What behaviors could lead to sexual assault charges on a college campus?

College students must be absolutely clear about what constitutes consent and sexual assault to prevent a sex crime accusation.

Sexual assault is treated very seriously on college campuses in Tennessee, Georgia and across the country. New studies have brought national attention to the number of individuals who claim to have been victims of rape or attempted rape during their first year of college. While violent sex acts are typically immediately recognized as crimes, definitions of consent and assault may have some students confused over whether a situation could become problematic.

What is consent (and what isn't)?

According to Middle Tennessee State University policies, consent to engage in sexual conduct must be given freely based on an informed decision, and it must be expressed through understandable words or actions. Therefore, even when a person does not resist or say no, consent should not be assumed.

It may seem obvious that sexual activity with a person who is asleep or unconscious is against the law. It may not be as easy to determine whether a person has had too much to drink and would not be willing to participate if he or she were sober. Abstaining from sex acts with someone who has been drinking is the safest way to avoid this issue.

The presence of a relationship is also not an assumption of consent, and a person may be a victim of assault if his or her significant other does not wait for a clear indication before moving forward.

When is sexual contact actually assault?

If a person has to coerce someone or use any kind of force, it is logical to assume the act is assault because the lack of consent should be evident. However, the contact may also be considered assault if the alleged victim claims that the accused knew or should have known that consent was not given.

There may be a gray area in the more specific definition of sexual assault, though. If a person believes that someone has deliberately touched him or her in order to become aroused, and the contact is not welcome, it could be assault. Touching any of a person's intimate areas, including the buttocks, inner thigh or breast, is considered sexual contact, even if the accuser is fully clothed.

If a reasonable and objective person of the same gender identity, sexual orientation and sex as the accuser would consider the contact sexual in nature, and it is unwelcome, then it is assault, according to the University of Tennessee.

Not only are there many situations in which it would be easy for a person to misread cues, an accuser could claim that contact was unwanted after the fact because of a dispute or for revenge. Any college student who is accused of sexual misconduct may benefit from the advice of a criminal defense attorney in Tennessee who is familiar with the laws and policies that are relevant in the situation.