Northwestern works to revise sexual misconduct policy

Tyler Pager, Campus Editor

Northwestern is revising its sexual misconduct policy to reflect new guidelines from the federal Violence Against Women Act and feedback from members of the university community.

The updated policy consolidates the University’s Sexual Misconduct, Stalking, and Dating and Domestic Violence Policy and its VAWA policy and procedure, Title IX Coordinator Joan Slavin told The Daily in an email. VAWA was reauthorized by the federal government in March 2013.

The new policy replaces “sexual penetration without consent” and “sexual contact without consent” with the term “sexual assault.” Sexual assault is then divided into four subsections: sexual penetration without consent, sexual contact without consent, incest and statutory rape.

Slavin also she is gathering student input on ways to improve the definition of incapacitation in the section on consent.

Weinberg junior Erik Baker, an Associated Student Government senator who represents four sexual health and assault-related groups, said bolstering the definition of incapacitation should be the most important takeaway for students.

“Alcohol is a tool that rapists use on college campuses to sexually assault people,” he said. “That policy is important and definitely does affect the lives of college students that do drink.”

Additionally, the draft includes new definitions of dating violence and domestic violence, with more specific examples of types of abuse.

The procedures section of the policy includes detailed information on privacy, the option to seek medical treatment, and how to report incidents to law enforcement and University offices.

Slavin said the draft also gives examples of interim protective measures people who have experienced sexual misconduct can request and a list of sanctions that can result from violations of the policy.

Baker said the University’s efforts to update the policy reflect the growing conversation around issues of sexual assault on college campuses nationwide. He added student activism and new University employees working on sexual assault issues, including Carrie Wachter and Erin Clark at the Care for Awareness, Response and Education, also played a role in catalyzing the changes.

Slavin said she aims to have the new policy finalized by July 1, 2015, when the new VAWA regulations become effective.

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