Policy on Sexual Misconduct

Northwestern University's Policy on Sexual Misconduct, Stalking, and Dating and Domestic Violence

Northwestern University has adopted the following standards of conduct for all members of our community--students, faculty, administrators, staff, vendors, contractors, and third parties-- with respect to sexual misconduct, stalking, and dating and domestic violence. These standards apply equally to all regardless of the sex, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression of any of the individuals involved.

Reason for Policy/Purpose

Northwestern University is committed to fostering an environment in which all members of our campus community are safe, secure, and free from sexual misconduct of any form, including but not limited to, sexual assault, stalking, and dating and domestic violence. Our community expects that all interpersonal relationships and interactions – especially those of an intimate nature – be grounded upon mutual respect, open communication, and clear consent.

When learning of conduct or behavior that may not meet these standards, community members are expected take an active role in upholding this policy and promoting the inherent dignity of all individuals.



Consent represents the cornerstone of respectful and healthy intimate relationships. Northwestern University strongly encourages its community members to communicate – openly, honestly and clearly – about their actions, wishes, and intentions when it comes to sexual behavior, and to do so before engaging in intimate conduct. It is always the requirement of the individual initiating sexual contact (or undertaking a new type of sexual activity) to ensure that consent is present before acting and is present during sexual activity. Under Illinois law, a person must be at least 17 years of age in order to give consent; it is illegal in Illinois for a person 18 or older to commit sexual acts on a person under the age of 18 if they have a position of authority or trust over the victim.

The relevant standard that will be applied to determine whether consent was present is whether a sober, reasonable person in the same position should have known that the other party could not consent to the sexual activity.

A. For purposes of this policy, consent is present when clearly understandable words or actions manifest a knowing and voluntary agreement to engage in specific sexual or intimate conduct. 

This means that, in order for consent to exist, consent must be: knowing, active, voluntary, and present and ongoing.

- Knowing: Consent must demonstrate that all individuals understand, are aware of, and agree to the “who” (same partners), “what” (same acts), “where” (same location), “when” (same time), and “how” (the same way and under the same conditions) of the sexual activity.
- Active: Consent must take the form of “clearly understandable words or actions” that reveal one’s expectations and agreement to engage in specific sexual activity. This means that silence, passivity, submission, or the lack of verbal or physical resistance (including the lack of a “no”) should not – in and of themselves – be understood as consent. Consent cannot be inferred by an individual’s manner of dress, the giving or acceptance of gifts, the extension or acceptance of an invitation to go to a private room or location, or going on a date.
- Voluntary: Consent must be freely given and cannot be the result of force (violence, physical restraint, or the presence of a weapon), threats (indications of intent to harm, whether direct or indirect), intimidation (extortion, menacing behavior, bullying), coercion (undue pressure) or fraud (misrepresentation or material omission about oneself or the situation in order to gain permission for sexual or intimate activity).
- Present and Ongoing: Consent must exist at the time of the sexual activity. Consent to previous sexual activity does not imply consent to later sexual acts; similarly, consent to one type of sexual activity does not imply consent to other sexual acts. Consent may also be withdrawn at any time – provided the person withdrawing consent makes that known in clearly understandable words or actions.

B. Consent is not present when an individual is incapacitated, voluntarily or involuntarily, due to age (see above) or physical condition (sleep, lack of consciousness, alcohol, drugs), or disability that impairs the individual’s ability to provide consent. Incapacitation due to physical condition includes the inability, temporarily or permanently, to give consent, because the individual is mentally and/or physically helpless due to drug or alcohol consumption, either voluntarily or involuntarily, or the individual is unconscious, asleep or otherwise unaware that the sexual activity is occurring. Other signs of incapacitation include when an individual demonstrates that they are unaware of where they are, how they got there, or why or how they became engaged in a sexual interaction.

Where alcohol is involved, incapacitation is a state beyond drunkenness or intoxication. Some indicators of incapacitation due to alcohol may include, but are not limited to, lack of control over physical movements, lack of awareness of circumstances or surroundings, or the inability to communicate for any reason. An individual may experience a blackout state in which they appear to be giving consent, but does not actually have conscious awareness or the ability to consent. It is especially important, therefore, that anyone engaging in sexual activity be aware of the other person’s level of intoxication. Northwestern University considers sexual contact while under the influence of alcohol to be risky behavior. Alcohol impairs a person’s decision-making capacity, awareness of the consequences, and ability to make informed judgments. Being intoxicated or impaired by drugs or alcohol is never an excuse for sexual misconduct and does not excuse one from the responsibility to obtain consent.

Prohibited Conduct

Northwestern University does not tolerate sexual misconduct of any form, including but not limited to, sexual assault, stalking, and dating and domestic violence. Such conduct violates the community values and principles of our institution and disrupts the living, learning, and working environment for students, faculty, staff and other community members.

Therefore, the University prohibits the following actions. An attempt to commit an act identified in this policy, as well as assisting or willfully encouraging any such act, is also considered a violation of this policy. Community members may also be held responsible for any misconduct by their visitors and guests.

A. Sexual Penetration without Consent: Any penetration of the sex organs, anus, or mouth of another person when consent is not present. This includes penetration or intrusion, however slight, by an object or any part of the body, specifically including cunnilingus, fellatio, vaginal intercourse, and anal intercourse.

B. Sexual Contact without Consent: Knowingly touching or fondling a person’s genitals, breasts, thighs, groin, or buttocks, or any other contact of a sexual nature (including by bodily fluids), when consent is not present. This includes contact done directly, through clothing, or with an object. It also includes causing or inducing a person, when consent is not present, to similarly touch, fondle, or contact oneself or someone else.

C. Sexual Exploitation: Taking sexual advantage of another person for the benefit of oneself or a third party when consent is not present.
This includes, but is not limited to, the following actions (including when they are done via electronic means, methods or devices):
- Sexual voyeurism or permitting others to witness or observe the sexual or intimate activity of another person without that person’s full knowledge and consent;
- Indecent or lewd exposure or inducing another person to expose themselves when consent is not present
- Recording any person engaged in sexual or intimate activity in a private space without that person’s full knowledge and consent;
- Distributing sexual or intimate information, images or recordings about another person without that person’s full knowledge and consent;
- Recruiting, harboring, transporting, providing, or obtaining another person for the purpose of sexual exploitation;  
- Inducing incapacitation in another person with the intent to engage in sexual conduct,
regardless of whether prohibited sexual conduct actually occurs.

D. Stalking: A course of conduct directed at a specific person that is unwelcome and that would cause a reasonable person to fear for their safety (or the safety of a third party) or
suffer other emotional distress.
Conduct that can amount to stalking may include any actions directed at another person, whether done directly, indirectly, through others, via devices, or via any other methods or means (specifically including electronic means), including but not limited to:
- Following a person;
- Being or remaining in close proximity to a person;
- Entering or remaining on or near a person’s property, residence, or place of employment;
- Monitoring, observing or conducting surveillance of a person;
- Threatening (directly or indirectly) a person;
- Communicating to or about a person;
- Giving gifts or objects to, or leaving items for, a person;
- Interfering with or damaging a person’s property (including pets); or
- Engaging in other unwelcome contact.

E. Dating Violence and Domestic Violence: Intimidation, harassment, physical abuse, or interference with personal liberty of any person who is a current or former spouse, intimate partner, domestic partner, dating partner, or member of one’s family or household.
Individuals encompassed in this definition include, but are not limited to: persons who have or have had a dating or engagement relationship; persons who have or have had a social relationship of a romantic or intimate nature; current or former spouses, domestic partners, parents, children, stepchildren and other persons related by blood or by current or prior marriage; persons who share or formerly shared a common dwelling; persons who have or allegedly have a child in common; persons who share or allegedly share a relationship through a child; and personal assistants and personal caregivers for the elderly or disabled.

F. Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment is any unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature, which includes, but is not limited to, unwelcome sexual advances; the use or threatened use of sexual favors as a basis for academic or employment decisions; conduct that creates a hostile, intimidating or offensive academic or working environment; conduct that has the effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance; and other verbal, nonverbal, or physical conduct of a sexual nature that is sufficiently severe, persistent, or pervasive to limit a person's ability to participate in or benefit from an educational program or activity.
Some examples of sexual harassment may include:
- Pressure for a dating, romantic, or intimate relationship
- Unwelcome touching, kissing, hugging, or massaging
- Pressure for or forced sexual activity  
- Unnecessary references to parts of the body
- Remarks about a person's gender or sexual orientation
- Sexual innuendoes or humor
- Obscene gestures
- Sexual graffiti, pictures, or posters
- Sexually explicit profanity
- Stalking or cyberbullying that is based on gender or sex
- E-mail, texting (“sexting”) and Internet use that violates this policy
- Sexual assault or violence

All forms of sexual misconduct identified in this policy are also prohibited forms of sexual harassment.

For more information about sexual harassment, please see the University’s complete Policy on Sexual Harassment.


Northwestern University strictly prohibits any retaliation against any individual for reporting, providing information, exercising one’s rights or responsibilities under this policy, or otherwise being involved in the process of responding to, investigating, or addressing allegations of sexual misconduct. Therefore, any retaliation, intimidation, threats, coercion, or discrimination against any such individual will be addressed in the most serious way by Northwestern, and individuals who engage in such actions are subject to disciplinary action that may include suspension, exclusion, or dismissal from the University. Anyone who is aware of possible retaliation or has other concerns regarding the response to a complaint of sexual misconduct should report such concerns to the Title IX Coordinator or to any Deputy Coordinator, who shall take appropriate actions to address such conduct in a prompt and equitable manner.

Amnesty for Sexual Misconduct Complainants and Witnesses

Northwestern University encourages reporting of sexual misconduct and seeks to remove any barriers to an individual/group making a report. The University recognizes that an individual who has been drinking or using drugs at the time of the incident may be hesitant to make a report because of potential consequences for their own conduct. An individual (group) who (that) reports sexual misconduct, either as a Complainant or a third party witness, will not be subject to disciplinary action by the University for their (its) own personal consumption of alcohol or drugs at or near the time of the incident, provided that any such violations did not and do not place the health or safety of any other person at risk.

The University may, however, initiate an educational discussion or pursue other educational interventions regarding alcohol or other drugs. These interventions do not include involuntary leaves for students from the University.

Amnesty will not be extended for any violations of University policy other than alcohol/drug use. In addition, amnesty does not preclude or prevent action by police or other legal authorities.

Title IX Statement

It is the policy of Northwestern University to comply with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits discrimination (including sexual harassment and sexual violence) based on sex in the University's educational programs and activities. Title IX also prohibits retaliation for asserting or otherwise participating in claims of sex discrimination. Northwestern has designated Title IX Coordinators to coordinate Northwestern's compliance with and response to inquiries concerning Title IX. For more information about Title IX, please go to www.northwestern.edu/provost/policies/tiltle-ix/index.html. A person may also file a complaint with the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights regarding an alleged violation of Title IX by visiting www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/complaintintro.html or calling 1-800-421-3481.

Resources, Response, and Reporting

A. Privacy / Sharing of Information
All reports and information concerning conduct that is inconsistent with this policy will be handled discreetly, with facts made available to those who need to know to respond, investigate, and/or resolve the matter.

B. Confidential Advice and Counseling Services
The following resources are available to discuss incidents and issues related to sexual misconduct on a confidential basis. These confidential sources can advise individuals about resources, services, and options available both on- and off-campus. Because of the confidential nature of the relationship, disclosing information to or seeking advice from a confidential counselor does not constitute reporting an incident to the University and therefore will not result in any formal response or intervention by Northwestern officials.

CARE: Center for Awareness, Response, and Education
(Central location for students to seek advice, support and advocacy about sexual misconduct, sexual violence, stalking, and domestic/dating/relationship violence)
Evanston Campus: 633 Emerson Street, Third Floor
(847) 491-2054 (M-F, 8:30am – 5:00pm)

CAPS: Counseling and Psychological Services
(Provides counseling services to students; also provides a counselor on-call 24 hours a day)
Evanston Campus: 633 Emerson Street, Second Floor
(847) 491-2151 (24-hours)
Chicago Campus: Abbott Hall, 5th Floor , 710 N. Lake Shore Drive
(312) 503-0936 (M-F, 8:30am – 5:00pm; after hours, call 847-491-2151)

Women’s Center Counseling Services
(Provides counseling services for faculty, students and staff members)
Evanston Campus: 2000 Sheridan Road
(847) 491-7360 (M-F, 8:30am – 5:00pm)
Chicago Campus: Abbott Hall, Suite 1400, 710 North Lake Shore Drive
(312) 503-3400 (M, T, Th, 8:30am – 5:00pm)

Office of Religious Life
(Provides spiritual counseling and advice for all members of the University community)
Evanston Campus: 1870 Sheridan Road
(847) 491-7256 (M-F, 8:30am – 5:00pm; after hours call 847-864-7865)

NU Life Matters
(Provides confidential crisis intervention and short-term counseling for faculty and staff, as well as their household family members at no cost)
(855) 547-1851

Emergency Hotlines
(Not staffed by or affiliated with Northwestern)
Chicago Metro Rape Crisis Hotline (YWCA): 888-293-2080
Chicago Domestic Violence Line: 877-863-6339
Evanston Domestic Violence Line (YWCA): 877-718-1868
LGBT Anti-Violence Project (Center on Halsted): 773-871-2273

C. Reporting Incidents to the University
The University strongly encourages individuals to report incidents of sexual misconduct to University officials. All University employees are obligated to report sexual misconduct of which they become aware. The offices identified below are specially trained to work with individuals who report sexual misconduct, and have knowledge about on- and off-campus resources, services, and options – including possible interim actions and accommodations identified in section F, below.

Title IX Coordinator
(Reports about all forms of sexual misconduct)
Joan Slavin, Title IX Coordinator
633 Clark Street, Room 2-636, Evanston Campus
(847) 491-3745; j-slavin@northwestern.edu

University Sexual Harassment Prevention Office
(Sexual harassment complaints)
Joan Slavin, Director and Title IX Coordinator
633 Clark Street, Room 2-636, Evanston Campus
(847) 491-3745; sexual-harassment@northwestern.edu

Office of Equal Opportunity and Access
(Discrimination and harassment complaints, including Title IX sex discrimination complaints)
Roberto Sanabria, Director and Deputy Title IX Coord. for Sex Discrimination
720 University Place, Evanston Campus
(847) 491-7458; eeo@northwestern.edu

Office of Student Conduct & Conflict Resolution
(Student-to-student discrimination, harassment, sexual harassment, and sexual violence complaints)
Deputy Title IX Coordinator for sexual misconduct complaints against students
601 University Place, Lower Level, Evanston Campus
(847) 491-4582; student-conduct@northwestern.edu

Other Reporting Options

NUhelp (for reports about students):

D. Medical Assistance and Preservation of Evidence
Individuals who experience sexual misconduct are strongly encouraged to seek immediate medical attention in order to treat injuries, test for and treat sexually transmitted infections, test for pregnancy, and access emergency contraception (if requested). In addition, a hospital can perform a rape evidence collection procedure and test for “date rape” drugs.

If possible, an individual who has been sexually assaulted should not shower, bathe, douche or change clothes or bedding before going to the hospital or seeking medical attention. If the individual decides to change clothes, he or she should not wash the clothes worn during the assault and should bring them to the hospital or medical facility. These steps are important to help preserve evidence for possible use in legal actions or requests for a civil no-contact order and/or an order of protection. Because evidence dissipates quickly, individuals who wish to preserve evidence are encouraged to seek medical attention within 48 hours (and no more than 86 hours) of the incident.

Medical services are available from the following resources on or near campus:

Northwestern University Health Services
Evidence collection kit cannot be provided; CARE staff can be contacted to provide support services, if desired.
Evanston Campus: 633 Emerson Street
847-491-8100 (doctor on call 24 hours)
Hours: 830am-500pm (M,W,Th,F); 830-600pm (T), and 9-1130am (Sat); closed Sunday 

Evanston Hospital – Emergency Department (24 hours)
Evidence collection kit available; Evanston Victim Services advocate will be present to provide support services, if desired.
2650 Ridge Avenue
Evanston, IL 60201

Northwestern Memorial Hospital – Emergency Department (24 hours)
Evidence collection kit available; Advocate from Rape Victim Advocates will be present to provide support services, if desired.
251 E Erie Street
Chicago, IL 60611

Under Illinois law, medical personnel are required to alert police when it reasonably appears that the person requesting the treatment has received an injury sustained as a victim of a criminal offense, including sexual assault or violence (but individuals have the right to refuse to speak to police).

E. Reporting Incidents to Law Enforcement
Individuals are encouraged to report incidents of sexual misconduct to campus or local law enforcement officials. The Northwestern University Police Department has officers who are specially trained to work with individuals reporting sexual misconduct. Upon request, University officials (including individuals from CARE, the Dean of Students Office, or Human Resources) are available to assist an individual in contacting and/or notifying the police. Individuals also have the right to decline to report incidents to law enforcement.

Northwestern University Police Department
Evanston Campus: 1201 Davis Street
847-491-3456 (24 hours)
Chicago Campus: 211 East Superior Street

Evanston Police Department
1454 Elmwood Avenue Evanston, IL 60201
911 or 847-866-5000 (24 hours)

Chicago Police Department – 18th District (covers Chicago campus)
1160 North Larrabee Ave. Chicago, IL 60610
911 or 312-744-4000 (24 hours)

F. Interim Actions & Accommodations
Individuals who have experienced sexual misconduct may seek reasonable accommodations in their academic, living, transportation or working situations. Such accommodations are available regardless of whether the individual chooses to report the crime to campus police or local law enforcement or to file a formal complaint with the University. In addition, University officials can also assist individuals to contact relevant local authorities (such as Evanston Victim Services or rape victim advocates) to obtain civil no contact orders and/or orders of protection.

General Process and Procedures for Investigation and Resolution of Alleged Violations of Policy on Sexual Misconduct, Stalking, and Dating and Domestic Violence

For Students:
The Office of Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution in the Division of Student Affairs handles investigation and resolution of complaints against students under this policy. See here for process and procedures. http://www.northwestern.edu/student-conduct/conduct/formal/index.html

For Faculty/Staff:
The Office of Sexual Harassment Prevention investigates complaints of sexual misconduct, including sexual harassment, except for complaints against students. Please click here for complaint resolution procedures: http://www.northwestern.edu/sexual-harassment/guidelines/index.html

The Office of Human Resources should be notified of any alleged stalking or domestic violence complaints involving staff or faculty under this policy. Human Resources, in consultation with the appropriate offices, will investigate and work to resolve the matter. http://www.northwestern.edu/hr/hr-services/index.html

For information on filing a police report for violations of this policy, please contact the Northwestern University Police Department and see information below: http://www.northwestern.edu/up/crime/awareness/sexual-assault-rape-drugs.html;

Northwestern University Statement on the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)

In addition to this Policy on Sexual Misconduct, Stalking, and Dating and Domestic Violence, please see the University’s statement of policy, as required under the federal Violence Against Women Act amendments to the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crimes Statistics Act. As stated therein, the University prohibits the offenses of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking as defined by federal law, Illinois law, and University policy.

Sexual Misconduct, Stalking, and Dating and Domestic Violence Policy