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Statement on Sexual Abuse & Assault

Briar Cliff’s policy is clear: sexual abuse in any form is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. Briar Cliff strives to sustain a climate that encourages dialogue within the community. Sexual abuse is often misunderstood, under-reported and potentially life threatening. It is important that students understand sexual abuse so they can avoid committing or being victims of such behavior.


State of Iowa Legal Code 709.1 defines Sexual Abuse as any sex act between persons performed under any of the following circumstances: The act is done by force or against the will of the other. If the consent or acquiescence of the other is procured by threats of violence toward any person or if the act is done while the other is under the influence of a drug or is otherwise in a state of unconsciousness, the act is done against the will of the other. The participant is suffering from a mental defect or incapacity which precludes consent, or lacks the mental capacity to know the right and wrong of conduct in sexual matters. The participant is a child.

Briar Cliff’s operational definitions of sexual abuse are as follows:

"Sexual Misconduct is any touching or fondling of the victim’s genitals, breasts, thighs or buttocks directly or through the clothing without the victim’s consent. Rape is any penetration by the penis or an object into the victim’s body against the victim’s will and without the victim’s consent. Attempted Rape is any uncompleted rape. Acquaintance or Date Rape is rape by someone the victim knows."


Iowa Code regards sexual abuse as a felony subject to a mandatory imprisonment from 10 years to life. The law focuses on the behavior of the offender, not on the behavior of the victim. Code 709.5 emphasizes that resistance is not necessary to prove sexual assault. Whether or not the victim fought the assailant, whether or not the victim has bruises or other physical evidence, the victim can file legal charges of sexual assault. According to code, even though a victim consents to a sex act, if it is determined that the victim is under the influence of drugs or alcohol to the point of being incapable of making a conscious decision, that sex act is defined as sexual abuse.


Briar Cliff defines sexual assault as actual or attempted non-consensual sexual advance that injures or threatens to injure another person. Non-consensual sexual advance means that the victim is mentally incapacitated, unconscious, or helpless due to drug or alcohol intake. BCU encourages victims of sexual assault, rape or date rape to seek the criminal prosecution of their assailants. Charges of sexual assault are handled confidentially by the Student Development Office in Alverno G4. The privacy and safety of both the accused and the accuser are safeguarded. Briar Cliff will inform both parties of the final disciplinary determination and sanctions imposed upon the accused.


Consent means the mutual deliberate and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity. Consent is a clear YES to the sexual act. Consent is an ongoing process and must be obtained for each level of sexual contact. If a victim does not resist or if the victim knows the offender, the law does not presume consent.


  • Go to a safe place. Call 1- 800-982-SAFE (7233) or the Rape Crisis Center (258-7233).
  • Tell the first person you see what happened. This account could corroborate your testimony if you decide to report or prosecute.
  • Talk with someone you trust: a friend, your RA, a faculty member, hall director, police (911), the Assistant Vice President for Student Development the campus nurse or counselor.
  • Seek medical attention at an emergency room. Request tests for pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.
  • Do not shower, bathe, or douche. Preserve physical evidence, such as clothing. Resist the urge to change clothes or clean up the area until medical and legal evidence is collected.
  • Request a urine test as quickly as possible to detect the presence of sedating substances.


Briar Cliff urges students to report all incidents of sexual assault to the University nurse, counselor or the Assistant Vice President for Student Development. While maintaining strict confidentiality, they will inform students of their rights, explain the options available for recourse, and provide contacts for professional counseling to begin the healing process. In situations that require an immediate and decisive response, the University authorizes the Assistant Vice President for Student Development to coordinate all necessary action. If, after careful consultation and personal reflection, the accuser asks the University to adjudicate the case, two conditions must be met:

  1. Alleged assault took place on campus, and
  2. Both the accused and the accuser were Briar Cliff students at the time the assault occurred and both remain members of the University community.

The accuser and the accused individually will meet with the Assistant Vice President for Student Development. The Assistant Vice President for Student Development will determine whether grounds exist for a disciplinary hearing. If grounds do exist and the University can properly address the issues and the gravity of the case, the procedures below will be followed:

  • The Assistant Vice President for Student Development will appoint a three-person hearing to adjudicate the case. Board members should have no conflict of interest and preferably should not be teaching or working with the students involved in the case.
  • The Assistant Vice President for Student Development will serve on the Board as a non-voting facilitator.
  • Prior to the hearing, both the plaintiff and the defendant should submit written statements to the Board detailing the charges or a defense.
  • The hearing itself is closed. Each party may invite one member from the University community to attend the hearing with them. This person may provide counsel but may not speak for the plaintiff or defendant.
  • Each Board must formulate specific procedures for how it will deal with the presentation of evidence, witnesses, and cross-examination.
  • Throughout proceedings, the Board must maintain utmost concern for the privacy, dignity, safety, and comfort of all involved.
  • "Clear and Convincing Evidence" will be the standard of proof.
  • The Board will strive for consensus but may settle the case by majority vote.
  • The Board is empowered to fine, to assign work, to discontinue scholarships or privileges, to exclude from the residence halls or from campus events, to temporarily suspend or permanently expel students from the University.
  • Either party may appeal Board decisions in writing to the President within five working days following the judgment. Appeals are limited to whether the evidence supports the charge or to the severity of the penalty. The President is the final level of appeal.
  • Board members must commit to the strictest standards of confidentiality.
  • Violation of these standards is professionally reprehensible. Sexual assault crimes are serious, complicated, and subject to prosecution under the law.

Students always have the option to seek legal remedy in the courts through local law enforcement whether or not the incident occurred on campus and whether or not the alleged assailant was a Briar Cliff student. University officials will stand ready to:

  • Assist students with notifying police,
  • Help secure an advocate from the Council on Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence to guide students through the legal processes, and
  • Change when appropriate the academic or housing situation of the victim.

If a student is convicted of sexual assault or any other felony by the courts, Briar Cliff reserves the right to determine the student’s future standing with the University.


Briar Cliff’s Franciscan values emphasize service, reverence for creation, and peace. If you feel you have been sexually abused, please contact the BCU Counseling Service at 279-5433. Counseling for victims is also available through the Council on Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence, 258-7233. If you are a victim of date or acquaintance rape, you are not to blame. Whether or not you report the rape or engage in legal action, you should consult CSADV at 258-7233 or the campus counseling center at 279-5433 to begin the healing process. Counseling services also are available for perpetrators either in the Counseling Center or at a community mental health agency. Counseling provides an environment in which perpetrators can learn new behaviors.


Briar Cliff seeks to eliminate all forms of personal harassment which create a hostile environment on campus. Specifically, the University seeks to eliminate harassment of students based on gender, religion, race, color, age, disability, national or ethnic origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status. The University pledges to maintain an environment that promotes the development of healthy relationships and respect for individuals.

Sexual Harassment: Public law prohibits sexual harassment. Briar Cliff defines sexual harassment as unsolicited and deliberate sexually explicit statements, gestures, or physical contacts which are objectionable to the recipient, cause discomfort, humiliation, or intimidation, or create a hostile and offensive environment. Sexual harassment may involve pressure from a person of either gender against a person of the opposite or same gender.

Examples of sexual harassment:

  • Demanding or soliciting sexual favors accompanied by implied or overt threats;
  • Creating an offensive interpersonal environment;
  • Comments or jokes referencing sexual orientation;
  • Unnecessary touching or leering at another’s body; and,
  • Sexist remarks about clothing, body, or sexual activities.

Verbal Harassment: includes derogatory, demeaning, inflammatory or vulgar comments directed to a person.

What to do: Inform the individual that you feel you are being harassed. Be definitive. If the problem continues, consult any other member of the Student Development division or a faculty member. To the extent possible, Briar Cliff protects both the anonymity and integrity of the complainant and the accused while investigating a charge of harassment. The Student Development Office will investigate all charges of harassment. Persons found guilty of harassment are subject to disciplinary sanctions up to expulsion from the University.