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The Daily Pennsylvanian explores how Penn's sexual assault policy has changed and shifted over the past three years. 

Photo: Julio Sosa / The Daily Pennsylvanian

With protests surrounding campus sexual assault and rape culture sparking conversation this week, it's important to note how Penn's sexual violence policy has changed in recent years. 

The policy itself has been updated three times in the past three years and recorded in The Almanac, Penn's journal of record. Here's the lowdown on the changes and what you need to know:

2013 Policy:

The highest level of punishment the University can grant is purely disciplinary. Criminal punishment must be handled through law enforcement and are separate from University hearings. 

Sexual violence itself is defined as including a variety of behaviors “in which an act of a sexual nature is taken against” a person without consent or when that person is unable to consent. 

Falling under that umbrella term is sexual assault, which includes, but is not constrained to rape. It is any “physical sexual contact” involving the use of force or any sort of coercion, or with someone who cannot give consent. One cannot give consent when under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or when one is considered by the law to be too young to consent to sexual activity.

The policy included a definition for "rape," which includes an act of penetration, as well as "acquaintance rape."

The next category outlined is “non-forcible sex acts.” These include acts considered consensual but still illegal. Statutory rape, where one participant is under the legal age of consent, falls into this category.

Consent is defined as “an affirmative decision to engage in mutually agreed upon sexual activity and is given by clear words or actions.” The policy went on to note how consent cannot be given by people impaired by disability and intoxication or are legally unable to give it because of age. And consent given for one activity does not mean it is necessarily given for another act or sexual encounter.

Resources for anyone to report a possible crime or informally ask for help are available to all members of the Penn community, including visitors to campus. The staff at all of the listed resource centers, including the Penn Women's Center and LGBT Center, are equipped to provide information to the person who reported the incident and options for which one can pursue the complaint and receive support. The resources can be found on the Penn website.

Both the complainant and the accused have the option to notify local law enforcement, have another member of the Penn community present during investigation and to be made aware of support services and options to change living, academic or work arrangements.

There is also a policy against retaliation. It is prohibited under this policy to seek revenge on any person who “in good faith” reports violations of this code. It is also forbidden to take negative action toward the complainant, such as making threats. False complaints are taken seriously as unlawful within this code.

2014 Changes:

The policy added three different definitions to fall under sexual violence: relationship violence, domestic violence and stalking.

Relationship violence, more commonly known as dating violence, is a pattern of abuse — physical, sexual, emotional or economic — that has occurred between two people in a past or present relationship, be it social, sexual or romantic.

Domestic violence is a more specified term that is limited to individuals who are (or have been) married, living with each other or engaged in something that could fall broadly under the category of “relationship.” 

Stalking is determined by the standards through which a reasonable person would fear for safety or suffer emotional misery.

2016 Changes: 

The main changes seen in this version are the addition and specification of resources. This update also distinguished between formal and informal resources, rather than grouping them together. The informal resources, such as College House staff and Student Intervention Services, are not confidential and are required to report to the Title IX Coordinator, whereas a formal complaint goes directly through the Office of the Sexual Violence Investigator, a centralized body founded on Feb. 1, 2015, to decide complaints that fall under the sexual violence policy. 

Another administrator, the Title IX Coordinator, has the responsibility to carry out the University’s compliance with Title IX, which prohibits sex discrimination on college campuses. Though confidential resource personnel are not required to share identifying information, they may submit just enough information information to assist in crime statistic reporting. 

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