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Policies & Terms

What is sexual violence? What is sexual misconduct? What is sexual assault? 

These terms have slightly different meanings, but are all used to talk about physical, sexual conduct occurring without consent.  

  • Sexual violence is defined by Virginia law as physical sex acts perpetrated against a person's will or where a person is incapable of giving consent.  
  • Sexual misconduct is the term used in W&M policies to describe different types of prohibited behavior related to sex or gender.  
  • Sexual assault refers to rape and fondling, under federal law, and is a form of sexual misconduct.  

Policy definitions are important because they are the rules W&M applies to its students, faculty or staff. When the university conducts an investigation, the purpose is to find out whether a policy violation has occurred.

Legal definitions are important because sometimes, universities policies must use or refer to legal definitions. Also, people affected by sexual violence may want to know whether they have been the victims of a crime or want to know more about federal legal definitions.


Policies define conduct and expectations (requirements) related to reporting.  The most important policies are: 

Other Potentially Relevant Policies:
  • The Crime Reporting Policy requires employees who are Campus Security Authorities (CSAs) to report certain crimes, including sex offenses, dating and domestic violence, and stalking, which occur on campus or on W&M-controlled property to W&M Police.
  • The Timely Warning Policy specifies the purpose and process for issuing timely warnings. A timely warning is a notice to students of the occurrence of Clery Act crimes, including sexual assault, that pose a serious or ongoing threat to the campus community.
  • The Campus Violence and Threat Management Policy (pdf) (1) prohibits threats and acts of violence, including sexual assault and domestic violence, committed by students, employees, or third parties, (2) mandates reporting to threat assessment team of threats and acts of violence, (3) encourages reporting of "concerning behavior" and (4) describes threat assessment process.
  • The Consensual Amorous Relationship Policy (pdf) prohibits faculty from engaging in sexual or romantic relationships with undergraduate students and certain graduate students.
Law and Legal Definitions

Key laws include:

  • Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972 prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex. Title IX regulations and/or regulatory guidance define or provide guidance on key terms such as sexual harassment, sexual violence, and responsible employees. These terms are also defined by W&M policy. 
  • Violence Against Women Act, or VAWA. The Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 and its implementing regulations define Sexual Assault, Dating Violence, Domestic Violence, Stalking, and Education and Awareness Programs.  
  • Clery Act, or the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act. The Clery Act is a broad federal law relating to campus safety. VAWA amended the Clery Act to increase its application to sexual violence, including by adding the VAWA crimes (dating and domestic violence and stalking) to the list of Clery Act crimes that universities must report in their public statistics.  For more information about the Clery Act, visit W&M's Clery compliance resource website.
  • Virginia Criminal Laws. The Virginia Code has a number of laws relating to sexual violence.  These criminal laws use different definitions than W&M uses in university policy.  In many cases, conduct that violates Virginia criminal law violates university policy.  In some cases, conduct may violate university policy but not violate Virginia criminal law.  
    • Rape (Section 18.2-61(A)):  "If any person has sexual intercourse with a complaining witness, whether or not his or her spouse, or causes a complaining witness, whether or not his or her spouse, to engage in sexual intercourse with any other person and such act is accomplished (i) against the complaining witness's will, by force, threat or intimidation of or against the complaining witness or another person; or (ii) through the use of the complaining witness's mental incapacity or physical helplessness; or (iii) with a child under age 13 as the victim, he or she shall be guilty of rape."
    • Stalking (Section 18.260-3):  "Any person, … who on more than one occasion engages in conduct directed at another person with the intent to place, or when he knows or reasonably should know that the conduct places that other person in reasonable fear of death, criminal sexual assault, or bodily injury to that other person or to that other person's family or household member is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor."
    • Dating Violence and Domestic Violence are not terms used in Virginia criminal code; Section 18.2-57.2 prohibits Assault and Battery Against a Family or Household Member: 
      "A.  Any person who commits an assault and battery against a family or household member is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.
      B. Upon a conviction for assault and battery against a family or household member, where it is alleged in the warrant, petition, information, or indictment on which a person is convicted, that such person has been previously convicted of two offenses against a family or household member of (i) assault and battery against a family or household member in violation of this section, (ii) malicious wounding or unlawful wounding in violation of § 18.2-51, (iii) aggravated malicious wounding in violation of § 18.2-51.2, (iv) malicious bodily injury by means of a substance in violation of § 18.2-52, (v) strangulation in violation of § 18.2-51.6, or (vi) an offense under the law of any other jurisdiction which has the same elements of any of the above offenses, in any combination, all of which occurred within a period of 20 years, and each of which occurred on a different date, such person is guilty of a Class 6 felony.
      C. Whenever a warrant for a violation of this section is issued, the magistrate shall issue an emergency protective order as authorized by § 16.1-253.4, except if the defendant is a minor, an emergency protective order shall not be required."
    • Consent is not defined by Virginia criminal code.  
    • Other potentially relevant laws include: