What is Sexual Violence?

Sexual violence, including rape, sexual assault, and dating violence, is a form of sexual harassment.

Sexually violent acts may violate not only Harvard’s Sexual and Gender-Based Harassment Policy, but also state and criminal law and/or federal law, including Title IX.

Harvard’s Policy prohibits all forms of sexual harassment.

To read the full policy and procedures, please visit titleix.harvard.edu

For information about conduct that may constitute a violation under state criminal law, please visit: hupd.harvard.edu/rape-and-indecent-assault-and-battery

When is a Person Incapacitated?

A person is incapacitated when so impaired as to be incapable of requesting or inviting sexual conduct.

Someone who is generally incapable of making decisions is generally incapable of requesting or inviting sexual activity.

Incapacity may be a result of:

  • Alcohol
  • Drugs
  • Sleep
  • Unconsciousness

Reactions to drugs or alcohol may be different from one person to the next.

Some signs of incapacity may include stumbling or difficulty maintaining balance, vomiting, inability to focus eyes, disorientation, unresponsiveness, inability to communicate coherently, and unconsciousness.

Engaging in sexual activity with a person when you know - or reasonably should know - that person is incapable of requesting or inviting the activity is a violation of Harvard’s Policy.

Unwelcome Conduct

Unwelcome conduct may create a hostile environment

  • The absence of a “no” does not by itself mean “yes.”
  • Welcomeness cannot be inferred from clothing.
  • Welcomeness cannot be inferred from gender, race, sexual orientation, or gender identity.
  • A person may stop welcoming sexual contact at any time.
  • A person may welcome sexual acts on one occasion, but not on a later occasion.
  • A person may welcome particular sexual acts but not others.
  • A dating, marital, and/or sexual relationship is not a blanket invitation to engage in sexual activity at any time.
  • Sexual conduct is unwelcome if the person is obviously or known to be so impaired as to be incapable of requesting or inviting it.
  • Sexual conduct can be unwelcome, regardless of whether physical force was used.

CheckHave all parties indicated a willingness to participate in sexual activity?


People who wish to report an allegation of sexual violence have options:

  • Notify a Title IX Coordinator or ODR.
  • Contact the Harvard University Police Department (HUPD) or the local police where the alleged incident occurred.
  • Notify both.

While the University encourages reporting to both, the choice belongs to each individual, as does the decision about whether to file a formal complaint with ODR and/or file criminal charges.