Students Wary of New Sexual Assault Law in Face of Increased Reports

Christine Lee

New York State colleges have seen a spike in sexual assault reports after the state adopted its new “Yes Means Yes” affirmative consent law in 2014. In fact, the number of universities under federal investigation for sexual violence has increased from four to 25 in the last two years. As of July of 2015, the NYU School of Medicine and NYU Tandon School of Engineering remain under investigation for mishandling sexual assault cases by the Department of Education.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the law into action, mandating that the state’s private colleges and universities teach incoming freshman about sexual assault and the definition of consent.  

New York is one of the three states — along with California and Michigan — that have passed these new consent laws. The law requires a clear, affirmative agreement between partners. By stating the consent, it creates a victim’s bill of rights and boosts training for law enforcement, faculty and students.

However, students expressed concern that the new policy is ambiguous and makes it more difficult for those accused of sexual assault to defend themselves. While the legislation may have caused confusion among college campuses, experts say the increase in sexual assault reports reflect an increase in reporting incidents rather than a vague policy.

In many situations, sexual misconduct incidents occur when students do not give or obtain affirmative consent when engaging in sexual interaction. The affirmative consent is defined as a knowing, voluntary and mutual decision among all participants to engage in sexual activity. Affirmative consent can be given by words or actions, as long as those words or actions create clear permission regarding willingness to engage in the sexual activity.

Zoe Ragouzeos, the assistant vice president of student mental health and director of counseling and wellness service, emphasized the importance of knowing the correct terminology in discussing sexual contact.

“Sexual contact includes but is not limited to: sexual intercourse (anal, oral or vaginal), including penetration with a body part (e.g., penis, finger, hand or tongue) or an object, however slight,” Ragouzeos said. “Or sexual touching (fondling) or intentional contact with the breasts, buttocks, groin, or genitals.”

Some universities, including NYU, continue to take additional steps to inform students about the policy change and encourage them to speak up in event of a sexual assault. NYU Resource Center Executive Director David Vogelsang said the university implements programs such as Action Zone Bystander Training to educate students on their sexual rights.

“The Student Resource Center provides programming for students throughout the year,” Vogelsang said. “We partner with colleagues/experts in Wellness to promote resources and services available to students during Welcome Week, promote the Reality Show each semester to new and returning students, promote NYU’s Sexual Respect Campaign to both students and parents, and provide training to our student leaders about policies, expectations and support that is available.”

 

Email Christine Lee at [email protected]

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5 COMMENTS

  1. Universities and colleges universally are starting to use the app, YES to SEX, as a step-by-step verbal safe sex consent. This app is the answer to “HOW do we do this consent thing?” It covers consent facts, protection to be used or not, and oral agreements with safe words to use later – if necessary. For those that are more private and do not like to give out any personal searchable information on the internet, not even a sign-up is requested here. There is just an untraceable over the internet voice recording encrypted and saved, along with users’ app decisions. As these files remain inaccessible and unchangeable, each one could serve as a back-up or clarification to the “he said – she said” sexual situations students seem to be facing daily worldwide.
    Download YES to SEX on Android and iPhone devices it is even free to use – so everyone can use it in the heat of the moment, when they need it the most.

  2. I don’t believe Michigan has passed any such Yes means Yes law. You should double-check this. I know there was a bill being considered that requires teaching Yes means Yes as the standard of consent–but only in high schools. And only teaching, not enforcing. Please don’t hold Michigan up as a leader in the field when they are nowhere near New York or California in terms of their legal requirements.

  3. Sex is not worth begging for. Marriage, committed relationships are far more risk and loss then any worthy gain as it already stands. Well, outta get rid of the “players” and ex cons anyway. Unfortunately a few younger perhaps naive males will go down too. For the rest MGTOW, or beg and hope you don’t land in prison some day over it.

  4. “In many situations, sexual misconduct incidents occur when students do not give or obtain affirmative consent when engaging in sexual interaction.”

    Is there any record of any female student being prosecuted for rape under this law for not even asking about her partner’s consent or lack of it?

  5. Split the facts like hairs any way you like, but this is the first step in the removal of presumption of innocence and due process for men by women.

    I don’t know why so many people don’t seem to get this part, but affirmative consent means guilty until proven innocent. If you didn’t record the entire sex act, then you’ll have no way to prove that consent was given at every stage or that consent wasn’t removed at some point. This gives women carte blanche to have men expelled that piss them off and to eventually put them in prison once the law works its way into criminal prosecution.

    It also opens men up to enormous civil suits – paving the way to huge transfers of wealth from men to women.

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