Who can I talk to about my experience who will not tell anyone or do anything at all?

At Mount Holyoke, staff of the Counseling Service and staff of Religious and Spiritual Life are not required to report anything about you or your experience to anyone at all.

What is considered sexual contact? How can I know how someone else is experiencing touch or physical intimacy?

People have different understandings of what they consider intimate and “friendly” versus what they consider intimate and sexual. These understandings can vary on the basis of religious and cultural values, social and family norms, and personal values and experiences.

The best way to find out how someone experiences touch and physical intimacy is to ask and discuss it before something happens and obtain consent for physical touch or intimacy before it takes place.

Many situations are ambiguous and risky if not clarified in advance. Consider the possibility of sleeping in the same bed as another student because “It’s too late to walk across campus to my own residence hall.” Does this imply that you have given consent to be touched in a sexual way? Who is responsible for clarifying the situation—and when?

It can be awkward and even embarrassing to talk about the situation and establish boundaries in advance—but it can be devastating for everyone involved if an awkward situation turns into sexual misconduct or a sexual assault that could have been avoided through a frank discussion about expectations and consent in advance.

How should consent be obtained? Can body language be understood as consent?

Ideally, consent is given verbally. However, consent can also be expressed (given or withdrawn) through body language. For example, active reciprocation could express consent, pushing someone away or moving away could express lack of consent.

Body language and even verbal responses may be ambiguous. It may also be unclear who is responsible for getting consent and who is responsible for giving consent at any particular moment. If consent is unclear, there is a risk of committing a sexual offense. Consequently, when in doubt, each participant in the activity should stop and ASK.

What are some of the indicators that I am at risk for committing sexual assault or sexual misconduct?

  • You are touching another person in a sexual manner without their consent.
  • You are initiating sexual contact when you are not sure what the other person wants.
  • You are initiating sexual contact when the other person is drunk or otherwise intoxicated.
  • You decided to have sex by any means necessary.
  • You are hoping that they won't say anything but will just be quiet and like it.
  • You are acting on an impulse or dare.
  • You are getting mixed messages/signals.
  • You have not spoken with the person about what they want to do.
  • Ask rather than assume. You and your partner should talk about what would be most enjoyable together.

If I am accused of committing a sexual assault, how serious is it?

Being convicted of a sexual assault is a felony in Massachusetts.

How can alcohol and drugs impact consent and decision making?

The use of alcohol and other drugs impairs judgment and undermines the ability to make good decisions, including decisions about sexual activity.

If I hear about a sexual assault that happened to someone else, should I report it?
Yes!  The College takes all reports of sexual harrassment (including sexual assault) and sexual misconduct seriously.  Individuals are welcome to make an anonymous report of sexual assault. Information regarding the College's anonymous reporting option is linked here.

Does Mount Holyoke College collect data regarding sexual assaults?
Yes.  The College gathers and reports data consistent with various federal and state reporting mandates.  Individuals interested in the College's crime statistics are encourage to review our Campus Clery Crime and Fire Safety Report.