Light & Verity

Questions raised over sexual misconduct report

What is "nonconsensual sex," and why does it sometimes merit only a reprimand?

On July 31, when the university released its fourth semiannual report describing the outcomes of sexual misconduct complaints brought to Yale officials, controversy arose immediately over six cases of “nonconsensual sex.” The cases, all involving Yale College students, had been resolved with penalties ranging from a “written reprimand” to a two-semester suspension. (Descriptions in the reports are very brief, and no names are released.)

Critics said that “nonconsensual sex” means rape, and accused Yale of “trivializ[ing] violence” and showing “administrative tolerance for rape,” as Alexandra Brodsky ’12, ’16JD, put it on Twitter. University officials, though unable to comment on the specifics of the cases in question, replied that Yale refers all cases of sexual assault to the Yale Police, but that the University-Wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct considers and imposes penalties in many cases that might not meet a criminal standard.

In an e-mail to the Yale community, President Peter Salovey ’86PhD said that the wishes of the complainant and the difficulty, in many cases, of establishing the facts about consent are contributing factors in the outcome of complaints. He acknowledged the questions raised about the phrase “nonconsensual sex” and said that in order to clarify, the university would post on a university website “a series of scenarios… to illustrate circumstances that might be considered nonconsensual and their bearing on potential penalties.” The information was expected to be available at by the beginning of September.

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