Yes means yes

According to a 2014 statistic compilation by Business Insider, 19 percent of college students were survivors of attempted or completed sexual assault.  That same year, nearly 60 American universities and colleges were under investigation for violating sexual assault policy.

Since then, universities have been pushing for improved sexual assault policy on campus.  With these policy changes comes the idea of affirmative consent.  

In 2014, California lawmakers introduced new legislation called “yes means yes” on college campuses.  The “yes means yes” bill comments on this idea of affirmative consent in which each participant in sexual activity provides “an affirmative, unambiguous and conscious decision,” for each new development in a sexual encounter.  

The point of the this legislation is to remove any doubt of when consent has been given or when it is needed.  (Hint: consent is always needed).  

Fortunately, at Oakland, though it may not be specified, the “yes means yes” legislation is in full effect.  The 2014 Clery Act Annual Campus Safety and Security Report breaks down the definition of consent by state and federal law, and Oakland policy.  

State law defines it similarly to the “yes means yes” legislation.  Federal law takes the definition further to emphasize that a lack of consent means there is no consent regardless of a possible romantic relationship with the person.  This law also states that someone who is not conscious or competent cannot give consent.

OU policy is even more detailed in their definition by explaining that consent for one sexual activity does not imply consent for any further activity.  Additionally, someone impaired by the influence of drugs or alcohol cannot give consent.

These definitions should be no-brainers, yet the idea of sexual assault and consent is still misunderstood.  

Dr. Schwartz of the Counseling Center explains how he understands the concept consent.  

“To me, consent is two people having communication, verbal or otherwise, that is clear and recognizable by both of them,” he said.  

This sounds like a simple concept — communicate with your partner.  Communication needs to be present and clear in each step and needs to be stated with each repeated sexual encounter.  

Consent should be live and present in every healthy relationship. This will generate further prevention and understanding of sexual assault that can be encouraged beyond those in relationships.

According to an article released by the University of Michigan, “consent should not be assumed.”  The article elaborates that consent is not dependent on the way a person acts or dresses.  Consent is not dependent on whether or not the two people are in a relationship or married.

There have been far too many stories about students at various universities being assaulted at parties or gatherings because they were impaired by alcohol.  There have been far too many stories of people engaging in sexual activity with which they did not feel comfortable because they were afraid to break the mood.

At Oakland, we are fortunate enough to have resources like the Counseling Center offering workshops on assault and healthy dating practices, as well as Student Congress heading an “It’s On Us” campaign.  

These resources will only go as far as we take them. It is our responsibility to understand and educate ourselves on affirmative consent and sexual assault.  It is our responsibility to make campus and the greater community a safe and caring environment for one another.  It is our responsibility to understand that yes means yes beyond no means no.