New York and California Fight Sexual Assault Epidemic With Affirmative Consent
New York state universities are following California’s direction in changing the college hook-up requisites from a passive yes to a direct “yes.”
By asking for “affirmative consent,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who announced reforms to the SUNY sexual assault policy last Thursday at a meeting with the board of trustees, hopes to fight off what he sees as an “epidemic of sexual violence in this country.”
“It is an epidemic and it is spreading,” said Cuomo, “It’s plaguing our college campuses, it’s astonishing, and it’s troubling.”
His actions come after an outbreak of reports of sexual assault and rape throughout New York college campuses.
In Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Anna, who withheld her last name, reported her gang rape to school authorities last year.
A school panel cleared the three accused athletes of all charges.
“Rape is a crime. This is not subject to a college campus determination or policy. It is a crime,” Cuomo said. Two of Cuomo’s three daughters are in college, and the third is nearing college age.
Of the new policy change, Meiling Li, a 19-year-old psychology major and sophomore at SUNY Stonybrook, said, “I think it’s a good thing. [Campus officials] really make it too complicated. ‘What were you wearing?’ This policy makes it easier and more straightforward.”
In California, the state auditor released a report in June that also found faculty and staff in four key universities to be lacking in sexual assault response training.
Certain university employees who are likely to be the first people students reach out to about sexual assault incidents especially needed more training.
The universities—UC Berkeley, UCLA, California State University, Chico State, and San Diego State University—were all found in need of reform.
Many students were unaware of the resources available to them and did not know enough about sexual harassment and violence, and staff needed more training.
In one case, in particular, at San Diego State, a student reported sexual harassment from another member of a university club, but the complaint went nowhere, as the faculty advisor saw the student had left the club and wouldn’t be harassed anymore.
A year later, the same person sexually harassed the student again, and this time officials investigated. The report noted that had protocol been followed, the incident would have been reported to officials sooner and further harassment would have been stopped.
At SUNY Binghamton, students last year watched this video during freshman orientation as education on consent. Many students found the euphemism amusing but not particularly effective.
California’s new bill, signed at the end of September, applies to all California colleges, public and private, that receive state funding for student financial aid.
“The state of California will not allow schools to sweep rape cases under the rug,” said California Sen. Kevin de Leon.
UC Berkeley has reportedly seen a string of sexual assault cases that happened at fraternities last weekend. Among them, Eugene Quillin, 20, was arrested last Thursday night and is being held on a $100,000 bond.
Last year, the University of Southern California allegedly hid its sexual assaults incidents by filing them under “personal injuries,” which also meant that police didn’t have to follow up on the cases.
Cuomo noted that less than five percent of rapes are reported to law enforcement.
“Because the school doesn’t want the exposure, the school doesn’t want the publicity, it’s not a positive in any situation,” explained Cuomo.
Still, the low rape reporting means a policing system that perpetrators can easily slip away from.
“Which means the perpetrator, the rapist, can go on to rape again,” said Cuomo.
The policy will be put into effect within 60 days and Cuomo hopes its effects can extend to all New York colleges in the state.
Li said that although she was a fan, she also saw the pitfalls of the new policy.
“I don’t know if it’ll be easy to enforce it. The guy could be like, “She said yes,” while the girl didn’t say that.”