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Student Rights and Responsibilities

Student Rights and Responsibilities


The University of Massachusetts Dartmouth is a community of learners in which mutual respect and concern for the safety and well-being of one another is required of all members of the community.  When one community member sexually assaults another member of the community, the person committing the assault has both committed a crime and a grievous breach of the trust the community has placed in him/her.  The University will not tolerate such violation and assault on members of our community.  The University will make every effort to encourage members of the University community to report these incidents.  The University will provide those victimized by sexual assault with comprehensive support and resources to assist in recovery.  Sexual assault prevention programs will be included in new student orientation and provided to students throughout the academic year.  Resources and support regarding sexual assault may be found at the Women’s Resource Center, Counseling Center, Health Services, Department of Public Safety, Student Affairs, and the Office of Housing and Residential Life.


Definition of Sexual Assault

Sexual assault and rape are crimes of violence and control, using sex acts as a weapon.  Rape and sexual assault are not sexually motivated acts; rather, they stem from aggression, rage, sexism, and the determination to exercise power over someone else. 

Rape is a legal term that is defined in Massachusetts by three elements: penetration of any orifice by any object; force or threat of force; and against the will of the victim or without consent.  Consent is informed, freely and actively, given mutually understandable words or actions which indicate a willingness to participate in mutually agreed upon sexual activity.  Consent may never be given by minors (in Massachusetts, those not yet 16 years of age), mentally disabled persons, and those who are incapacitated as a result of alcohol or other drug consumption (voluntary or involuntary) or those who are unconscious, unaware or otherwise physically helpless.  Consent cannot be given in situations involving coercion, threats, intimidation, or physical force.

Sexual Assault is more broadly defined as any sexual activity that is forced or coerced or unwanted.

Any unwanted sexual contact constitutes a sexual assault and is a violation of the University’s code of conduct and Massachusetts state law. 


For consent to occur:

1) All partners must clearly communicate their willingness and permission.  Consent is not the absence of the word “no”.  Failure to resist sexual advances, silence, and/or prior relationship does not constitute consent.

2) All partners need to be fully conscious and aware of their actions.  A person is unable to give consent if they are asleep, drugged, intoxicated, unconscious, a minor, mentally impaired or incapacitated.  Signs that a person is intoxicated, incapacitated or otherwise unable to give consent include but are not limited to:  slurred speech, loss of coordination, passing out for any period of time, vomiting, and a verbalized feeling of being nauseous. 

3) All partners must be equally free to act.  The decision to be sexually intimate must be made without coercion and all partners have a right to revoke their consent at any time during sexual activity by actively (verbally or non-verbally) communicating their desire to stop the activity.  A verbal “no” (no matter how indecisive) or resistance (no matter how passive) constitutes a lack of consent.


Acquaintance Sexual Assault

Acquaintance Sexual Assault is an assault in which the assailant and the person being victimized know one another and is the most common type of sexual assault on a college/university campus.  Research shows that one in four college women experience an assault or attempted assault during their college career and that women in their first year of college are particularly likely to be victimized.  Alcohol consumption is often a factor in these assaults.  Between one half and two thirds of students who experience an assault are so traumatized by the experience that they drop out or transfer to another institution.  Although the term “date rape” is frequently used to describe these situations, many of these assaults are not committed within the context of a “date”.  More common scenarios include assaults at parties where the assailant and the person being victimized have just met, assaults on co-workers, and assaults within the context of a friendship. 


Acquaintance Sexual Assault Prevention

1) Know and understand the definition of consent (see above).  Seek the appropriate campus resources (see above) if you need clarification of the definition of consent.

2) Obtain consent before engaging in any sexual activity.

3) Stop sexual activity immediately if your partner indicates a desire to stop (see above).

4) Take a trusted friend(s) when going out socially to places you have not been before.  Have a plan to leave together and what to do if you get separated.

5) Keep your cell phone charged and on your person at all times.

6) Have enough money for cab fare with you.

7) At social gatherings never leave your beverage unattended.

8) Drinking alcohol or using illegal drugs can affect your decision making.  If you choose to drink alcohol, it is best to avoid intoxication by limiting alcohol consumption to one beer or one glass of wine, one shot of hard alcohol  or one mixed drink (containing one shot of hard alcohol) per hour and consuming food with your beverage. 

9) Always lock your door when leaving your room/apartment or when sleeping.  Carry your keys and encourage your roommate(s) to do so as well so you are not leaving your room/apartment unsecured and putting one another at risk.


Stranger Sexual Assault

In approximately 41% of reported sexual assaults in the U.S., the person being victimized does not know the assailant.  College campuses are often attractive places to these assailants because it is easy to gain access to and be anonymous on a college campus.


Stranger Sexual Assault Prevention

1) Do not prop open locked building doors and discourage others from doing so as well.

2) Do not allow a stranger to enter a locked building behind you. 

3) Report strangers who are behaving in a questionable way or in a way that violates university policy to the Department of Public Safety at 508-999-9191.

4) Walk with a friend(s) in remote areas on campus and/or after dark.  Utilize the DART Van and Emergency Call Boxes.


Reporting a Sexual Assault

There are a number of mechanisms on campus for reporting a sexual assault.  All are described below in detail.  The person reporting the assault may select any one or a combination of all options below when reporting.  In all cases the survivor of the assault will decide if, how, and when s/he will report the assault.*  When reported to any of the following - Women’s Resource Center, Counseling Center, Health Services, Public Safety, Housing and Residential Life, Student Affairs, Judicial Affairs – the person to whom the assault is reported will:

-listen attentively and supportively

-review all support resources available and assist with contacting the resources

-review all possible options for reporting/filing a complaint

-answer questions

-explain the Anonymous Reporting Form*

It is important to note that if the person who has been assaulted is under the influence of alcohol or drugs at either the time of the incident or at the time s/he makes the report, s/he will not be charged with an alcohol or drug violation either through the criminal or University Judicial Process.


Specific Mechanisms for Reporting a Sexual Assault:

1) To the Department of Public Safety

Individuals are encouraged to contact the University Department of Public Safety when a sex offense occurs regardless of whether or not formal charges will be pursued by the survivor.  If reported to the Department of Public Safety, the survivor will be encouraged to seek medical assistance at a local hospital.  In order to preserve evidence, clothes should not be laundered and the survivor should not bathe.  The survivor’s clothing should not be placed in a bag/container that is plastic.  The survivor will also be informed of support services available and options for making a formal complaint through the criminal process and/or through the university judicial process.  For more information, please call 508-999-8107 or go to:  http://www.umassd.edu/publicsafety/


2) To the Office of Housing and Residential Life

If an incident takes place in campus housing and is reported a staff member of the Office of Housing and Residential Life such as an RA, the staff member will contact the Department of Public Safety if requested to do so by the survivor.  They must also report the incident to their supervisor.  The survivor may request to keep her/his name confidential at this level.   Residence life staff will also review support services and complaint options with the survivor.  For more specific information, please call 508-999-8995.


3) To the Office of Student Judicial Affairs

A formal complaint with the University’s judicial process may be filed with either a staff member from the Office of Housing and Residential Life or with Judicial Affairs in the Student Affairs Office.  A staff member from either office will review possible types of hearings and potential outcomes with the person filing the complaint.  The University’s judicial process allows both the accuser and the accused to question one another, to present witnesses, to have an advisor present during the proceedings, and to be informed of the outcome.  The burden of proof rests with the person making the complaint. The standard of proof shall be the preponderance of the evidence. For more specific information on the judicial process, please call 508-999-9205 or go to: http://www.umassd.edu/studenthandbook/studentjud/. 


4) Filing an Anonymous Report*

Any member of the campus community may use the online Sexual Assault Anonymous Reporting Form to file a report about an assault that one has either experienced or heard about without having to disclose the names of either the person who has been assaulted or the person who committed the assault.  Most staff and faculty (except for staff in the Counseling Center and the Religious Resource Center) are required to report, anonymously at a minimum, an assault if one is brought to their attention.  It is one option for reporting and completion of the form does not propel other University procedures (e.g. police report, judicial action), nor does it preclude other reporting options.  It is a mechanism for bringing the incident to the attention of the University in order to better understand the extent of the problem, plan more effective prevention and response efforts, and create a safer campus community.  For more information about this form, please go to: 






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