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Public university could punish neck rubs as sexual battery under new policy
neck-rub-massage-smile.Jacob_Lund.shutterstock

UPDATED

Only public announcement appears to be one tweet

East Carolina University students who are good at neck rubs could find themselves hauled before a sexual misconduct board under new rules approved by the board of trustees.

The new policy describes sexual battery as “the intentional or attempted sexual touching of another person’s clothed or unclothed body, including but not limited to the mouth, neck, buttocks, anus, genitalia, or breast, by another with any part of the body or any object in a sexual manner without their consent.”

The school described updates to nondiscrimination and Title IX policies in a press release dated Dec. 18, the same day as winter commencement.

Though it’s labeled “ECU News Services,” the release is nowhere to be found from the news portal. The school’s only apparent public communication of the changes appears to have been four days later on Twitter.

According to the release, the trustees approved the new policies Nov. 20. They took effect Friday. The school doesn’t say why it waited almost a month to announce the changes, after classes had ended.

It’s sexual battery ‘however slight’ the contact is

Moves commonly associated with flirting or even intimate friendship have been listed under a new “sexual battery” category.

The previous version, which took effect Jan. 1, 2015, said “non-consensual sexual contact … includes, but is not limited to, kissing, touching of the genitalia, anus, buttocks or breast of a person.”

The new policy describes sexual battery as “the intentional or attempted sexual touching of another person’s clothed or unclothed body, including but not limited to the mouth, neck, buttocks, anus, genitalia, or breast, by another with any part of the body or any object in a sexual manner without their consent.”

Such touching need not be drawn out: It qualifies as sexual battery “however slight” the contact is. The policy does not appear to define what makes certain touching “sexual,” endangering students who touch another person’s neck for a benign reason.

Asked to elaborate on the breadth of the new policy and whether it could indeed include neck rubs, the ECU Office for Equality and Diversity told The College Fix in an email“If an act of touching is not consented to, and the act was of a sexual nature, then that could constitute a battery. The purpose of this is to ensure that each act is consented to by the parties and that consent is active and mutually understood.”

Few reports of forced sexual touching in national college survey

The Office for Equality and Diversity said nothing specifically caused it to update the policy with the new sexual-battery category.

“ECU continually evaluates its policies and procedures in this area to ensure compliance with state and federal regulations as well as emerging best practices,” the office said. “ECU is committed to the safety and well-being of each member of the community and these policies further that commitment.”

The university is “targeting students as they return from the holiday break with emails and [we] plan specific student-targeted messaging through our campus wide LCD screens (the Student Affairs display system) for the first 4-6 weeks of the semester,” Mary Schulken, executive director of communications, told Ashe Schow of the Washington Examiner.

The university’s 2015 Clery Report, which covers 2014, showed seven reported rapes and four reports of “fondling.”

sexual-battery.Morehouse_CollegeAnother school in the region, historically black Morehouse College in Atlanta, warns “college men” in a brochure that they can get “three or more years in prison” for answering any question wrong on its “sexual assault knowledge test.”

Yet even the brochure doesn’t seem to contemplate that mouth or neck touching is sexual battery. Though defined as “the touching of an intimate part of another” for “sexual arousal,” both examples of battery involve breasts.

An April article in The East Carolinian said that the university “has continuously failed to meet” the standards set by the White House “It’s On Us” campaign against sexual assault, “according to testimonies of alleged sexual assault victims and further research” into its investigative procedures.

But the article focused on complaints by accusers that they were asked about their clothing and drinking at the time of alleged attacks, not that the school dismissed sexual touching of the mouth, neck or any other body part.

The American Association of Universities asked students about “unwanted touching or kissing that could be defined as sexual battery” in its nationwide campus climate survey, whose results were released this fall.

Yet only 7 percent of those who said they were “victims of physically forced sexual touching or kissing” reported the incident.

East Carolina University has emphasized its efforts to reduce “sexual violence,” without defining it. A February press release quoted its Title IX coordinator explaining that she gets involved in incidents that seem to be police matters because students need help getting away from their alleged attackers or coping with “taunting or teasing.”

UPDATE: The university responded to inquiries on the new policy from The Fix and the Washington Examiner. Its explanations have been added.

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IMAGE: Jacob Lund/Shutterstock

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About the Author
Matt Lamb graduated in May 2015 from Loyola University-Chicago, where he majored in political science, and minored in economics and Catholic Studies. There, he was also an active member of Loyola Students for Life and Loyola College Republicans, and wrote for The Loyola Phoenix. He is currently a graduate student at the University of Nebraska-Omaha. His work for The College Fix has been featured by National Review, Fox News, New York Times, and several other news outlets. He currently works as a Field Coordinator for Turning Point USA.

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