Rape and Indecent Assault and Battery

According to Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 265, Section 22, rape is defined as follows:

Having sexual intercourse or unnatural sexual intercourse with a person and compelling such person to submit by force and against his/her will, or compelling such person to submit by threat of bodily injury….

Rape may occur between people who know each other and between people who have previously had consensual sexual relations. Also, under Massachusetts law, both men and women may be the victims or the perpetrators of rape. If a perpetrator intentionally has physical contact of a sexual nature with the victim without the victim’s consent, the perpetrator can be charged with the crime of indecent assault and battery. Such contact may include touching a woman’s breasts or buttocks, or touching the pubic area of a man or woman. Indecent assault and battery is a felony that may be punishable by up to five years imprisonment.

If you are uncertain as to whether a situation constitutes a rape or indecent assault and battery, please consult with either the HUPD, the Office of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (OSAPR), Harvard University Health Services (HUHS), your Resident Dean, a designated Sexual Assault/Sexual Harassment (SASH) Adviser, or other helping resource to get information and support and to determine whether a crime has been committed.

Massachusetts General Laws and University policy seek to protect victims of rape, sexual assault, and other sex offenses, and they encourage the reporting of such crimes to responsible University officials. These officials include HUPD, OSAPR counselors, HUHS counselors, SASH Advisers, your Resident Dean, or any other University counselor. Reporting the incident to local police is also an option, and assistance is available in notifying these authorities.

If you have been the victim of a rape or indecent assault and battery, the HUPD strongly recommends one of the following:

Getting Help

Students will find their resident Deans, the College Dean’s office, and the Office of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (OSAPR) helpful and supportive. These offices will provide assistance in changing academic and living arrangements in response to the incident if appropriate. You are strongly encouraged to report instances of rape or indecent assault and battery to these or other University officials. The Office of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response and schools within the University offer a variety of written materials, workshops, and other activities to promote awareness of the seriousness of sexual offenses, including rape, acquaintance rape, and indecent assault and battery. For more information on OSAPR and the resources offered please call (49) 5–9100 or visit www.fas.harvard.edu/~osapr/.

Options for Further Action


As a victim of rape or indecent assault and battery, you may want your assailant identified, apprehended and prosecuted in court. If you choose to proceed in this manner, notify HUPD immediately for assistance and guidance.


You may also choose not to prosecute your assailant. There is no law in Massachusetts requiring a rape victim to prosecute.

Disciplinary Procedures

If the alleged offender is a Harvard affiliate, you may report the incident to a University officer to file a complaint against the perpetrator under the applicable Harvard disciplinary procedure. The Dean’s Office, Office for Student Affairs, or Human Resources Office in your school or department can provide advice. You may initiate a disciplinary process whether or not you seek to prosecute.

Reported rape and other sexual misconduct by students, faculty, or staff are grounds for initiating disciplinary procedures. Since these procedures vary among schools and administrative departments, you should consult the Dean’s office in your school or the appropriate administrative office in your school or department for information on applicable processes.

The accuser and accused are entitled to the same opportunities to have others present during a disciplinary proceeding. University-imposed sanctions for rape, sexual assault, or other sex offenses will vary depending on the nature and severity of the offense, and may include penalties up to termination of student status or Harvard employment. Both the accuser and the accused shall be informed of the outcome of any institutional disciplinary proceeding brought alleging a sex offense.

Resources for Advice and Counseling

The University and various social service providers in Cambridge and Boston offer a range of counseling and support services for victims of rape and indecent assault and battery. If you choose not to take advantage of these resources immediately, at the very least you should find a friend, counselor, or other support person to comfort you and to help you deal with the experience. That person should be with you throughout the crisis situation and follow-up, and should help you regain a sense of control over events.

Harvard Resources

The staffs at HUPD and HUHS are well trained to aid students, faculty, and staff who are victims of rape or sexual assault. In addition, each school has administrative officers and counselors available to help. These individuals can be identified through the office for student affairs in each school, or through the Harvard College Dean’s Office. Other on-campus resources include:

External Resources: