Opinion: Kent State needs Affirmative Consent

Bobbie Szabo

Kent State’s current consent policy can be summarized colloquially as “No means no,” but it needs to be “Yes means yes.”

The distinction is important.

The exact phrasing of the current policy is as follows: “Consent is defined as the voluntary, unambiguous agreement to participate in an act, the nature of which is known to and understood by the consenter. Consent may be given verbally or non-verbally and may be withdrawn at any time before completion of the act.”

The Affirmative Consent Campaign, founded by a team of KSU students, has proposed a revised policy: “Consent is ​an action defined as the voluntary, unambiguous​ and uncoerced ​agreement to​ participate in an act, the nature ​and full extent of which is understood by ​all parties. Silence​ or lack of resistance cannot be the sole factor in determining consent. Consent may be​ given verbally or nonverbally. All parties are responsible for confirming that their​ counterpart(s) consent is maintained throughout the act and is present before engaging in a new act.

The first policy does not fully cover the scope of sexual assault. Based on the wording, an individual who is sexually victimized by an aggressor and who does not actively say “no” or fight back against said aggressor may not be protected; this is corrected in the proposed policy by specifically and explicitly stating an individual need not vocally or physically protest the assault in order to be protected.

The original policy also suggests consent is one-sided — “understood by the consenter” — rather than something which needs to be attained by and from all parties involved in the acts. The proposed policy corrects the original language by putting responsibility on all involved parties.

Kent students need and deserve a consent policy that covers all forms of sexual assault. Kent students also need to be educated on consent, which is quite clearly not happening yet.

Although Kent does have amazing programs like Green Dot bystander training and intimate partner violence escalation workshops through the Office of Sexual and Relationship Violence Support Services (SRVSS), they are not utilized widely enough to be effective in changing our campus culture. In order to educate students, we must update our consent policy and require every member of our community to take advantage of the SRVSS Office.

I am a survivor, but I did not know I had been sexually assaulted until several years afterward. I did not fight back against my aggressor, and I had no clue that what had happened to me constituted sexual assault.

I do not want other students to go through what I went through.

Students have a right to their bodily autonomy, whether they are able to react in a situation in which it is breached or not, and it is high time our university recognizes that as well.

Knowing the definition of consent and knowing that my university had my back would have made a world of difference for me. I know it will make a world of difference for someone else.

Bobbie Szabo is a columnist, contact her at [email protected].