A private Massachusetts university considers coercion to be a form of rape, according to its website.
A part of Clark University’s guide for sexual survivors, “A Definition of Rape, Sexual Assault and Related Terms,” breaks down consent, sexual abuse, stranger rape and heterosexism, among other things.
Coercion, as defined by the university, “is considered rape/sexual assault.”
“Coercion is the use of emotional manipulation to persuade someone to something they may not want to do — like being sexual or performing sexual acts,” the college’s website states.
“Being coerced into having sex or performing sexual acts is not consenting to having sex and is considered rape/sexual assault,” it continues.
The definition reads in full:
Coercion is the use of emotional manipulation to persuade someone to something they may not want to do — like being sexual or performing certain sexual acts. Examples of some coercive statements include: “If you love me you would have sex with me .”, “If you don’t have sex with me I will find someone who will.”, and “I’m not sure I can be with someone who doesn’t want to have sex with me.” Coercive statements are often part of many campus acquaintance rapes. Being coerced into having sex or performing sexual acts is not consenting to having sex and is considered rape/sexual assault.
In its defining of rape, the university states:
Rape and/or sexual assault is forced, manipulated, or coerced sexual contact by a stranger, friend or acquaintance. It is an act of aggression and power combined with some form of sex. A person is forced into sexual contact through verbal coercion, threats, physical restraint, and/or physical violence. Consent is not given.
In comparison, the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines rape simply as “to seize and take away by force.”
As stated in Clark University’s anti-violence program, consent “may never be obtained through the use of force, coercion or intimidation.” Consent can also not be given if a person is severely impaired or incapacitated due to the use of drugs or alcohol.
The university’s guide garnered the attention of Eugene Volokh, a UCLA School of Law professor and Washington Post columnist, who wrote in response:
So saying “If you don’t have sex with me I will find someone who will” is “coercion,” and thus means that any resulting sex is not consensual. This means that getting sex that way is “rape and/or sexual assault” (because it’s “coerced sexual contact”), and in particular may well be “acquaintance rape.”
Words fail me — though they apparently failed the Clark University Dean of Students office as well.
According to the latest crime statistics published by the university, there were two reported forcible sexual offenses that occurred on campus in 2012. Three were reported in 2011, and five were reported in 2010.
No non-forcible sexual offenses were reported in any of those years.
As the RAINN, the nation’s largest anti-sexual assault organization points out, women ages 18-24 face an elevated risk of sexual assault.
It estimates that 11.2 percent of all students, graduate and undergraduate, experience rape or sexual assault by physical force, violence or incapacitation.
RAINN also notes that female college students are 20 percent less likely than non-students of the same age to be a victim or rape or sexual assault.