Definitions

You may hear terms relevant to the reporting and resolution of sexual or interpersonal misconduct complaints. The most common terms from the Sexual and Interpersonal Misconduct Policy and the Code of Student Conduct are identified here*, along with general definitions of some additional concepts. In all cases, please see the full policies for complete and additional definitions, and appropriate context.

Adjudication: The process of investigating and resolving formal complaints of sexual or interpersonal misconduct.

Complaint: Making a formal report of misconduct to the University, which will be investigated and adjudicated through the applicable policy and procedure. (Please note a student can notify the University of misconduct and seek assistance without filing a formal complaint.)

Complainant: An individual who claims to have been affected by a student, student organization, faculty/staff member, or third party’s conduct and who initiates a complaint against that party through a University policy or procedure.

Consent: In the context of sexual activity, consent means by clear, unambiguous action, agreeing, giving permission or saying “yes” to sexual activity with someone else. Consent is not present if a sexual act is committed through force, threat, intimidation, or against the will of another. Furthermore, an individual cannot give consent if incapacitated from doing so due to the influence of drugs, alcohol, or other condition. (Sexual and Interpersonal Misconduct Policy; Code of Student Conduct)

Dating Violence: Violence committed by a person—

  1. Who is or has been in a social relationship of a romantic or intimate nature with the victim; and
  2. Where the existence of such a relationship shall be determined based on a consideration of the following factors:
    • The length of the relationship
    • The type of relationship
    • The frequency of interaction between the persons involved in the relationship (Sexual and Interpersonal Misconduct Policy; Code of Student Conduct))

Disciplinary Hearing: Formal process in which a hearing officer considers the charges of misconduct. The complainant and respondent may attend the hearing and bring a personal representative to advise them.

Domestic Violence: An assault under any of the following circumstances:

  1. The assault is between family or household members, who resided together at the time of the assault.
  2. The assault is between separated spouses or persons divorced from each other and not residing together at the time of the assault.
  3. The assault is between persons who are parents of the same minor child, regardless of whether they have been married or have lived together at any time.
  4. The assault is between persons who have been family or household members residing together within the past year and are not residing together at the time of the assault. (Sexual and Interpersonal Misconduct Policy; Code of Student Conduct)

Under Iowa law, a person commits an assault when, without justification, the person does any of the following:

  1. Any act which is intended to cause pain or injury to, or which is intended to result in physical contact which will be insulting or offensive to another, coupled with the apparent ability to execute the act.
  2. Any act which is intended to place another in fear of immediate physical contact which will be painful, injurious, insulting, or offensive, coupled with the apparent ability to execute the act. (Iowa Code § 708.1)

Incapacitation: Under Iowa law, incapacitated means a person is disabled or deprived of ability, as follows:

  1. “Mentally incapacitated”means that a person is temporarily incapable of apprising or controlling the person’s own conduct due to the influence of a narcotic, anesthetic, or intoxicating substance.
  2. “Physically helpless”means that a person is unable to communicate an unwillingness to act because the person is unconscious, asleep, or is otherwise physically limited.
  3. “Physically incapacitated”means that a person has a bodily impairment or handicap that substantially limits the person’s ability to resist or flee. (Iowa Code § 709.1A)

Interim and Protective Measures: Those steps taken or accommodations made to promote the health, well-being, or safety on campus of one reporting sexual or interpersonal misconduct.  Interim and protective measures are not sanctions, which are issued after a University adjudication process has occurred. Interim and protective measures may be provided when readily accessible, regardless if a formal University complaint is made or law enforcement is contacted.

Interpersonal Misconduct: The University defines interpersonal misconduct as including domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking. (Sexual and Interpersonal Misconduct Policy; Code of Student Conduct)

Medical Amnesty: A University policy in the Code of Student Conduct that allows the University to refer a student to a substance abuse awareness program and/or evaluation rather than issue sanctions for a drug or alcohol violation when the student comes forward for a medical emergency. Exceptions to medical amnesty apply when the conduct is egregious or first discovered by a University official.   

Amnesty for sexual and interpersonal misconduct incidents: the University will not pursue disciplinary action for improper use of alcohol or other drugs against a person who reports or makes a complaint in good faith concerning an incident of sexual or interpersonal misconduct, or who participates in good faith in an investigation into an incident of sexual or interpersonal misconduct.

No-Contact order: Can limit or prohibit contact and interaction between individuals.  A University no-contact order is enforced under University policies and procedures and applies only to the campus jurisdiction. A criminal no-contact order covers a broader jurisdiction and is requested through the Polk County Attorney or the Des Moines Police Department.

No-Trespass Orders: Can ban an individual from campus or from certain areas of campus. A University no-trespass order is enforced under University policies and procedures and applies only to the campus jurisdiction. In certain circumstances, violations of no-trespass orders may warrant arrest by the Des Moines Police Department. 

Preponderance of evidence: Refers to a standard of proof. A preponderance of the evidence exists when it is more likely than not, or the greater weight of the evidence suggests, a violation occurred. (This is not the higher standard applicable in criminal proceedings, which requires “proof beyond a reasonable doubt.”)

Respondent: The student, student organization, faculty/staff member, or other individual accused of misconduct. 

Retaliation: When adverse action is taken against another because they have engaged in a protected activity, including seeking guidance, filing a complaint, or participating in an investigation into sexual or interpersonal misconduct.

Sanctions: Disciplinary measures issued at the conclusion of a University investigation and adjudication process. University sanctions may be imposed upon those determined to have engaged in sexual or interpersonal misconduct under applicable university policies and procedures. For employees, sanctions could range from counseling to termination from employment. For students, possible sanctions include expulsion, suspension, probation, removal from University-owned housing, mandatory counseling, non-academic probation, revocation of privileges, restitution, fines, educational or work assignments, or University reprimand.

Sex-Based Harassment (including Sexual Harassment): Unwelcome advances, requests for sexual favors, or other unwelcome verbal or physical conduct aimed at another because of sex when:

  • Submission to such conduct is made explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual’s employment or status in a course, program or activity;
  • Submission to or rejection of such conduct is used as a basis for an employment or educational decision affecting an individual, or
  • Such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work or educational performance or of creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment for work or learning.

Examples of sex-based harassment include, but are not limited to, the following unwelcome behaviors from employees or students of the University or from third parties:

  • physical assault, indecent exposure, or physical contact of a sexual nature;
  • direct or implied threats that submission to sexual advances will be a condition of employment, work status, promotion, grades or letters of recommendation etc;
  • direct propositions of a sexual nature;
  • a subtle pressure for sexual activity or a pattern of conduct (not legitimately related to the subject matter of a course, if a course is involved) intended to denigrate, distress or humiliate through sexual comments or sexually explicit statements, questions, jokes or anecdotes. This pattern of conduct may include unnecessary touching, unwanted staring, patting, hugging or brushing against a person’s body; remarks of a sexual nature about a person’s clothing or body; or remarks about sexual activity or speculations about previous sexual experience;
  • a pattern of conduct that would denigrate, distress or humiliate a reasonable person of the same sex as the person at whom the conduct was directed. The pattern of conduct may, but need not, be of a sexual nature so long as it is directed at another because of sex. Examples include but are not limited to:
    1. name-calling jokes or negative comments about the person’s sex/gender
    2. physical intimidation, vandalism or pranks
    3. displays of reading materials or pictures containing negative material about a particular sex, including electronic materials. (Sexual and Intpersonal Misconduct Policy; Code of Student Conduct)

Sexual Assault: Sexual assault is an extreme form of sexual misconduct ranging from forcible rape to nonphysical forms of pressure that compel individuals to engage in sexual activity against their will. In Iowa, the terms rape and sexual assault fall under the legal definition of sexual abuse, which includes any sex act done by force or against the will of another. Examples of sexual assault under this policy include, but are not limited to the following behaviors when consent is not present:

  • Sexual intercourse (vaginal, anal, oral)
  • Oral sex
  • Rape or attempted rape
  • Penetration of an orifice (anal, vaginal, oral) with the penis, finger, or other object
  • Unwanted touching of the genitals, buttocks, breast, or other body part
  • Coercion or force to make someone else touch one’s genitals, buttocks, breast, or other body  part
  • Engaging in sexual activity with a person who is unable to provide consent due to the influence of drugs, alcohol, or other condition
  • Inducing consent through drugs or alcohol
  • Ejaculation onto the person of another (Sexual and Interpersonal Misconduct Policy; Code of Student Conduct)

Sexual Exploitation: Taking non-consensual sexual advantage of another person, even though the behavior might not constitute one of the other sexual misconduct offenses. Examples can include, but are not limited to, the following behaviors:

  • Distribution or publication of sexual or intimate information about another person without consent
  • Electronic recording, photographing, or transmitting sexual or intimate utterances, sounds, or images without knowledge and consent of all parties
  • Engaging in indecent exposure
  • Sexual intimidation—an implied or actual threat to commit a sex act against another person, or behavior used to coerce participation in a sex act
  • Stalking—may take many forms including persistent calling, texting, or Internet posting, as well as physical stalking, when the context of the communication or the nature of the stalking is of a sexual or intimate nature
  • Voyeurism—involves either secretive observation of another's sexual activity or secretive observation of another for personal sexual pleasure (Sexual and Interpersonal Misconduct Policy; Code of Student Conduct)

Sexual Misconduct: The University defines sexual misconduct as including sexual assault, sexual exploitation and sex-based harassment (including sexual harassment). (Sexual and Interpersonal Misconduct Policy; Code of Student Conduct)

Stalking: A person commits stalking when all of the following occur:

  1. The person purposefully engages in a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to fear bodily injury to, or the death of, that specific person or a member of the specific person’s immediate family.
  2. The person has knowledge or should have knowledge that the specific person will be placed in reasonable fear of bodily injury to, or the death of, that specific person or a member of the specific person’s immediate family by the course of conduct.
  3. The person’s course of conduct induces fear in the specific person of bodily injury to, or the death of, the specific person or a member of the specific person’s immediate family. 

“Course of Conduct” as used in the definition of “Stalking”, means repeatedly maintaining a visual or physical proximity to a person without legitimate purpose or repeatedly conveying oral or written threats, threats implied by conduct, or a combination thereof, directed at or toward a person. (Sexual and Interpersonal Misconduct Policy; Code of Student Conduct)


*In the event the definitions on this page are different from the language in current University policies, the language in the policies controls.

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Confidential Resources

Quick contacts to reach a confidential advocate

  • VIP peer-student advocacy
    515-512-2972 (call or text)
  • Polk County Crisis and Advocacy
    515-286-3600
  • Cowles Library 109 during the academic year
        - Tuesdays 2:30-4:30
        - Thursdays 9:00-11:00
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