these crimes to the local police, but the College urges reporting take place to help ensure a safe living and working environment for the entire College community. Even if one does not wish to pursue a criminal prosecution or initiate a formal complaint, the College urges the individual to notify Campus authorities so appropriate support services may be accessed in an informed manner.

2. Selected Policy Definitions

Sexual Violence. As defined by the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights, sexual violence “refers to physical sexual acts perpetrated against a person’s will or where a person is incapable of giving consent (e.g. due to the [person’s] age or use of drugs or alcohol, or because an intellectual or other disability prevents the [person] from having the capacity to give consent).” All forms of sexual violence are prohibited by MCLA and Title IX.

Rape. Rape is the penetration, no matter how slight, of (1) the vagina or anus of a person by any body part of another person or by an object, or (2) the mouth of a person by a sex organ of another person, without that person’s consent. Rape is also the performance of oral sex or anal sex on another person without that person’s consent.

Affirmative Consent. Consent is an understandable exchange of affirmative words or actions, which indicate a willingness by all parties to participate in mutually agreed upon sexual activity. Consent must be informed, freely and actively given. It is the responsibility of the initiator to obtain clear and affirmative responses at each stage of sexual involvement. Whether an individual has taken advantage of a position of influence over an alleged victim may be a factor in determining consent. For example, a position of influence could include supervisory or disciplinary authority. Silence, previous sexual relationships or experiences, and/or a current relationship may not, in themselves, be taken to imply consent. While nonverbal consent is possible (through active participation), it is best to obtain verbal consent. Similarly, consent to one form of sexual activity does not imply consent to other forms of sexual activity. Consent to sexual activity may be withdrawn at any time, as long as the withdrawal is communicated clearly.

Sexual Assault. Sexual assault is any kind of sexual physical contact that involves any form of coercion, force or lack of consent. Sexual physical contact includes the intentional touching of another person on an area of the body generally recognized as a private part of the body, or touching any part of another person’s body with a private part of one’s own body or object, no matter how slight. Sexual intercourse means penetration, no matter how slight, of a bodily orifice (vagina, anus or mouth) by an object or by a body part, and/or non-consensual oral sex or anal sex.

Sexual Harassment. Sexual harassment is unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature prohibited when: submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual’s employment or education; and/or submission to, or rejection of, such conduct by an individual is used as a basis for academic or employment decisions affecting that individual; and/or such conduct has the purposed or effect of substantially interfering with an individual’s academic or professional performance or creating a sexual intimidating, hostile or offensive employment, educational or living environment.

Gender-Based Harassment. Unwelcome conduct of a nonsexual nature based on a person’s actual or perceived sex, including conduct based on gender identity, gender expression, and nonconformity with gender stereotypes, is prohibited when submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term of condition of an individual’s employment or education; and/or submission to, or rejection of, such conduct by an individual is used as a basis for academic or employment decisions affecting that individual; and/or such conduct has the purpose or effect of substantially interfering with an individual’s academic or professional performance or creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive employment, educational or living environment based on gender.

Domestic and Dating Violence. Domestic and dating violence are acts of abusive or coercive behavior (physical, sexual, financial, verbal and/or emotional) used by a perpetrator to gain or exercise control over another, including any behaviors that intimidate, manipulate, humiliate, isolate, frighten, threaten, blame, hurt, injure, or wound someone. Domestic and dating violence can occur in relationships between persons of any gender. Domestic violence is such behavior directed against a current or former spouse, family member (blood, step, adoptive or foster), person with whom a child is shared, or cohabitant (possibly a roommate). Dating violence is such behavior directed against another person in a social relationship of a romantic or intimate nature, and where the existence of such a relationship is determined based on a consideration of the length and type of relationship and frequency of interaction between the persons involved.

Stalking. Stalking is engaging in a course of harassing, threatening or unwanted behavior that would cause a reasonable person to suffer substantial emotional distress or fear for their safety or the safety of others. Stalking may occur in a range of formats including, but not limited to, in-person conduct, writings, texting, voicemail, email, social media, following someone with a global position system (GPS), and video/audio recording.

Retaliation. MCLA prohibits retaliation against any person for making a complaint of sexual violence, sexual harassment, gender-based harassment, domestic violence, dating violence, stalking, and retaliation; for assisting in making a complaint; for resisting or openly opposing such conduct; or for otherwise using or participating in the complaint investigation process under the Policy. Persons who file, or participate in the investigation or resolution of, claims or complaints of sexual violence, sexual harassment, gender-based harassment, domestic violence, dating violence, stalking, and retaliation with outside agencies, law enforcement or otherwise pursuant to any applicable state or federal law, are also protected from retaliation by this Policy. Prohibited retaliation includes, but is not limited to: threats; intimidation; reprisals; continued harassment or misconduct; other forms of harassment; slander and libel; and adverse actions related to employment or education. Retaliation can be committed by individuals or groups, including friends, relatives or other associates of the person against whom a complaint is filed. Retaliation, even in the absence of proven sexual violence, sexual harassment, gender-based harassment, domestic violence, dating violence or stalking in an underlying complaint, constitutes a violation of this Policy that is just as serious as the main offense itself.

*These definitions apply to same-sex relationships and domestic partners as well.

3. Preservation of Evidence

The College strongly urges any person who experiences sexual violence to take steps to preserve evidence of the incident. After an incident, individuals are encouraged to:

  • Go to a safe place.
  • Avoid washing, douching or changing clothes before getting help.
  • Avoid touching any evidence of struggle or disarray. This evidence is important should the individual choose to report the incident to the police (then or later).
  • Seek medical attention. Try to bring a trusted person when seeking this care.
  • Seek professional counseling for support and to help prevent post-traumatic stress disorder.
  • Refrain from self-isolation.
  • Be patient. It takes time to recover and trust again.
  • Refrain from blaming oneself. The person who committed the assault is responsible. Sexual penetration without consent (even within the context of a date) is RAPE.

4. Procedures for Reporting Sexual Violence at MCLA

MCLA strongly encourages anyone who experiences sexual violence, sexual harassment, gender-based harassment, domestic violence, dating violence or stalking to report the incident so MCLA may provide support and pursue an appropriate resolution. MCLA prohibits and will not tolerate retaliation against anyone who makes a report.

Several options for reporting exist: Confidential Reports, Non-Confidential Reports, and Making No Report. As a general rule, when MCLA receives a report of sexual violence, sexual harassment, gender-based harassment, domestic violence, dating violence, stalking or retaliation, it must investigate the report. If unsure of someone’s duty to report or ability to maintain one’s confidence, one should ask them before disclosing information. They will be able to explain if they are required to make a report, and they can identify others who can help.

MCLA encourages all criminal actions or other emergencies occurring on Campus to be reported to the Department of Public Safety. Public Safety will assist individuals in reporting alleged acts of sexual violence to other appropriate agencies. The emergency telephone number is (413) 662-5100, ext. 5100 from on Campus or 911. If one experiences an act of sexual violence and decides not to notify Public Safety, please:

  • Get to a safe place.
  • Seek immediate emotional support.
  • Seek immediate medical attention.

Where to Receive Confidential Medical & Emotional Assistance

 Individuals who feel they experienced sexual violence, sexual harassment, gender-based harassment, domestic violence, dating violence, stalking or retaliation should report the matter to and seek medical and emotional assistance from any of the following offices or community agencies:

MCLA Health ServicesMountainOne Wellness Center413.662.5421
MCLA Counseling ServicesMountainOne Wellness Center413.662.5331
Berkshire Medical Center - North AdamsHospital Drive, North Adams413.664.5256
Elizabeth Freeman Center 24-Hour HotlineNorth Adams, Pittsfield413.663.9709

 

Where to Receive Non-Confidential, Private Assistance

MCLA offers a variety of resources to those community members who have experienced sexual violence, sexual harassment, gender-based harassment, domestic violence, dating violence, stalking or retaliation. While the following resources are not bound by confidentiality, they will maintain one’s privacy within the limited group of MCLA personnel necessary to address the matter presented.

MCLA Department of Public Safety277 Ashland Street

413.662.5100

ext. 5100 on Campus

911

MCLA Title IX Coordinator, Theresa O'BryantCampus Center Room 305413.662.5231
MCLA Residential Programs & ServicesFlagg Townhouse 89413.662.5249
MCLA Student Affairs Division OfficeAmsler Campus Center413.662.5231

 

Making No Report

Individuals have the right not to make a report to anyone. MCLA, however, strongly encourages individuals to seek medical attention, counseling and support. Individuals are always welcome to file a report at a later date, but please note a delay in reporting could weaken the evidence necessary to determine whether the accused is found responsible for committing an act of sexual violence, sexual harassment, gender-based harassment, domestic violence, dating violence, stalking or retaliation.

 

5. Rights of Individuals Who Experience Sexual Violence, Sexual Harassment, Gender-Based Harassment, Domestic Violence, Dating Violence, Stalking or Retaliation

Individuals who experience sexual violence, sexual harassment, gender-based harassment, domestic violence, dating violence, stalking, and retaliation have the following rights regardless of whether they choose to report the crime to Public Safety or local law enforcement:

  • Determine whether or not to cooperate with law enforcement authorities.
  • Pursue disciplinary action against the respondent through the Campus Title IX Investigation Process.
  • Be accommodated, if needed, in the event of a disability.
  • Confidential counseling services by a trained counselor on or off-Campus;
  • Receive confidential support and information regarding the available choices.
  • Confidential medical treatment.
  • Academic support from faculty and administrators.
  • Change in academic, living, transportation, dining, and working situations, if requested.
  • Availability of reasonable interim measures such as alternate options for transportation, working situations or on-Campus housing if one feels unsafe in the current residence or the residence of others. The burden on the complainant will be minimized whenever possible.
  • No contact orders or judicial orders of protection.
  • Fair, prompt, impartial investigations and resolutions conducted by College officials who receive annual training.
  • Determine whether or not parents will be notified.
  • Not to be harassed by the respondent or the respondent's friends.
  • Updates as to the status of the Campus Title IX Investigation.

 

6. The Campus Title IX Investigation Process

Complaints of violations may be filed with the Title IX Coordinator, Theresa O'Bryant, in the Student Affairs Division Office (413) 662-5231 . All complaints must be in writing, preferably using the formal complaint form and procedural advice is readily available by contacting the Title IX Coordinator.

Any Title IX investigation will be conducted by officials who receive annual training on:

  • Issues related to sexual violence, sexual harassment, gender-based harassment, domestic violence, dating violence, stalking, and retaliation.
  • How to conduct an investigation that protects the safety of individuals, promotes accountability, is prompt, and equitable.
  • How to protect the privacy of individuals.

The evidentiary standard used in cases of sexual violence, sexual harassment, gender-based harassment, domestic violence, dating violence, stalking, and retaliation is the preponderance of the evidence.

Complainants are entitled to these additional rights within the Campus Title IX Investigation Process:

  • To select a person to accompany them throughout investigation process.
  • Not to have one’s irrelevant past sexual history discussed during the investigation.

Respondents are entitled to these additional rights within the Campus Title IX Investigation Process:

  • To have a review of the interim suspension decision, if applicable.
  • To select a person to accompany them throughout the investigation.
  • Not to have one’s irrelevant past sexual history discussed during the investigation.

The College will simultaneously notify the complainant and respondent, in writing, of:

  • The outcome of the investigation;
  • The procedures for the complainant and respondent to appeal the results;
  • Any change in the results occuring prior to the time the results become final;
  • When the results become final.

 

7. Recognizing Warning Signs of Abusive Behavior and How to Avoid Potential Attacks

  • Prevention requires being alert and prepared.
  • Lock room and townhouse doors at all times.
  • Use the peephole in the door before opening the door.
  • Avoid poorly lighted streets, alleys, and pathways.
  • Avoid persons acting suspiciously. Head for bright lights and people.
  • Avoid walking/jogging alone. Stick to a planned route and run with a friend.
  • Avoid hitchhiking.
  • Be aware of surroundings.
  • The first defense is noise - scream! Scream "fire" not "help" to attract more attention.
  • Avoid entering an elevator if there is someone suspicious already in the car.
  • Convey confidence through body language. Keep one’s head up and be alert.
  • Refrain from marking keys or key chain with one’s name, address or telephone number.
  • If offered a ride home from a party, become suspicious and do not accept the offer.
  • Use alcohol responsibly.
  • Never leave a drink unattended.
  • In a dating situation, define exact parameters of the relationship.
  • Be assertive and maintain control.
  • Trust basic instincts. If it does not feel right, it probably is not.

 

8. Sex Offender Registry and Access to Related Information

The federal Campus Sex Crimes Prevention Act, enacted on October 28, 2000, went into effect October 28, 2002. The law requires institutions of higher education to issue a statement advising the campus community where law enforcement agency information provided by a state concerning registered sex offenders may be obtained. It also requires sex offenders already required to register in a state to provide notice to each institution of higher education in that state at which the person is employed, carries on a vocation or is a student. In the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, convicted sex offenders must register with the Sex Offender Registry Board. Information concerning offenders registered with the Sex Offender Registry Board may be disclosed to any person 18 years of age or older requesting information on a specific individual in accordance with the law. Information regarding a specific person requested pursuant to the law shall be disseminated upon receipt of an official request form, which may be obtained through the City of North Adams Police Department. Information concerning offenders may also be available electronically through contact with the appropriate web site related to the Massachusetts Sex Offender Registry Board

 

For additional information, please contact:

The Title IX Coordinator, Theresa O'Bryant, in the Student Affairs Division Office (413) 662-5231

A written explanation of the rights and options will be provided to students or employees who report to the College they have experienced one of the aforementioned crimes.