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Sexual Consent Policies Under Review

Sexual Consent Policies Under Review

By Sara Owen, Managing EditorArt by Johnion Hunt

Changes in sexual consent policies are hot topics on many college campuses, including across the UNC System.

Recent events here have stimulated discussion of consent.

  • On Sept. 5, an email from Dr. John R. Jones, vice chancellor for student affairs, gave students general information about sexual assault and safety tips.
  • On Sept. 7, UNCP campus police alerted students by email that a sexual assault had been reported at Place Apartments next to campus.
  • On Sept. 12, another email from Dr. Jones to students defined consent.

According to the Sept. 12 email:

  • Consent is a voluntary, sober, enthusiastic, creative, wanted, informed, mutual, honest and verbal agreement.
  • Consent is an active agreement; consent cannot be coerced.
  • Consent is a process, which must be asked for every step of the way; if you want to move to the next level of sexual intimacy, just ask.
  • Consent is never implied and cannot be assumed, even in the context of a relationship. Just because you are in a relationship does not mean that you have permission to have sex with your partner.
  • A person who is intoxicated cannot legally give consent. If you’re too drunk to make decisions and communicate with your partner, you’re too drunk to consent.
  • The absence of a “no” doesn’t mean “yes.”
  • Both people should be involved in the decision to have sex.

“It is not sexy to have sex without consent,” Dr. Jones said.

Consent defined

A variety of definitions for consent appear on the websites of many institutions of higher education, including such schools as the University of Oklahoma, St. Mary’s of Maryland College, the Citadel and others.

Affirmative consent is the name for a campaign known as Only Yes Means Yes that has been making changes on college campuses in recent years.

The Citadel’s student handbook, the Blue Book, defines affirmative consent as “an affirmative decision to engage in mutually acceptable sexual activity given by clear actions or words. It is an informed decision made freely and actively by all parties who are legally able to consent.”           

The affirmative consent campaign has led to recent changes in sexual assault policy at major institutions such as UNC Chapel Hill and the University of California.

The university currently is “in the midst of assuring that our sexual assault policies are in alignment with Title IX and or the UNC System Security Initiatives,” according to Dr. Jones.

UNCP, along with the rest of the UNC system, is in the process of making policies “uniform” so students who transfer from one system school to another will know what to expect when it comes to sexual assault policy and procedure, according to Travis Bryant, associate vice chancellor for campus safety and emergency operations.

UNC Chapel Hill’s change in policy came after “some things that occurred previously at Chapel Hill,” Bryant said.

Campus SaVE

“Congress adopted the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013, a portion of which is commonly referred to as the Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act, or Campus SaVE,” according to the UNC website.

“Colleges and universities were required to be in compliance with its requirements beginning March 7, 2014.

The Campus SaVE Act requires that colleges and universities report incidents of domestic violence, dating violence and stalking in their Annual Security Reports (ASRs), in addition to incidents of sexual assault.     

UNCP’s sexual assault policy “was revised in the past year,” according to Bryant, who said it is “up to date.”

The revision came after the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was reauthorized to create new protections for LGBT victims and Native American women.

The Violence Against Women Act was first enacted in 1994 after Vice President Joe Biden, then a U.S. senator, recognized a need for more attention to the issues of domestic violence and sexual assault in the United States.

The Violence Against Women Act created rape shield laws, which protect rape victims from having their sexual history used against them during the trial.

It also is responsible for a 67 percent decline in intimate partner violence between 2003 and 2010, according to the White House fact sheet. 

Shortage of reports

Three sex offenses were reported taking place on campus in 2012 in residence halls and one in 2013, according to UNCP’s Annual Security and Fire Safety report. In 2011, one was reported to have taken place on campus in a residence hall.

Bryant said he believes students are underreporting.

“We try to encourage people to report, but they don’t always,” he said.

The counselors at Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) regularly counsel students who have been victims of sexual assault and rape and those who have been accused of sexual assault and rape, according to counselor Lauren Rodefeld.

She sees more than one student who has been a victim. They are more likely to come to CAPS than report to the police, she said.

There are many reasons for survivors of sexual assault not to report including, “shame and guilt, people don’t want to come forward. It’s embarassing, they don’t want to get the other person in trouble,” Rodefeld said.

“A lot of times, especially on a college campus, the numbers of people who know their attacker is significantly higher,” she said.

Acquaintance rape is more common on campus and “most people are assaulted in a dorm room, not outside or at the library or something like that,” she said.

UNCP has an Amnesty Clause, which protects victims and their friends from being ticketed for underage drinking, according to Rodefeld. 

Safe reporting

Some colleges still charge intoxicated underage victims for underage drinking, she said. UNCP does not ticket victims or Good Samaritans that take victims to report the assault or crime.

“At some schools they still get ticketed,” she said.

They added a Good Samaritan clause to protect friends of a victim or whoever may bring a victim to report to the campus police.        

The clause has been at UNCP for three or four years, Rodefeld said.

“Because of the shame and guilt that is so big with assault survivors they don’t want anybody to know or they will at least come in and talk to us and we have to respect that if they choose not to report,” she said.

“We have to be there to support their decisions, because with sexual assault it’s about power; it’s not necessarily about the act of sex. We want that survivor to regain that power back and have that option to choose,” she said.      

Rodefeld said she encourages people to report assaults and other crimes to

campus police, but respects their decision not to. She said it is up to them.

According to Bryant, the UNC System Board of Governors (BOG) is scheduled to meet in October and will discuss policy changes, which he believes should then be available later in the fall semester.

More information about affirmative consent can be found at: http://www.yesmeansyes.com.

The UNCP student handbook is on the UNCP website: http://www.uncp.edu/student-life/student-services/student-affairs/studen...