Sexual Assault Policy


Table of Contents:

Policy Statement

Rationale

Victims Bill of Rights

University Definitions

Criminal Definitions

Procedures for Victim

Procedures For Accused Party

Procedures for Reporting to Campus Community

Educational Resources


Sexual Assault Policy

POLICY STATEMENT

It is the policy of the University of South Carolina Aiken, in order to maintain an environment in which the dignity and worth of all members of the institutional system are respected, that sexual harassment of employees or students is prohibited. Such conduct is a form of behavior which seriously undermines the atmosphere of trust essential to the academic environment. This policy is consistent with federal and state laws prohibiting sex discrimination. It is also a policy of the University that willful false accusation of sexual harassment shall not be condoned.

Rationale

The University of South Carolina Aiken is an educational institution bound by common standards of conduct and a commitment to its educational mission. Sexual assault is considered particularly abhorrent because it interferes with our educational mission:

  1. By endangering the physical and emotional safety;
  2. By damaging trust;
  3. By offending the dignity and violating autonomy;
  4. By disrupting the academic progress of victims during their recovery

The purpose of this policy statement is to describe the University’s efforts to provide:

  1. Resources aimed at reducing the risk of sexual assault, including educational programs for men and women;
  2. Statement of expectations for behavior with regard to sexual conduct;
  3. Procedural interventions to offer support and information following a sexual assault; and
  4. Campus judicial procedures tat provide for the needs of victims and protect the rights of alleged assailants.

Victims Bills of Rights

Victims of sexual assault who report their experience to University officials can anticipate that:

  1. All sexual assaults will be treated seriously.
  2. Victims will be treated with dignity and respect and in a non-judgmental manner.
  3. Campus organizations and services which can assist victims will be identified.
  4. When a crime is reported to University officials, those officials will offer assistance in notifying proper authorities.
  5. When victims report and choose to pursue action against alleged assailants,assaults will be investigated and adjudicated by appropriate criminal and/orUniversity officials.
  6. University personnel will not discourage victims from reporting, nor encourage them to under-report the incident as a lesser crime.
  7. Victims may invite an advisor they choose to accompany them through University disciplinary proceedings.
  8. A victim will be notified of the outcome of related University discipline proceedings and has the rights to appeal the outcome. The victim and charged student must respect the privacy rights of all involved.
  9. University personnel will cooperate in obtaining, securing and maintaining evidence (including a medical examination) necessary in legal proceedings.
  10. Victims will be made aware of any state or federal laws regarding mandatory testing of sexual assault suspects for communicable disease and whether these professionals can notify a victim of the results of these tests.
  11. Victims will be informed of mental health services available.
  12. Victims will be afforded the opportunity to request immediate on-campus housing relocation, transfer of classes, or other steps to prevent unnecessary or unwanted contact or proximity to an alleged assailant when reasonably available.
  13. All students have the right to an environment free from sexual or physical intimidation, or any continuing disruptive behavior, by persons sharing rooms or their guests, that would prevent a reasonable person from attaining their educational goals. Disruptive behavior of this nature should be reported to appropriate University staff, so it can be addressed.
  14. The sexual history of the victim is not considered relevant to the truth of the allegation; therefore, information regarding sexual history external to the relationship between the victim and the alleged assailant will not be considered in disciplne hearings.>

University Definitions

For the purpose of this policy and related procedures, the term sexual assault is defined as “unwilling or unconsenting sexual intercourse or penetration of any bodily opening with any object; the touching of an unwilling person’s intimate parts (such as genitalia, groin, breast, buttocks, mouth, and/ or clothing covering them); touching an unwilling person with one’s own intimate parts; or forcing an unwilling person to touch another’s intimate parts.”

Behavior contemplated in this definition includes acts that are unwanted and/ or may be committed either by force, threat, intimidation, or deceit, or through exploitation of another’s mental or physical condition of which the assailant was aware or should have been aware.

USC Aiken student conduct regulations incorporate this definition by obliging students to comply with all published policies and procedures of the University (see USC Aiken Student Handbook). Behaviors prohibited by this policy may also be prohibited by the general student conduct regulations obliging students to comply with all published state, local and federal (see “Compliance with General Laws” under “Student Discipline System” in the USC Aiken Student Handbook).

Such behaviors may also be simultaneously covered by the general regulations prohibiting “disruptive activity” and “disorderly conduct”. Attempting, abetting or being an accessory to any prohibited act is considered the same as a completed violation.

Criminal Definitions

By publishing this policy, USC Aiken does not intend to substitute or supersede related civil and criminal law. It is the policy of this institution to strongly encourage victims to report all incidents and violations to the law enforcement agencies or officials with appropriate jurisdiction and to avail themselves of all the services and rights to which they are entitled by law.

It should be clearly understood that there is a fundamental difference between the nature and purpose of student discipline and criminal law. Regardless of the charge(s) issued or procedures employed, sanctions issued by the University can be expected to be consistent with the educational mission of the institution

According to USC Aiken’s Student Handbook, Student Discipline section, students who are apprehended and charged by law enforcement agencies with felony criminal charges off campus are required to inform University officials. The University may bring disciplinary action against the student for the same incident if the alleged conduct is prohibited by the institution and/or if it is judged to be adverse to the recognized mission of the institution. University disciplinary procedures should be considered distinct and independent of any and all criminal procedures. Discipline procedures may precede, occur simultaneously, or follow and consider the results of any relevant court action. When necessary, temporary action may be taken in the form of summary suspension, summary restrictions or officially requesting no contact between the victim and accused assailant. Any of these measures may result in a student’s restricted participation in University events outside attendance of classes and appointments related to the resolution of discipline matters.

The South Carolina State Code of Laws (SC Code Ann. Sec. 16-3-651 to 16-3- 656) defines criminal sexual conduct, including rape, with the respective penalties as follows

Sec. 16-3-651. Definitions used in sections 16-3-651 to 16-3-659.1.

For the purposes of sections 1 6-3-65 1 to 1 6-3-659. 1:

(a) "Actor" means a person accused of criminal sexual conduct.

(b) "Aggravated coercion" means that the actor threatens to use force or violence of a high and aggravated nature to overcome the victim or another person, if the victim reasonably believes that the actor has the present ability to carry out the threat, or threatens to retaliate in the future by the infliction of physical harm, kidnapping or extortion, under circumstances of aggravation, against the victim or any other person.

(c) "Aggravated force" means that the actor uses physical force or physical violence of a high and aggravated nature to overcome the victim or includes the threat of the use of a deadly weapon.

(d) "Intimate parts" includes the primary genital area, anus, groin, inner thighs, or buttocks of a male or female human being and the breasts of a female human being.

(e) "Mentally defective" means that a person suffers from a mental disease or defect which renders the person temporarily or permanently incapable of appraising the nature of his or her conduct.

(f) "Mentally incapacitated" means that a person is rendered temporarily incapable of appraising or controlling his or her conduct whether this condition is produced by illness, defect, the influence of a substance or from some other cause.

(g) "Physically helpless" means that a person is unconscious, asleep, or for any other reason physically unable to communicate unwillingness to an act.

(h) "Sexual battery" means sexual intercourse, cunnilingus, fellatio, anal intercourse, or any intrusion, however slight, of any part of a person’s body or of any object into the genital or anal openings of another person’s body, except when such intrusion is accomplished for medically recognized treatment or diagnostic purposes.

(i) "Victim" means the person alleging to have been subjected to criminal sexual conduct.

Sec. 16-3-652. Criminal sexual conduct in the first degree.

(1) A person is guilty of criminal sexual conduct in the first degree if the actor engages in sexual battery with the victim and if any one or more of the following circumstances are proven:

(a) The actor uses aggravated force to accomplish sexual battery.

(b) The victim submits to sexual battery by the actor under circumstances wherethe victim is also the victim of forcible confinement, kidnapping, trafficking in persons, robbery, extortion, burglary, housebreaking, or any other similar offense or act.

(c) The actor causes the victim, without the victim’s consent, to become mentally incapacitated or physically helpless by administering, distributing, dispensing, delivering, or causing to be administered, distributed, dispensed, or delivered a controlled substance, a controlled substance analogue, or any intoxicating substance.

(2) Criminal sexual conduct in the first degree is a felony punishable by imprisonment for not more than thirty years, according to the discretion of the court.

Sec. 16-3-653. Criminal sexual conduct in the second degree

(1) A person is guilty of criminal sexual conduct in the second degree if the actor uses aggravated coercion to accomplish sexual battery.

(2) Criminal sexual conduct in the second degree is a felony punishable by imprisonment for not more than twenty years according to the discretion of the court.

Sec. 16-3-654. Criminal sexual conduct in the third degree

(1) A person is guilty of criminal sexual conduct in the third degree if the actor engages in sexual battery with the victim and if any one or more of the following circumstances are proven:

(a) The actor uses force or coercion to accomplish the sexual battery in the absence of aggravating circumstances.

(b) The actor knows or has reason to know that the victim is mentally defective, mentally incapacitated, or physically helpless and aggravated force or aggravated coercion was not used to accomplish sexual battery.

(2) Criminal sexual conduct in the third degree is a felony punishable by imprisonment for not more than ten years, according to the discretion of the court.

Sec. 16-3-656. Assault with intent to commit criminal sexual conduct. Assault with intent to commit criminal sexual conduct described in the above sections shall be punishable as if the criminal sexual conduct was committed. (NOTE: one charged with Criminal Sexual Conduct may not be considered for pretrial intervention. SC Code section 17-22-50).

Procedures for Victim

A. Immediate Care and Treatment

Medical attention is crucial to assess possible internal injuries or sexually transmitted diseases, as well as to collect medical evidence should the victim choose to pursue prosecution. The police will be contacted by the hospital to take possession of the evidence collected while the victim makes a decision about whether to pursue charges. Any student who feels that he or she has been sexually assaulted and requires medical attention should immediately:

i. If an assault occurs on campus:

Contact University Police at 648-4011 (6111 from a campus phone extension); or Rape Crisis Center at 641-4162 (after hours and weekends at 648-9900). The sooner a sexual assault is reported, the easier it is to collect valuable evidence. To facilitate evidence collection, the victim:

  • Should not bathe or douche. 
  • Should not urinate. 
  • Should not drink any liquids. 
  • If oral contact has occurred, the victim should not smoke, eat or brush teeth. 
  • If clothes are changed, soiled clothes should be placed in a paper bag (plastic destroys crucial evidence).

University Police may transport the victim to Aiken Regional Medical Center for medical attention and a rape protocol exam. If the victim does want not to contact the police, a friend or relative may transport the student to the hospital. When the victim arrives at the emergency room, the hospital may call the Rape Crisis Center to arrange for a victim advocate to accompany the victim throughout the exam and any law enforcement procedures. The hospital staff may also contact University Police and/or the police where the incident occurred.

ii. If an assault occurs off campus:

A. Contact area police via 911 system (Aiken County) or if no 911 system is available, call your local police, or in Aiken call the Rape Crisis Center at 641- 4162 (after hours and weekends at 648-9900). The sooner a sexual assault is reported, the easier it is to collect valuable evidence. To facilitate evidence collection, the victim: • Should not bathe or douche.

  • Should not urinate. 
  • Should not drink any liquids.
  • If oral contact has occurred, the victim should not smoke, eat or brush teeth. 
  • If clothes are changed, soiled clothes should be placed in a paper bag (plastic destroys crucial evidence).

The police department with jurisdiction in the area will most often direct the victim to an area hospital for medical attention and a rape protocol exam. If the victim does not want to contact police, a friend or relative may transport the student to the hospital. When the victim arrives at the emergency room, the hospital staff may call a Rape Crisis Center in that area and/or may contact the local police where the incident occurred.
The hospital staff may also contact USC Aiken University Police. If a victim chooses not to go to the hospital, the victim is strongly urged to seek appropriate medical attention. 

B. Reporting

All victims of sexual assault/battery are encouraged to report the incident to law enforcement agencies. Should the victim choose not to immediately involve law enforcement officials, the victim is strongly urged to go through the rape protocol exam for medical attention and for the purpose of preserving important physical of the assault. This evidence may be used if the victim chooses to pursue legal prosecution at a later date. The rape protocol exam should be completed as soon as possible. Physical evidence can be obtained up to 72 hours after the assault, recognizing that as time passes, the quality of the evidence diminishes. A student victim may also choose to file a report with the Judicial Hearing Officer or the Director of the Counseling Center. An explanation of this procedure can be obtained in the student handbook. The disciplinary procedures are also described in a separate section below and published in the student handbook.

Whether or not legal or disciplinary action is desired, an anonymous report may be filed, at any time, with the Director of the Counseling Center. This report provides USC Aiken staff with information about the crime that may be valuable in their efforts to prevent future crimes and educate other students about the high risk areas. The Director of the Counseling can be reached by calling 641-3609. 

C. Discipline Policies and Procedures for Victim and/or Witness

Witnesses to or victims of the above described sexual misconduct may wish to contact the Judicial Hearing Officer if the accused is a USC Aiken student. In this event, the Judicial Hearing Officer will meet with the witness or victim to discuss the report and determine whether there is reason to believe a conduct code offense has occurred. At the same time, discipline procedures will be reviewed and the possible roles the witness or victim may play in the gathering of this information and/or the resolution of the complaint will be explored. At this meeting, if the victim or witness is willing and prepared, staff may conduct an investigative interview. At the victim’s or witness’s request, an advisor, counselor, attorney, parent, friend or the Director of the Counseling Center may attend. In this meeting, and as needed, the Associate Chancellor will answer questions and provide offended individuals with general information about civil and criminal options available to victims or witnesses.

When it is determined that there exists sufficient reason to believe a violation of University policy has occurred, disciplinary procedures may be initiated. It should be understood that victims and witnesses need not “press charges”; instead, the University is responsible for initiating this investigative process. Furthermore, the University is not required to await the outcome of any criminal action against the accused before initiating disciplinary action, if such is deemed necessary. Victims or witnesses can expect to be asked to contribute testimony and information to assist in the resolution of the complaint.

D. Follow-up and Recovery Services for Victim

Research has shown that follow-up counseling is of significant benefit to a victim of sexual assault and/or related trauma. This counseling may be initiated at any time after an assault (from hours to years).On or off campus counseling and other services are available to a student victim whether or not the crime was reported or prosecuted.

The Rape Crisis Center (division of the Cumbee Center to Assist Abused Persons “CAAP”) is an off-campus resource that provides short-term counseling, as well as crisis intervention. Services are provided for all victims, no matter when the assault occurred. Their 24-hour hotline number is 641-4162. A representative from the Cumbee Center works in the USC Aiken Counseling Center at least one day each week and can be contacted at 641-3609. The Counseling Center is an on-campus resource that provides free counseling to students. The phone number is 641-3609. They also assist a victim with filing a discipline complaint, notifying instructors of absences or other needs, and/or helping a student withdraw. The Vice Chancellor for Student Life and Services can assist a victim with filing a discipline complaint, notifying instructors of absences or other needs, and/or helping a student withdraw. The phone number is 641-3588.

The Counseling Center is an on-campus resource that provides free counseling to students. The phone number is 641-3609. They also assist a victim with filing a discipline complaint, notifying instructors of absences or other needs, and/or helping a student withdraw.

The Vice Chancellor for Student Life and Services can assist a victim with filing a discipline complaint, notifying instructors of absences or other needs, and/or helping a student withdraw. The phone number is 641-3588.

Procedure for Accused Party

A. Discipline Policies and Procedures for Accused Party.

To begin discipline procedures, individuals thought to have relevant information or testimony, including the accused party, will be contacted and interviewed by appropriate University officials. If sufficient information is available to conclude there is reason to believe, or "reasonable grounds" to do so, the University will issue charges from the general student conduct regulations and will follow the judicial procedures for non-academic offenses as set forth in the USC Aiken Student Handbook.

A summary of this procedure follows:

  • The accused party will be offered the opportunity to choose one of two possible hearing procedures. Note: Under certain circumstances outlined in the Student Code of Conduct, an administrative hearing is NOT an option. The Non- Academic Judicial Officer or Hearing Officer may decline to hear the case in this manner due to conflict of interest or severity of the case (felony arrest) and request a University Judicial Board Hearing be held.
  • The accused party may choose a formal administrative hearing, in which the University’s Judicial Officer or designee is authorized to consider testimony and act as hearing officer, deciding whether the accused is responsible for the charge(s) as issued, and what the University response or sanction, if indicated, should be. 
  • The accused student may choose a hearing before the University Judicial Board (UJB), a group of faculty and students who are trained and authorized to conduct hearings to determine responsibility and appropriate sanctions. In each hearing procedure, the burden of proof shall be on the University as the adjudicating party. Decisions regarding responsibility for charges shall be based on a "preponderance of evidence" standard, meaning responsibility does not have to be proven beyond a shadow of a doubt. The University need only demonstrate that the charged student is more likely than not responsible for the charge. In these investigative hearings, regardless of the procedure chosen, the hearing officer or UJB members will not be restricted from testimony by technical rules of evidence. Charged students are assured a right of access to a list of witnesses invited to testify, as well as an opportunity to review all available physical and documentary evidence to be presented at the hearing. In these informal, non- adversarial hearings, there is no formal cross examination. Charged students are, however, entitled to question and rebut any evidence presented. In order to conduct a fair, orderly hearing, special accommodations may be made in hearing procedures, such as indirect questioning, or special seating arrangements in the hearing room. Both the charged student and the victim may be accompanied by an advisor of their choice and remain present while all testimony is presented.

The advisor or counsel may, with written permission of the charged student:

  • Advise the accused student about the preparation and presentation of the case; 
  • Accompany the charged student to all judicial proceedings; 
  • Have access to evidence, witness lists, documents and exhibits relating to the case. Should the hearing authority determine a student is responsible for the charges issued; the student’s disciplinary record may be made available to the authority. The hearing authority will then adjourn again to determine what sanction(s) are appropriate to the circumstances and individual. Possible sanctions include permanent suspension, suspension for a period of time, suspension held in abeyance, disciplinary probation, conditions, reprimand, restitution, and educational sanction.

B. Follow-up Services for Accused Party

Follow-up counseling may be of significant benefit to an accused party. On or off campus counseling and other services are available to an accused party whether or not the crime was reported or prosecuted. The Counseling Center is an on-campus resource that provides free counseling to currently enrolled students. The phone number is 641-3609.

The Cumbee Center to Assist Abused Persons (CAAP) provides referrals to counseling services for men who commit sexual assault or abuse their partners. A representative from the Cumbee Center works in the USC Aiken Counseling Center several days each week and can be contacted at 641-3609.

The South Carolina Bar Association, Lawyer Referral Service, can assist an accused party in finding an attorney to represent them in civil and/or criminal proceedings. The phone number is 1-800-868-2284 or 799-7100.

Procedures for Reporting to Campus Community

Federal law requires that timely notice of assaults be made to the campus community if it is felt that a threat to any other person(s) exists. In these cases, the Chief of University Police, in consultation with the Vice Chancellor for Student Life and Services, will notify the campus community through whatever means are appropriate for the particular case.

Educational Resources

The following offices within the University of South Carolina Aiken and the Aiken community provide a variety of educational offerings related to sexual assault, personal safety, appropriate use of alcohol, healthy relationships, etc. For more information, the following offices should be contacted:

  • USC Aiken Counseling Center, Business and Education Building, Room 126, 641-3609.
  • University Police, 648-4011 (from off campus) or 6111 (from on- campus). 
  • Cumbee Center to Assist Abused Persons, Rape Crisis Center, 641-4162.
  • Aiken Regional Medical Center, The Resource Center, 655 Medical Park Dr., Aiken, 641 -5926.
  • Aiken-Barnwell Community Mental Health Ctr., 1135 Gregg Highway, Aiken, 641-7700.