Biden gets sexual violence on campus right (Now it’s your turn)

6 Apr

“No means no, if you’re drunk or you’re sober. No means no if you’re in bed, in a dorm or on the street. No means no even if you said yes at first and you changed your mind. No means No.”

These aren’t the words people often associate with members of the male sex, never mind vice presidents of the United States. But that’s exactly what VP Joe Biden said in a speech yesterday at the University of New Hampshire, when he announced federal guidelines that will change the way colleges and universities respond to sexual violence.

An often overlooked issue on college campuses, sexual violence towards women is a growing problem that universities would rather sweep under the rug than deal with. At my alma mater, GWU, there were 9 cases of sex offense in 2009 reported on campus property. Of course, the real number is probably much greater, since so many cases go unreported.

But the biggest problem isn’t the underreporting of assaults. It’s the lack of education about sexual assault or even something as basic as consent. As the Sexual Assault Crisis Consultation Team at GW’s website states,

Consent requires actual words or conduct indicating a freely-given agreement to have sexual intercourse, or to participate in sexual activities.

A person must be fully conscious and able to understand what is happening to be able to give consent. Someone who is unconscious, sleeping, passed out, or incapacitated by alcohol/drugs is unable to give consent.

Consent is an ongoing process, not a one-time event. Make sure your partner is comfortable at every step of the way. If you are unsure if you have your partner’s consent, ASK! Even if you may feel embarrassed, ASK! In a healthy and respectful sexual encounter your partner will appreciate that you respect their safety and their body.

Silence is not consent. Consent is not the absence of a “no”, rather the presence of a “yes”. Non-responsiveness is also not consent. Just because a person does not fight back, does not mean they have given consent. If your partner is not participating, or not responding to your actions, you do not have consent. Stop and Ask whether you have your partner’s consent. Communication tips

Neither the type of relationship (dating, intimate, married, or living together) nor the length of relationship (1 minute, 1 date, 1 year) is consent to sexual activity. You must have your partner’s consent for every sexual encounter.”

More people need to listen to the advice of Joe Biden (not this advice) but this: it’s time we start to get serious about sexual assault. We need to educate students as they enter college, and enforce harsher consequences for those that commit acts of sexual violence. Universities need to welcome women and men who report these crimes when they happen, not push them away or punish them. Fraternities and sororities need to condemn any and all misogynist ranting and shun groups that participate in these activities. It will be a long road but Biden and the government have taken a crucial first step. Let’s follow them.

This post is brought to you by Salvatore, who is an almost-feminist.


5 Responses to “Biden gets sexual violence on campus right (Now it’s your turn)”

  1. Tara April 6, 2011 at 6:28 pm #

    This discussion around consent is such an important discussion to have in all spheres of life – I think its GREAT that Joe Biden chose to address this, especially during Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Its great that schools are laying out language in their student handbooks, policies, blah blah blah. But this conversation really needs to be happening between parents and children, between friends, and especially between partners.

    I like Jaclyn Friedman’s philosophy on “enthusiastic consent” –

  2. Brianna April 6, 2011 at 7:06 pm #

    Nice post, Sally!

    I wish more schools approached sexual assault like my Alma Mater, Bucknell did. Ill preface my explanation with this: There were absolutely still too many cases of assault, and as EIC of the school newspaper, I sadly found that getting statistics on those assaults was like pulling teeth.

    However, Bucknell inundated us with stickers (in every for room!) with support lines for men and women. And every bathroom stall had a piece of paper explaining what “consent” really means.

    The greatest part in awareness actually came out of the long tradition of misbehavior within the Greek system. (Note that over half of Bucknell’s uperclassmen are Greek, including myself.)The administration was on the brink of eliminating the system all together, but in order to save it, they enacted the “Plan for Prominence”. The Plan required every Greek organization at the University to attend speaking events, some regarding tolerance, some about career planning, and always some about sexual assault.

    Of course, many of us in the Greek system may have texted or did homework through these presentations. But since we had “P4P” requirements for every semester, some of it actually sunk in.

    Maybe I got lucky with the frat guys that I hooked up with, but I realized that most of them verbally asked for my consent. And i always asked for theirs. More than once. It seems such a small gesture, but it’s so important.

    Contrast that against the fact that I’ve definitely encountered men who didn’t realize that you could take back your consent. I’ve gotten beer poured on me because of that, pinned down because of it, and pushed because of it. While Bucknell didn’t shelter me from those experiences, I think the most important thing is that I realized that what they were doing was wrong.

    Too many of my friends have endured far worse than me, but just think, “Ah, they’re just guys. Its just how they act.” I think that educating college women about sexual assault/consent is just as important (if not more important) than telling guys to avoid being entitled douchebag sexual predators. At least now, I know what rights I have and how the law will back me if something terrible happens.

  3. Jaime VanEnkevort April 6, 2011 at 11:51 pm #

    Agreed. Education’s the first step – whether it happens in the family, with friends, or in school. Discussion definitely needs to happen earlier – the stats for high school are scary.


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