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Student Sexual Misconduct and Relationship Abuse Policy

Our University Principles make clear that we do not tolerate sexual misconduct and relationship abuse or violence. (Principle 3). They also make clear that we are committed to providing a campus environment in which all members of our community feel safe and are respected.

We are committed to preventing and eliminating all forms of sexual misconduct and relationship abuse.

We recognise the significant negative effects that experiencing sexual misconduct and relationship abuse can have upon individuals, and we will support them, as well as supporting those members of the University community (peers, personal tutors, etc.) to whom such experiences are disclosed.

We are committed to providing a supportive and confidential environment where individuals feel confident and empowered to disclose, will be listened to and understand the options available to them.

We will support everyone in our community to challenge inappropriate behaviour where it is safe for them to do so.

1. The purpose of this policy

The purpose of this policy is to outline how we will:

  • provide a campus environment in which all members of our community feel safe and are respected.
  • set out our expectations around the unacceptability of sexual misconduct and relationship abuse.
  • support students who have experienced any form of sexual misconduct.
  • respond appropriately and effectively to disclosed incidents which breach this policy.

2. The definitions we use

For the purposes of this policy, we will use the term “sexual misconduct” and “relationship abuse”, as defined below. It should be noted that there are links and overlap between relationship abuse and the continuum of sexual misconduct.

(2.1) Sexual Misconduct

Sexual Misconduct covers a broad range of inappropriate and unwanted behaviours of a sexual nature. It covers all forms of sexual violence, including penetration without consent, sexual abuse (including online and image-based abuse), non-consensual sexual touching, sexual harassment (unwanted behaviour of a sexual nature which violates your dignity; makes you feel intimidated, degraded or humiliated or creates a hostile or offensive environment), stalking, abusive or degrading remarks of a sexual nature, and a vast range of other behaviours.

(2.2) Consent

Consent is the agreement to participate in a sexual act where the individual has both the freedom and capacity to make that decision. Consent cannot be assumed on the basis of a previous sexual experience or previously given consent, and consent may be withdrawn at any time.

Freedom to consent: For consent to be present, the individual has to freely engage in a sexual act. Consent is not present when submission by an unwilling participant results from the exploitation of power, deception, coercion, pressure or force, regardless of whether there is verbal or physical resistance.

  • Coercion or Force includes any physical or emotional harm or threat of physical or emotional harm which would reasonably place an individual in fear of immediate or future harm, with the result that the individual feels compelled to engage in a sexual act.

Capacity to consent: Free consent cannot be given if the individual does not have the capacity to give consent. Incapacitation occurs when an individual is asleep, unconscious, semi-conscious, or in a state of intermittent consciousness, or any other state of unawareness that a sexual act may be occurring. Incapacitation may also occur on account of a mental or developmental disability, or as the result of alcohol or drug use.

  • Alcohol and/or Drug Use: Incapacitation arising from alcohol or drug consumption should be evaluated on the basis of how the alcohol/drugs have affected the individual; signs of incapacitation may include, but are not limited to, one or more of the following: slurred speech, unsteady gait, bloodshot eyes, dilated pupils, unusual behaviour, blacking out, a lack of full control over physical movements, a lack of awareness of circumstances or surroundings, and/or an inability to communicate effectively. Intoxication is never a defence for committing an act of Sexual Violence and Misconduct, or for failing to obtain consent. If there is any doubt as to the level or extent of one’s own or the other individual’s incapacitation, the safest approach is to not engage in a sexual act.

(2.3) Relationship Abuse

Relationship abuse can be any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening behaviour and/or violence between those aged 16 or over, who are, or have been in a personal relationship with the individual abusing them, regardless of gender or sexuality.

It covers all forms of domestic and relationship abuse including:

  • Psychological
  • Physical
  • Financial
  • Emotional
  • Stalking (online and in person)
  • Digital and online
  • “Honour”-based abuse (including forced marriage) and Female Genital Mutilation

People who are “personally connected” include:

  • Partners
  • Former partners
  • Family members
  • Individuals who share parental responsibility for a child

There is no requirement for the person being abused and the person abusing them to live in the same household.

(2.4) Controlling Behaviour

Controlling behaviour is an act or range of acts designed to make someone subordinate and dependent by controlling their sources of support, finances, movements, health, body, means needed for independence, resistance and escape.

(2.5) Coercive Behaviour

Coercive behaviour is an act or pattern of acts which make someone feel dependent, isolated, punished, or frightened. Examples include isolating someone from their family or friends, monitoring someone’s activities or movements and threatening to harm someone.

(2.6) Stalking

Stalking is a specific type of harassment which involves a pattern of unwanted, fixated, or obsessive behaviour that is intrusive and causes fear or distress. Stalking can occur both online and in person.

(2.7) “Honour”-based abuse (including forced marriage) and Female Genital Mutilation

An incident involving violence, threats of violence or harm, intimidation, coercion, or abuse (including psychological, physical, sexual, financial, or emotional abuse) which has or may have been committed to protect or defend the honour of an individual, family and/or community for alleged or perceived breaches of the family and/or community’s code of behaviour.

(2.8) Disclosure

Disclosure means that an individual tells a member of the University community that they have experienced Sexual Misconduct and/or Relationship Abuse (this is different from a formal Complaint).

(2.9) Formal Complaint

Submitting a formal complaint to the University regarding an individual’s experience of Sexual Misconduct and/or Relationship Abuse is an instruction for the University to take appropriate action. The complaint will allow the University to investigate the misconduct as set out in this Policy and the accompanying processes.

(2.10) Student/Staff Liaison Officer (SLO)

An SLO is a specially trained advisor in the university’s Report and Support Team for anyone who has experienced or been affected by sexual misconduct and/or relationship abuse. They offer confidential support and signposting to student, staff and visitors who disclose via the University of Warwick’s Report and Support platform.

(2.11) Sexual and Domestic Abuse Advisor (SDAA)

The Sexual and Domestic Abuse Advisor (SDAA) is a point of contact in the University’s Wellbeing Team for anyone who has experienced or been affected by sexual misconduct and/or relationship abuse. They offer confidential, emotional support and advocacy.

(2.12) Reporting Party

The Reporting Party is the person(s) who has made a formal Complaint regarding an experience of sexual misconduct.

(2.13) Responding Party

The Responding Party is the person(s) named in a formal Complaint who is alleged to have committed an act of sexual misconduct.

3. Who is covered by this policy

This policy covers all students of the University of Warwick including students with visiting student status, distance learners and those undertaking Degree Apprenticeships.

It will apply to sexual misconduct and/or relationship abuse which:

  • occurs on or off University property and/or land;
  • occurs whilst a student is engaged in any University or Students' Union related activity (including placements and trips);
  • occurs via electronic means including, but not limited to: internet, email, social media sites, chat rooms, text messages and instant messaging;
  • results in a legal or police investigation, charge or conviction of an offence;
  • raises questions about the fitness of the student on a fitness to practice programme; or
  • in the view of the University poses a serious risk or disruption to the University or members of its community.

4. What we commit to do

Our Principle 3 states that we will:

  • Support anyone in our student community who is subject to any form of sexual misconduct and relationship abuse
  • Ensure that reporters are responded to in a safe, supportive and trauma-informed environment
  • Prioritise their safety and wellbeing, whilst ensuring the dignity of all those involved in any investigations or disciplinary proceedings
  • Listen to the voice of the reporter when considering sanctions.

In addition to this, we will:

  • Support all staff and students so that they understand:
    • what sexual misconduct and relationship abuse is and that it is not tolerated;
    • what consent is; and
    • when consent is, and is not, given.
  • Make clear how to disclose sexual misconduct and/or relationship abuse, in person, online and anonymously, what options are available and the support that can be provided.
  • Ensure that all relevant staff are informed of how to receive and signpost a disclosure of sexual misconduct and/or relationship abuse in a sensitive way.
  • Empower those who disclose an experience to choose which options are best for them and provide access to expert professional support via a Student/Staff Liaison Officer and/or our Sexual and Domestic Abuse Adviser (SDAA).
  • Set out all options and processes clearly and transparently. This includes the option to not make a formal complaint.
  • Ensure that all relevant staff are provided with training to enable them to support and advise a student who has experienced sexual misconduct and/or relationship abuse.
  • Respect the sensitivity of disclosures of sexual misconduct and/or relationship abuse and their consequences, and treat any disclosure confidentially, in line with our Data Protection Policy and the University’s duty of care under safeguarding.
  • Within Disciplinary Proceedings, ensure fairness to both Reporting and Responding parties.
  • Ensure that all communications are sufficiently clear and detailed, and accurately reflect any decisions made.
  • Learn from our experiences and regularly review this policy informed by data trends and with input from independent external experts to ensure it remains relevant.

5. Support Available

The following support is available for students to access:


  Process for Responding to Student Behaviour Misconduct (from 3 January 2024)

Last approved by the Senate on 26 April 2023.


Report & Support

If you, or someone you know, feels unsafe or uncomfortable about anything that has happened, we can help. We will listen to you, and ensure that you are able to make personal and informed decisions and feel supported from the outset.

You can disclose via:

If you have an experience which is not covered by these definitions, or you are unsure of the nature of your experience, we can support you.

Wellbeing Support Services

tel: 024 7657 5570, studentsupport at warwick dot ac dot uk

To access the SDAA directly, call 024 7627 7777

We understand that accessing support can sometimes be overwhelming; Wellbeing Support Services can help to navigate any of the services listed above and identify the best options to meet individual needs. tel: 024 7657 5570, studentsupport at warwick dot ac dot uk