News | Student Life

Alumni group working with students, faculty on proposals to reform sexual assault policies

  • ALUMNI ACTION | Columbia Alumni Allied Against Sexual Assault had its first large meeting with alumni on Saturday during the Alumni Reunion Weekend to discuss issues with Columbia’s sexual assault policies.

Columbia Alumni Allied Against Sexual Assault announced a plan to create a set of unified student, alumni, and faculty proposals for reforming Columbia’s sexual assault policies on Saturday.

The group, which was created in February and is open to all Columbia alumni, will work with students and faculty to develop those proposals over the next few months. CAAASA held a panel on Saturday at Teachers College during the Alumni Reunion Weekend to discuss the issues with Columbia’s current policies and the changes that panelists would like to see.

“The dream is to present a set of proposals from the alumni and the students and the faculty—unified, that we all agree on, and that can be easily implemented by the University,” panelist Erik Campano, GS ’15 and a researcher in Columbia Health, said. “And we are optimistic that these three groups—student, alumni, and faculty—can agree on a detailed set of reforms.”

Close to 40 alumni attended the panel, which was closed to the press. Panelists included Zila Acosta, CC ’11, Law ’15, and the co-chair of the University Senate’s Student Affairs Committee, Anna Bahr, BC ’14 and the former managing editor of the Blue and White who wrote a two-part series on sexual assault adjudication at Columbia, CAAASA co-founder Hannah D’Apice, CC ’12 and a former Spectator design editor and staff director, and Zoe Ridolfi-Starr, CC ’15 and a member of No Red Tape Columbia and the Coalition Against Sexual Violence.

“I’m very involved in alumni activities at Columbia but often there’s a sense that alumni are cynical of what’s going on,” added Aries Dela Cruz, GS ’09 and an event organizer. “To come back to campus five years later to see that this legacy of people who care goes on long after … is really inspiring to me and hopefully will go on to inspire other alumni.”

“I think people were really excited to hear what’s being done and what they can do, but also had genuine questions about the intricacies of the problem,” Acosta said. “I think alums identify with the issue.”

Attendees at the event on Saturday said that the biggest advantage of bringing alumni into sexual assault reform is the financial pressure they are able to put on the University.

“The alumni community has a lot of resources to help push through policy changes,” Campano said. “I think I speak on behalf of all student activists that we’re very happy to be collaborating with a unified group of alumni.”

“If that’s [funding] an opportunity for us to influence the conversation, I think that’s something we really need to consider,” said panel moderator Peter Gallotta, CC ’09, a former president of Columbia Queer Alliance and a ROOTEd facilitator. “It’s power of the purse.”

Still, Campano said that students and alumni are only two-thirds of the equation, and that he believes support from faculty is necessary to make concrete changes.

“There are strong indications from faculty members that they are prepared to join us in supporting a comprehensive reform to gender-based violence policy,” Campano said, adding that the group is hoping to see a proposal from faculty by the end of the summer.

In May, nearly 100 faculty members signed a letter supporting student action pushing for changes to Columbia’s sexual assault adjudication policy.

While CAAASA has been around since February, the Reunion Weekend event was the first opportunity for a large group of alumni to come together and learn about the issues.

Throughout the semester, students have continued to push administrators to make changes to sexual assault adjudication policies. The Coalition Against Sexual Violence presented a list of policy recommendations to administrators in February. Administrators discussed policy concerns with students at two town halls held in March and April.

Still, some students have said that administrators have not done enough. In April, 23 students filed a federal complaint against Columbia, alleging violations of Title IX, Title II, and the Clery Act. Lists of alleged “sexual assault violators on campus” appeared in bathrooms in Hamilton, Lerner, and Butler in May.

Emma Sulkowicz, CC ’15 and one of the students who filed the federal complaint against Columbia in April, reported her sexual assault to the police in May, saying she was frustrated with the University’s decision in her case.

Both Bahr and Acosta said they believe the University can and will work with all three groups to change its policies.

“We all want Columbia to have a sterling reputation, but we want them to earn it,” Acosta said.

“This is not a divisive issue. This is not a political issue. It’s about safety,” Bahr added.

Though a set of unified proposals is still in the works, panelists at Saturday’s event said alumni support around the issue is undeniably growing. 

“There aren’t many issues alums get super riled up about,” Acosta said. “But student safety is one of them.” 

maia.bix@columbiaspectator.com  |  @MaiaClay4

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Student posted on

The correct acronym would be CAAASA, not CAASA, no?

Otherwise, this is awesome and I'm so glad to see thoughtful, productive partnerships happening between students and alums.

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An absurd Definition of Sexual Assault posted on

"Consider Columbia's extraordinarily broad definition of "sexual assault," which goes far beyond anything in the criminal justice system, in two respects.
First, the university defines sexual assault as not only rape, as understood in the criminal justice system, but also "any intentional sexual touching, however slight, with any object without a person's consent. Intentional sexual contact includes contact with the breasts, buttocks, groin, or touching another with any of these body parts, or making another person touch any of these body parts; any intentional bodily contact in a sexual manner." How many people would consider such behavior--while indefensible--to constitute rape? To Columbia, however, forcible sexual penetration and nonconsensual "sexual touching, however slight" are both "sexual assault." And the fliers suggest that the message has been received.
Second, while the university notes that sexual assault, by definition, comes without consent, it modifies this provision in a critical way: "Alcohol and other drugs can lower inhibitions and create an atmosphere of confusion over whether consent is freely and affirmatively given." Taken literally, then, any alcohol use by the female party to sexual intercourse could call into question whether a Columbia tribunal will subsequently brand a male student a rapist, since even if the female gave consent, the university claim non-consensual contact on grounds of "confusion over whether consent is freely and affirmatively given."
In this atmosphere, accused students appear to be guilty until proven innocent, even as Title IX claims suggesting that the definitions above (coupled with procedures that deny accused students the right to counsel) unlawfully act against the rights of accusers.
As colleges adopt a de facto presumption of guilt in undertaking investigations for which they are in no way competent, they will be hit with more and more of these kinds of lawsuits. And it's fair to say that the presidents and administrators of these institutions are bringing it on themselves." K.C. Johnson
- See more at: http://www.mindingthecampus.com/originals/2014/05/here_come_the_lawsuits_over_se.html#sthash.B7ehPNXk.HEx9TmQX.dpu

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Anonymous posted on

This is correct. This is why generally students report misconduct to a university rather than law inforcement because the burden of proof is significantly lower, and almost 100% of the time the assailant is always punished and found guilty. It is ironic when people state "the universities inaction'" when it is generally more severe than would be obtained in the criminal system.

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Alumna posted on

I agree. These proceedings do not prepare students for the real world in any serious way, and in order to serve as such preparation educational establishments would have to retain more legal counsel or staff large legal departments (or that's how it looks to me). Rather than that, they handle these matters in a manner that looks vaguely superstitious - invocation of committee names and Title IX terminology as though they work magic. The hearings sound like the dances of shamanic types. It all seems to add up to something basically primitive, based on fear of women. Insofar as institutions fear women, they will wind up hating men. I hope we don't stray into a completely wrong direction -I'm afraid we're headed there now.

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Alumna 2 posted on

As college administrators, state and federal lawmakers, the White House, and the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) take steps to combat sexual assault on college and university campuses, it is critically important to ensure that attempts to keep students safe do not exacerbate the already serious threats to due process that exist for students accused of sexual misconduct. Consideration of the legal problems presented by the use of the low “preponderance of the evidence” (50.01% certainty) standard of proof and by the lack of procedural safeguards in campus hearings is necessary—but it doesn’t tell the full story. The rising number of complaints from men stems in part from increasing pressure on colleges to hold students responsible for sexual misconduct, and the mistaken belief among administrators that this means they should find more young men responsible. All of this pressure from the White House and OCR has been communicated, and these university panels believe they are supposed to vote a certain way now. Campuses are saying, We have to comply with Title IX, so we have to side with the victim in all cases. Talk about injustice.

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The penalty for the INNOCENT posted on

What some consider "only" one year suspension from college for those "found responsible" is quite often, in today’s academic environment, the penalty for the innocent. (in many cases, if a student is found "responsible" this involves more bad judgement on his part but not sexual assault) . Period.

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anonymous posted on

the assailant being a man, right? Always...Now we should consider this post-modern conundrum: Two gay women get plastered and have sex. Which one is the rapist?

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assuming ... posted on

if something goes wrong afterwards, I guess.

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the "assailant" posted on

I think the "assailant" is supposed to be in quotation marks

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Surprised posted on

If this is true, how can people complain that Columbia isn't doing enough about this issue? ¿What else do they expect them t do?

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ALumna posted on

It is hard to believe that Columbia would let anyone who is accused of rape allow to stay on campus. If the person is still on campus, then, I tend to believe they had a good reason why they allowed that person to stay. To accuse Columbia for allowing "rapists" to stay on campus is, in my opinion, outrageous, and irresponsible. The reason I say this is because I know that many guys are sent out packing for a year or more for things that would not "fly" in the real court as a sexual offense at all. So, Columbia has actually been much stricter then the criminal court would have been.
What these activist would like Columbia to do is, perhaps, keep kicking some of our male students out, based on their word alone. I find this practice of shaming people by posting flyers, irresponsible and abominable. It is not helping real victims of sexual violence, and is permanently harming young men who are innocent. As one of the students said "we've spawned a generation of crazed social justice warriors who resort to groupthink rather than rational thought and jump to conclusions rather than examining nuance and context. The fact that someone decided to plaster names all over a bathroom wall as if this were a middle school shows just how repugnant the situation has become. At Columbia, we have created such a hostile climate for men that their guilt is presumed over their innocence. We treat men on this campus like villains."

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Anonymous posted on

"It is hard to believe that Columbia would let anyone who is accused of rape allow to stay on campus. "

I would hope that merely being the target of an accusation is not automatic grounds for expulsion....

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well posted on

it has happened. First thing that happens when an accusation is filed, the accused is kicked off the campus because he is presumed guilty. This is totally insane.

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anonymous posted on

I should have said... anyone who was FOUND GUILTY.. not anyone who was accused... yes.... big difference

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Against sexual assault AND against false accusations posted on

AND FOR DUE PROCESS. Why is everybody afraid of saying loud and clear that - yes we condemn sexual assaults but we also condemn false accusations? What is everyone afraid of? Why are accusers immediately called 'survivors", and accused immediately kicked off campus and called rapists, and why are colleges dealing with such serious issues? This is grossly unfair and is not helping REAL victims of sexual violence - This is not Columbia men against Columbia women - the issue goes both ways. They should learn about mutual respect. Not only how men should respect women but also, how women should respect men, and all, all should learn about personal responsibility.

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Anonymous posted on

Breathe, dude. No one is ignoring due process. Here's a great recipe for chocolate chip cookies -- they're amazing and definitely will help you feel better!

11 1/2 ounces Semi-Sweet Chocolate Baking Chips
1 cup butter or margarine, softened
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 1/4 cups unsifted flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup walnuts or pecans, chopped (optional)

INSTRUCTIONS
Heat oven to 375ºF. Stir flour with baking soda and salt; set aside. In large mixing bowl, beat butter with sugar and brown sugar at medium speed until creamy and lightened in color. Add eggs and vanilla, one at a time. Mix on low speed until incorporated. Gradually blend dry mixture into creamed mixture. Stir in nuts and chocolate chips. Drop by tablespoon onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Note: The 11 1/2 ounces of Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips can be substituted with any variety of chip flavor (i.e.- Milk Chocolate Chips, 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Chips, etc.)

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There is due process? Should I take your word for it? posted on

because you're one of those "in charge" ?

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ummmm posted on

have you been following this whole issue even a little bit? literally none of the perpetrators FOUND RESPONSIBLE by the university were kicked off campus, let alone the accused (which no one is asking for). if you took one afternoon do actually, oh I don't know, research this issue, you'd see that the vast majority of violence is perpetrated by men against other gender identities. once that ends you can talk to me about "mutual respect."

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"other gender identities" posted on

- you are too much. I do so much research on this (thesis!) that I can tell you - if you, indeed, knew what you were talking about, you would know that scores of young men have been falsely accused (read - Duke, Vassar, Brown....), some spent years in jail for nothing. You probably think that's ok because they're men? Scores of women have filed false claims of rape, describing in detail how they were raped just to admit, months later, that all was fabricated. That is why your activism is more like witch hunt - harmful and irrational. Sexual violence against women exists, but so does violence against men. That is why everyone should be able to PROVE what they're claiming. Otherwise, what is going to stop someone from accusing you for something you didn't do. If that happened, I bet you would rethink what you're saying now. But wait ... you're a woman, I bet and everyone would take your word as fact - right?

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literally? posted on

hey, "female gender identity" what kind of research have you done? starbucks with your girlfriends?

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Let's get over it! posted on

They weren't kicked off campus because there weren't enough elements to do so. Just accusing someone about something that happened while having consensual sex more than a year ago isn't evidence of anything.

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Some people posted on

like being swaddled in a "safe," "supportive," "unthreatening" environment, and intellectual comfort for the intellectually dormant. According to them we should just agree that men are always wrong and that women should always be trusted.

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Anonymous posted on

Yo, Men's Rights Activists or whoever you are, please don't come over to our school newspaper to promote your own websites or try to get your messages out. All your comments have pretty much nothing to do with the article above. The Columbia Spectator is a great and intelligent publication. If your message is of value, people will find it on their own. It's useless and a bit rude to just randomly go anywhere on the Internet trying to spread your ideology.

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No I am not posted on

Spreading any ideology. This is my take on the situation and we are here to discuss, not "spread ideologies". I hope you are capable of a rational discussion that doesn't include men bashing.

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Anonymous posted on

Yo, Men's Rights Activists or whoever you are, please don't come over to our school newspaper to promote your own websites or try to get your messages out. All your comments have pretty much nothing to do with the article above. The Columbia Spectator is a great and intelligent publication. If your message is of value, people will find it on their own. It's useless and a bit rude to just randomly go anywhere on the Internet trying to spread your ideology.

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Their comments posted on

are to the point and contribute to the discussion. That's what we're trying to do here - have a meaningful discussion, and not offend others who are contributing.

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Pathetic posted on

Aries Delacruz needs to grow up and move on. Your Columbia student days are over, Aries. Try to go have a productive life that doesn't involve constantly reliving your glory days.

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Aries Dela Cruz posted on

Rude.

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Pathetic posted on

That's it? That's all you got?

Sad little man.

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You're the sad, pathetic person posted on

Attacking someone in blog comments for contributing? Get a life.

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bjw2119 posted on

....Let us take a moment to reflect on the fact that many students (myself included) were disappointed with the lack of opportunities for interaction and meaningful connections with alumni at Columbia. It would be an enormous improvement to the lives of students for both career reasons and for the opportunity to learn from their own experiences and wisdom. It also happens to be something that our "peer institutions" tend to do much better than we do. Now lets look at the comment that these alumni, who have as their stated aim making sure students are safe from sexual violence on Columbia's campus, need to "grow up and move on." Now why the fuck would I, as an alumnus, want to remain engaged in the toxic atmosphere at this school that I already spent 4 years immersed in? It seems like the only "sad little man" in this comment thread is, uh, you! You, as a person busy tearing down efforts by people who actually want to make your (presumable) alma mater a better place, make me very sad.

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Honestly posted on

What say do you think we alumni have? Why does the university have any interest in giving us a say, unless we are multi-million dollar donors?

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bjw2119 posted on

Well, we have no "say" if you have that attitude. But a sustained and broad campaign by alumni can impact giving. It's also important to remember that fundraising is in a department called "development" for a reason. Oftentimes maintaining good relations with smaller and younger donors means reaping much larger donations down the line when they either have more money or more influence. Additionally, as Hannah D'Apice mentioned at the forum, administrators can just stall for four years until students graduate and are replaced by new students who don't understand the problems and systems at Columbia as well. Alumni, on the other hand, are alumni until they die. We can be an important source of knowledge and context for current students.

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Woah posted on

Barry, I didn't ask "why" alumni should or shouldn't have a say. I'm asking what *interest* do universities have in "giving" alumni a say.

If your answer is "development", then in my view, the university should listen to solicit opinions from alumni from 1) wealthy families, 2) high-paying jobs, or 3) a consistent and sustained record of giving commensurate with their means.

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Anonymous posted on

Holding donations and givings hostage to blackmail administrators for single line items of agendas is never a good thing and very short sited. It generally hurts the people and programs in need the most. Columbia is involved in thousands of positive projects per day, and obviously these must go on. Damaging your alma mater because you do not agree with one thing is just not smart.

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Anonymous posted on

....group.....working......proposals......reform.......policies......a few eons from any action, and then probably ineffective action if it ever happened. Either this is the clearest indication of an intention to do nothing (and to let victims rot), or it is the clearest illustration of collective idiocy at Columbia University, under president Bollinger's pathetic leadership.

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Anonymous posted on

Another inacurate statement. Columbia is probably doing more and working faster than any other public or private institution.

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Anonymous posted on

Doing more and faster to address human rights issue than North Korea is. Happy?

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Your argument would be better posted on

Without the truly moronic claims you're making.

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Anonymous posted on

Yippie Kaye, MOFO

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Anonymous posted on

In this panel, where is NYPD to explain how Rape cases work? Where are lawyers to explain the importance of libel? Where is a sex counselor to explain how to really say no - like you mean it - when you have a hard penis up your vagina humping away like sex starved chimpanzees?

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Alumna posted on

Your language is crude but I can feel that it's coming from you being frustrated with the whole hysteria, injustice, and rampant false accusations, and in that sense, I agree with you. No one talks about personal responsibility of BOTH parties involved in sex act. Enough is enough. Flyers and false accusations are beyond disgusting and criminal. We should be compelling students to think about what they as individuals believe rather than hiding behind group think as so many that I see seem to be doing.

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Anonymous posted on

Hi. Like what you have to say. Language is medically descriptive.

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New Proposal posted on

Now, since they're working on a new proposal, they should consider this post-modern conundrum: Two gay women get plastered on the campus and have sex. Which one is the rapist?

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Proposal posted on

... i meant which one would be accused as rapist if something went wrong and one of them files report the following day or....two years later. Seriously, I would like our administration and students to think about it.

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Anonymous posted on

http://www.latimes.com/local/la-me-sexual-assault-legal-20140608-story.html

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Lawsuits will follow posted on

Our administration should learn from these cases. The Occidental case is more extreme than the typical due process case, because of the involvement of an anti-due process member of the Occidental faculty, D D. She counseled the accuser to file a sexual assault claim in the case, according to a confidential report prepared by Occidental and obtained by FIRE, because the accused student "fit the profile of other rapists on campus in that he had a high GPA in high school, was his class valedictorian, was on [a sports] team, and was 'from a good family.'" (Imagine the howling from the Occidental faculty if the school more generally used profiling on criminal matters.) Moreover, the accuser went to police, who, along with prosecutors, concluded that both parties had too much to drink, but no rape occurred, since both were "willing participants."

Yet Occidental branded the accused student a rapist anyway, prompting a lawsuit in which the accused student claims that the school failed to follow its own procedures, which are heavily tilted toward making a guilty finding. At Occidental, an accused student can be found guilty on a preponderance of evidence (50.01 percent threshold). He is denied the right to counsel in the proceedings; can't see the evidence against him compiled by the college "investigator" until 48 hours before the hearing; has a limited right to direct cross-examination; and functions in a process in which, according to the college's own guidelines terms like "innocence" and "burdens of proof" are "not applicable." mindingthecampus.com

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Anonymous posted on

http://www.latimes.com/local/la-me-sexual-assault-legal-20140608-story.html

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I wish posted on

more falsely accused guys would come forward - but many just want to go on with their lives. False accusers and those who perpetuate the false story of "RAPE CULTURE" on campus, will, eventually, get what they deserve. Let's hope

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everyone should be very cautious posted on

There are way too many false accusations and blurred lines that universities are trying (but should leave it to the police) to define. here is a case that sound very similar http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/06/08/exclusive-brown-university-student-speaks-out-on-what-it-s-like-to-be-accused-of-rape.html

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Anonymous posted on

Buy students sex toys: female students vibrators, male students fleshlights. Ban interaction between the two until this issue is worked out.

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