Peer Health

Sexual Assault

What Is Rape?

Williams College uses the same definition of rape that Massachusetts law does: nonconsensual sexual intercourse (penis in vagina) or the insertion of other parts of body or objects in vagina or rectum, fellatio or cunnilingus. For rape, there must be penetration, however slight, by force and against will. Nonconsensual and intentional physical contact of a sexual nature which does not include penetration is classified as indecent assault and battery. Physical contact of a sexual nature may include the touching of breasts, buttocks, the pubic area or genitalia.

Also according to state law, a person cannot be give consent to intercourse if he or she is drunk. The penalty for rape in the state of Massachusetts may be up to twenty years in prison.

The most common type of rape on college campuses, including Williams, involves acquaintances, people who know one another. The use of alcohol and other drugs is a contributing factor in campus rapes; use increases student vulnerability to assault.

Although the most common type of rape that takes place at college campuses is between peers, we still must be aware that attacks by strangers may also occur.


Ways to Protect Against Rape: Suggestions of ways to Protect yourself. 

  • Don’t walk alone at night. Call Security at 597-4444 or a trusted friend.
  • Lock your door both when asleep and when leaving your room.
  • Ask for consent when you’re engaging in sexual activity with a partner, even if you’ve been with them multiple times.
  • Trust your feelings. If you feel you are being pressured into sex, you probably are.
  • Set sexual limits; even though you may have different limits with different people and your limits may change, it is important to have them.
  • Be assertive in communicating your limits. Be direct and firm when your limits are being violated. Act immediately with a strong negative response.
  • If you decide to fight an attacker, commit yourself 100%!!!
    • First, try a loud verbal assault.
    • Remember your natural weapons: head, teeth, shoulders, elbows, forearms, hands, hips, knees, shins, and feet.
    • Also remember the body targets: hair, ears, eyes, nose, mouth, throat, collarbone, underarm, biceps, solar plexus, hands, ribs, stomach, kidney, spine, groin, inner thigh, outer thigh, knee, shin, and feet.
    • Try to bend your knees, put your chin down, and raise your hands.
    • Scream “NO!” when striking your attacker.
    • If you have the opportunity, take a self-defense class to raise your confidence and learn defensive maneuvers.

What to Do If You Are Raped

Every rape survivor reacts differently to rape, both immediately after the rape and in the long term. You may feel anger, disbelief, anxiety, fear, and countless other emotions. Should you be raped, here are some guidelines:

  • Get to a safe place. Go to a friend’s room or any other place where people can give you emotional support.
  • Get medical attention. See a healthcare professional immediately for treatment of any injuries and for other tests. Do not bathe, shower, urinate, defecate, douche, brush your teeth, or change your clothes before you go. The Health Center can be reached at 597-2206.
  • Report the rape, if you’d like. Reporting sexual assault can be an empowering act for a survivor and can be an important factor in preventing additional assaults. You can call the Dean’s Office (597-4171) or Security (597-4444) and they will help you decide what to do next. You can also contact the Williamstown Police Department at 458-5733.
  • Seek counseling. Whether or not you report the rape and participate in legal action, you should talk with a trained rape counselor. Sometimes it also helps to talk with another rape survivor. Remember, rape is never the fault of the survivor. The Williams College Rape and Sexual Assault Network(RASAN) (413-597-4100) is available 24 hours a day.

Legal and Institutional Recourse

A Williams student raped by another Williams student can seek action from both the state of Massachusetts and the College. These are separate courses of action. A survivor may make the decision to prosecute within the Massachusetts legal system.

She or he may also seek action from the college. The College cannot legally prosecute an attacker on behalf of a survivor, but the College can and will take its own disciplinary action at the survivor’s request. While any decision made by the legal system may affect the College’s decision on how to deal with the attacker, it is important to realize that differing verdicts may be reached.

Please check the Dean’s Office website for the most up to date sexual assault resources.

How to Avoid Committing Rape or Sexual Assault

Rape is a problem everyone needs to deal with. It is important to realize no one ever wants to be raped. Always assume that a “no” is a “no,” not a “maybe” or a “just try harder.” Consent is sexy. Prior consent is not continuous consent.

Communication and respect are the keys to preventing date and acquaintance rape. Talk with your partner and make sure that both of you are being honest about what you want and are willing to do. Never force another person to have sexual intercourse or any other sort of sexual relations with you. Acquaintance and date rape are punishable by law, but more importantly, one sexual experience is certainly not worth traumatizing another human being.

About Sexual Harassment

The term sexual harassment covers a broad range of behavior. Examples of the forms it can take include:

  • Sexually offensive remarks or conduct
  • Repeated or persistent remarks, jokes, or other actions that are demeaning to one’s sex or sexual orientation
  • Unwanted physical contact
  • Request or demands for sexual favors accompanied by implictly or explicitly promised rewards or threatened punishment
  • Attempted or completed physical sexual assault
  • Sexual harassment can have an impact on any member of the college community regardless of sex or sexual orientation. It can occur between two people whether or not they are in a relationship where one has power over the other, or if they are of different sexes. Victims can be women or men, students or members of the faculty or staff, superiors, subordinates, or peers. Sexual harassment may result from a conscious or unconscious action, and can be subtle or blatant. It can be verbal or physical, and can occur in any setting. The context of events is important in determining whether particular acts constitute sexual harassment.

College Policy

A healthy and productive educational community is one in which students, faculty, and all staff treat each other with mutual respect. Such a community requires an atmosphere free of discrimination on the basis of sex, sexual orientation, race, color, national, ethnic origin, religion, creed, age, or disability. Sexual harassment, a form of discrimination based on sex or sexual orientation, clearly endangers such an atmosphere and is not tolerated at Williams College. Behavior that constitutes sexual harassment is also prohibited by both state and federal laws.

The College’s definition of sexual harassment, which is based on the definition formulated by the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and state legislation, is as follows:

Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual’s employment, instruction, or participation in other college activities, or submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as a basis for making academic, employment, or personnel decisions affecting that individual, or such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s performance by creating an intimidating or hostile educational or working environment.

Sexual harassment breaches the trust that should exist among members of an educational community. Sexual harassment can disturb the climate in classroom, residence, or workplace, and alter the course of one’s education or career, presenting obstacles to the free and full development of an individual. It can, moreover, cause serious and lasting harm to an individual. The College is committed, therefore, to taking whatever action may be needed to prevent, correct, and, if necessary, discipline behavior that constitutes sexual harassment.

–Taken verbatim from the College’s “Revised Sexual Harassment Policy and Non-Discrimination Policy and Grievance Procedures.” A copy of the policy is available in the Student Handbook. Additional copies are available in the offices of the Dean of the College, the Dean of the Faculty, the Vice President for Administration, the Assistant to the President, Personnel, and Health Services.

Power Issues

Persons in positions of authority need to be sensitive to the potential for coercion in sexual relationship which also involve professional relationships, even if the sexual relationships in question began as consensual. Sexual harassment which exploits the power and authority invested in faculty and staff by the College will not be tolerated.