Yale Releases Sexual Assault Scenarios Amid Concerns About Punishment

Yale Attempts To Ease Concerns About Sexual Assault
New Haven, Berkeley College, Yale University
New Haven, Berkeley College, Yale University

Yale University released a series of scenarios in a campuswide email Monday night in an attempt to calm recent uproar over what some students and alumni saw as lackluster punishments for sexual assault.

Yale came under fire in August following the release of a semi-annual report on sexual misconduct which disclosed that several students found guilty by the university of "nonconsensual sex" were not punished with expulsion and only one received a suspension. Students have also questioned whether the Ivy League university in Connecticut is enacting adequate punishments for other forms of sexual violence and harassment.

The school released the set of hypothetical scenarios with fictional accounts of sexual misconduct to illustrate how the university might rule in disciplinary cases. At the beginning of the document, Yale says the scenarios are meant to "provide additional information and to encourage further discussion."

"The scenarios are not drawn from actual cases heard by the UWC; the details of those cases are held in the strictest confidence," Yale says in the document. "Rather, the scenarios draw upon the extensive research literature on both consensual and nonconsensual sex on college campuses."

For the most part, the scenarios used names that can be used for either a man or woman, seemingly as an attempt to explain how they'd apply for same-sex couples.

In one scenario, one student says "wait – stop – that hurts," but the other restrains them and continues to engage in sex. "While there was initial consent, that consent was withdrawn. The UWC penalty would be expulsion," the document states.

Another situation includes one student following another into a bathroom at a party and forcing them to have sex, which would result in expulsion. In yet another, a student tells the partner "not so fast; I’m not sure," Yale says consent was not sustained in this scenario, and would result in "multi-semester suspension to expulsion."

Another example:

Sidney and Harper are dating. On several occasions they are physically intimate, but within limits set by Sidney, who is opposed to having sex at this stage of their relationship. One night, when they are being intimate within their mutually agreed upon boundaries, Harper begins to cross them. Sidney expresses concern, but Harper is encouraging, saying “it will be okay just this once.” Sidney replies “we shouldn’t do this,” but continues to touch Harper in an intimate way. As Harper initiates sex, Sidney says “this is a bad idea” and begins to cry, but embraces Harper and the two proceed to have sex.

The scenario says in this situation, "Initial consent was followed by ambiguity," and the penalty would be probation to suspension.

The document also makes clear that heavily intoxicated students, or someone "who is incapacitated—lacking the ability to make or act on considered decisions to engage in sexual activity—cannot give consent." Engaging in sexual activity in with someone unable to give consent would result in expulsion, Yale said.

"We want to take the energy around this issue and move it forward," Yale's Title IX Coordinator Stephanie Spangler told The Huffington Post in August, because the university "can't do it in the context of people's actual cases."

Yale underwent a review by the U.S. Department of Education in 2011 after a group of students complained of a "sexually hostile climate" on campus. The federal investigation ended in mid-2012 with a voluntary resolution agreement, requiring the university to make a number of changes to their sexual misconduct policies.

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