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.