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“Yes means yes” is the new “No means no”

“No means no” has been used as a slogan for many anti-rape campaigns worldwide. But several US advocacy groups say this advice does not go far enough. Instead, they’re now arguing for a new slogan – “Yes means yes” – to serve as a model to inform universities policies on sexual assault.

The state of California recently passed a Bill requiring universities to adopt sexual assault policies that recognise consent as “”an affirmative, conscious and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity”.

Although non-verbal cues are seen as acceptable, according to the Bill, silence or a lack of protest can not be accepted as consent; consent also can not be given if the person is “drunk, drugged, unconscious or asleep”.

It’s believed the “Yes means yes” approach could help make campuses safer and enable universities to deal more decisively with claims of sexual misconduct.

An alarming report last year showed that one in five American women is assaulted by the time she graduates, and the White House delegated a special task force chaired by the Vice President Joe Biden to address sexual violence on campuses.

“Verbal consent is best: easier to avoid the ‘he said, she said’ college administrators try to make rape cases out to be,” said Sofie Karasek, a senior at the University of California at Berkeley and co-founder of End Rape on Campus.

The approach is not without its detractors however. Some have argued that government should not be allowed to “dictate how people should behave in sexual encounters” while others say the Bill is “overreaching and sends universities into murky, unfamiliar legal waters”.

In the past few months, several students from prestigious American universities including Dartmouth, Columbia and Berkley, have filed federal complaints against the universities they’ve accused of mishandling sexual misconduct cases.

Columbia University student Emma Sulkowicz said she joined a federal complaint after being harassed by police and ignored by school administrators when she reported the student who raped her. (The student, who faced similar charges from two other women, continues to attend the university.) Sulkowicz and others have complained that those found guilty of sexual misconduct by university administrators are seldom expelled, and usually suffer little more than a semester long suspension, after which they’re free to return to the same campus and classes as their victims.

Read more here.

– Image via Ashleigh Morris

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