Understanding Sexual Misconduct

Many survivors may understandably struggle to define and make sense of what they have experienced. Below, we have listed a few of the ways that sexual misconduct is understood according to U.S. law.


Sexual harassment

Sexual harassment is any unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature. Sexual harassment can include unwelcome sexual advances; requests for sexual favors; and other verbal, nonverbal, or physical conduct of a sexual nature. 

There are two main types of sexual harassment: 

1) Quid pro quo ("this for that"): this type of sexual harassment occurs when it is stated or implied that an academic or employment decision about a student or employee depends on whether they submit to or participate in conduct of a sexual nature. For example, this type of harassment can occur when it is stated or implied that an individual must submit to conduct of a sexual nature in order to participate in an academic or extra-curricular program.

2) Hostile environment: this type of sexual harassment occurs when a student is subject to unwelcome advances, sexual innuendo, or offensive gender-related language that affects the student's ability to participate in or benefit from a school program.


Sexual assault

Sexual assault is any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without explicit consent of the recipient. Such contact and behavior includes forced sexual intercourse, forcible sodomy (oral or anal sex), molestation, fondling, groping, and any attempt to commit the aforementioned offenses.

Sexual battery

Sexual battery is the forceful touching of an intimate part of another person while that person is unlawfully restrained by the accused or an accomplice.


Stalking is the willful, threatening, or repeated harassment and/or following of another person - physically, verbally or electronically - that would cause a person to feel alarmed or to suffer emotional distress.