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Hugs, neck rubs could be 'sexual battery,' says East Carolina University

Are you a hugger? Do you sometimes give neck rubs to friends or acquaintances just out of friendliness?

Well now you could be accused for sexual battery and expelled at East Carolina University.

All it takes is for one person who is scared from the sexual assault portion of orientation or who has friends with certain ideologies to ruin one's life at ECU, thanks to a new policy recently adopted for the new semester going forward.

Sexual battery has been redefined 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."

Any contact, "however slight," is considered sexual battery. Of course, it's the accuser who decides whether it is sexual battery, and with the current pressure on colleges and universities to capitulate to accusers in the name of political correctness, any friendly contact is subject to an investigation.

Matt Lamb, a graduate student at the University of Nebraska-Omaha, wrote in the College Fix that the school described the new policy in a tweet and a press release sent out the same day as winter commencement. Lamb also pointed out that the press release is nowhere to be found on the school's news website.

The policy announcement can be found on the school's homepage, where it was posted two days after the new policies were approved by the school's chancellor.

In response to a Washington Examiner inquiry, ECU's executive director of communications, Mary Schulken, said the school plans to do more in the coming weeks to inform students about the new policies.

"Now we are targeting students as they return from the holiday break with emails and 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," Schulken said.

She also said the new policies would be shared through social media and that they were "evaluating additional educational outreach as well."

The new policy falls under the school's Title IX responsibilities. Title IX is a federal statute that prevents discrimination on the basis of sex, and has been used in recent years to force schools to adjudicate sex-based crimes as a pseudo-court system.

The school's 2015 Clery Report, which includes data about college crimes occurring in 2014, showed only four reports of nonconsensual "fondling" occurring at the school. The report does not include the outcomes of those reports (whether the accused was found responsible or not) or the nature of the reports, so it is unclear whether any of the "fondling" included an unsolicited neck rub.

Asked what prompted such a broad change in policy for what appears to be a nonexistent problem, Schulken said the school "continually evaluates its policies and procedures in this area to ensure compliance with state and federal regulations as well as emerging best practices."

The Examiner could find no new laws or regulations passed in North Carolina that would expand the definition of sexual battery in the way adopted by ECU; however, other schools in the state have adopted an "affirmative consent" policy when it comes to how students engage in sexual activity.

Affirmative consent — or "yes means yes" — policies dictate that students must ask for verbal permission (some policies allow nonverbal communication, but because of the ambiguity its reliance is frowned upon) at every level of sexual activity. It basically turns sex into a question-and-answer-session that doesn't apply to anyone making an accusation. Only accused students are held to the standard, and because the only way to prove one obtained such consent is through video recording, accused students are put at a significant disadvantage.

Consent is also negated if the accuser has been drinking. Most affirmative consent policies say the accuser must be "incapacitated," yet schools haven't been investigating just how intoxicated an accuser really is, relying only on their word. This makes any level of intoxication subject to an accusation. Oh, and accused student's level of intoxication doesn't matter, even if that means he also was unable to consent.

One judge in Tennessee scolded the policies, saying they unfairly shift the burden of proof onto accused students and provide no way for them to defend themselves.

Even though the policies are gender-neutral and suggest that both partners must obtain ongoing consent, no school has punished an accuser for failing to obtain consent. It is also unlikely such an instance will ever occur, given the nation-wide focus on believing accusers.

The Examiner also asked Schulken if she could foresee any negative consequences — say, students being investigated for an innocent hug or neck rub — from broadening the definition in this way. She reiterated the importance of consent.

"Each case is evaluated on the facts presented. The key aspects of the definition are the presence of consent and the sexual nature of the contact," Schulken said. "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."

ECU students, take note.

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