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Policy, Terms and Definitions for Sexual Assault, Relationship Violence and Stalking

The Title IX and Gender-Based Discrimination Policy outlines all gender- and sex-based misconduct at Bentley. This policy provides an overview of important definitions, methods of reporting an incident, and prohibited conduct on campus. 

Learn more about Title IX at Bentley

Submit a Title IX or Gender-Based Discrimination Report

Terms and Definitions


Consent is a clear, active, and affirmative permission to act. The person who initiates sexual activity is responsible for obtaining the other person’s consent for that activity each and every time. The existence of a dating relationship does not imply consent, and even once consent has been given, it can be withdrawn at any time.

Consent can never be assumed or implied. The absence of “No” or silence does not mean that consent has been given. Additionally, consent to one form of sexual activity does not imply consent to other forms of sexual activity. Consent is not present when coercion, manipulation, intimidation, or force is used. Coercion includes continued pressure after an individual has made it clear that they do not want to engage in the behavior. Coercive behavior differs from seductive behavior based on the type of pressure someone uses to get consent from another. When someone makes clear to you that they want to stop, or that they do not want to go past a certain point of sexual interaction, continued pressure beyond that point can be coercive.

Consent is not present when an individual is incapacitated. An incapacitated individual is someone who cannot make rational, reasonable decisions because they lack the capacity to understand the “who, what, when, where, why, or how” of a sexual interaction. This includes a person whose incapacity results from mental disability, sleep, involuntary physical restraint, unconsciousness, or use of alcohol or other drugs. Incapacitation is a state beyond drunkenness or intoxication. A person is not necessarily incapacitated merely as a result of drinking or using drugs. The impact of alcohol and other drugs varies from person to person, and if there is any doubt as to the level or extent of the other person’s intoxication or impairment, the prudent course of action is to forgo or cease any sexual contact or activity. In evaluating consent in cases of alleged incapacitation, the University asks two questions: 1) Did the person initiating sexual activity know that the other party was incapacitated?, and if not, 2) Should a sober, reasonable person in the same situation have known that the other party was incapacitated? If the answer to either of these questions is “Yes,” consent was absent and the conduct is likely a violation of this policy.

Consent is never present if an individual is under the legal age of consent (16 in the state of Massachusetts).

Relationship Abuse

Relationship abuse can be physical, sexual, verbal, emotional, financial, or digital. It is unwanted and causes physical or emotional harm. At Bentley, relationship abuse encompasses dating violence and domestic violence and can involve current or former intimate partners, spouses, or dating relationships. Relationship violence occurs in both same-sex and opposite-sex relationships. All students, faculty, and staff should be aware that the university is prepared to respond to any incidents of relationship abuse. Individuals found responsible for violating this policy will face sanctions that are commensurate with the severity of the violation, including University expulsion. Examples of relationship abuse include, but are not limited to:

  • Physical abuse: hitting, slapping, shoving, grabbing, pinching, biting, hair pulling, or throwing objects at a person.
  • Sexual abuse: attacks on sexual parts of the body, forcing sex after physical violence, treating one in a sexually demeaning manner, coercing or attempting to coerce any sexual contact or behavior without consent, or marital rape.
  • Psychological or emotional abuse: a pattern of behavior undermining a person’s sense of self-worth or self-esteem, constant criticism, possessiveness, damaging possessions, threats, intimidation, diminishing a person’s abilities, name-calling, public humiliation, and damaging a person’s relationship with their friends or family.
  • Financial abuse: Taking money from or prohibiting access to bank accounts.
  • Digital abuse: Controlling social media accounts, or harassment through social media or other forms of technology.
Sexual Assault

Sexual assault is a violation of University policy as well as federal and state statutes. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts defines sexual assault as “any sexual activity that is forced, coerced, or unwanted” and refers to the crimes of rape and indecent assault and battery. Bentley University adheres to the following definitions or rape and indecent assault and battery:

  • Rape includes penetration (oral, anal, or vaginal) of any orifice with any object without effective consent.
  • Indecent Assault and Battery includes non-consensual sexual contact without penetration. 

The severity of the crime is the same whether the responding party is a stranger or known to the reporting party. All students, faculty, and staff should be aware that the University is prepared to respond to any incidents of sexual assault. Individuals who commit sexual assaults will be subject to disciplinary action that can include suspension or expulsion from Bentley, as well as civil and criminal penalties.


Stalking is a course of conduct directed at a specific person that is unwelcome and would cause a reasonable person to fear for their safety, fear for the safety of others, or suffer emotional distress. Stalking can occur between strangers, individuals who know each other, or individuals who are or were previously in a relationship. Stalking behaviors may include unwanted following or watching, unwelcome gifts, or communications in person, in writing, or through the use of technology. It also includes accessing personal information to monitor a person’s activity. Individuals found responsible for violating this policy will face sanctions that are commensurate with the severity of the violation, including University expulsion.