Trinity College students demands the word “and”

WHITNEY GULDEN ’16

CONTRIBUTING WRITER

Isn’t it a great thing to ask for something and get it? This is the idea behind affirmative, or verbal, consent.

As it reads right now, Trinity College’s new interim sexual misconduct policy states, “Effective consent is informed, freely and actively given, mutually understandable words or actions that indicate a willingness to participate in mutually agreed upon activity.”

Yes, there are plent of good things in this sentence.  We have come a long way from where we were.

The next sentence is even better: “It is the responsibility of the initiator to obtain clear and affirmative responses at each stage of sexual involvement.”

But does anyone else see the problem with that first sentence? It’s only one word which has a group of students legitimately concerned for the future of our school: “Or.” “Words OR actions.” Why not “words AND actions?”

Trinity College, are you saying that someone does not have to verbally ask for consent? Are you trying to legally protect yourselves rather than students? Because, according to this one sentence, you don’t have to ask for something (namely, SEX) in order to get it. Goodbye, chivalry; goodbye, manners. I don’t feel safe, do you?

This one word gives future sexual assailants the ability to say in an adjudication hearing “Oh, I didn’t ask for consent. But they didn’t say no and I thought they were into it by their actions. I thought she wanted it.” Or, “I asked for consent and she said nothing, and I figured that since she had been into it up to that point she wanted to go further.”.

One of the first things students learn in Trinity’s bystander intervention training, or most other training and education on the subjects of sexual assault and consent is that people freeze, and frequently are not able to say “no”.

So, if you freeze and your partner doesn’t ask if this is what you want, they can infer your “consent” through your “actions” (and silence).

Some people need a reminder that our policy says: “A lack of verbal or physical resistance does not necessarily indicate consent.”This is misconduct; this is assault; this leads to rape. And under the interim, soon to be new, sexual misconduct policy, this is acceptable at Trinity College. And it is not going to be changed.

On Friday, two deans sat down in Laura Lockwood’s office to discuss changes to the policy with a very concerned group of women.

Several of the women, myself included, are on President Berger- Sweeney’s own Campaign for Community’s Rape and Sexual Misconduct Student Working group.

The hour and a half discussion was dominated by this debate of “or” versus “and.”

Despite this meeting, we were informed that the administrative group had no intention of changing the word from “or” to “and.”

This group of administrators (a group of no students and one acting attorney) refuses to act upon concerns of students and change a single word in a policy which would help protect every single sexually active person on the Trinity campus.

The argument we are up against is summed up as this: human interactions do not always involve words.

Perhaps, if we were not dealing with hormone-crazed, frequently alcohol-saturated college students, this would be a fair expectation.

Even still there are whole states in America that are adopting “yes means yes” and affirmative consent policies. The reasoning behind the change in these policies is simple: preventing sexual assault and misconduct.

Verbal consent is an essential, sadly very overlooked and neglected part of sexual relations. It is essential that Trinity writes into the sexual misconduct policy that verbal consent is a necessary part of consent in no uncertain terms by using “and” rather than “or.”

Many will ask, why such a fuss? It’s just one word: this policy is good in so many other ways.

At the end of the day, we are Trinity College. We are a step above the rest of the country and we should be setting a higher standard for ourselves, even in bed.

Instead, the message being sent is that the administrators do not get it, that they are not listening.

If Trinity really wants to make an effort to prevent sexual assault and misconduct, protect students (and faculty), and educate students about what consent really is, then all they have to do is change a single word. This isn’t just for the current and future victims of sexual assault on this campus.

This is for the first-year man who doesn’t know how to ask. This is for the senior woman who doesn’t know how to say no. This is so the men and women on our campus can have healthier, happier, and more consensual relations with each other.

If you want Trinity to require affirmative consent in the new misconduct policy by changing ‘or’ to ‘and,’ come to Campaign for Community’s TrinColl2Action on Saturday, November 7th in Vernon Social from 2pm-5pm and sign the “We Demand ‘And’” petition at the Rape and Sexual Misconduct student working group booth.

Why not “words AND actions”?

Trinity College, are you saying that someone does not have to verbally ask for our consent?

Are you trying to legally protect yourselves rather than students?

Because according to this one sentence, you don’t have to ask for something (namely, SEX) in order to get it.

Goodbye, chivalry; goodbye, manners. I don’t feel safe, do you?

This one word gives future sexual assailants the ability to say in an adjudication hearing “Oh, I didn’t ask for consent.

But they didn’t say no and I thought they were into it by their actions. I thought she wanted it.”

Or, “I asked for consent and she said nothing, and I figured that since she had been into it up to that point she wanted to go further.”

One of the first things students learn in Trinity’s bystander intervention training, or most other trainings and educations on the subjects of sexual assault and consent is that people freeze, and frequently are not able to say “no”.

So, if you freeze and your partner doesn’t ask if this is what you want, they may infer your ‘consent’ through your “actions” (and silence).

Some people may need reminder that our policy says: A lack of verbal or physical resistance does not necessarily indicate consent.

This is misconduct; this is assault; this leads to rape. And under the interim, soon to be new, sexual misconduct policy, this is acceptable at Trinity College. And it is not going to be changed.

On Friday, October 30th, two deans sat down in Laura Lockwood’s office to discuss changes to the policy to with a very concerned group of women.

Several of the women, myself included, are on President Burger- Sweeney’s own Campaign for Community’s Rape and Sexual Misconduct Student Working group.

The hour and a half discussion was dominated by this discussion over “or” versus “and”.

Despite this meeting, we were informed that the administrative group had no intention of changing the word from “or” to “and.”

This group of administrators (a group with no students and one acting attorney refuses to act upon concerns of students and change a single word in a policy which would help protect every single sexually active person on the Trinity campus.

The argument we are up against is summed up as this: human interactions do not always involve words.

Perhaps, if we were not dealing with hormone-crazed, frequently alcohol-saturated college students this would be a fair expectation.

Even still, there are whole states in America that are adopting “yes means yes” and affirmative consent policies.

The reasoning behind the change in these policies is simple: preventing sexual assault and misconduct.

Verbal consent is an essential, sadly very overlooked and neglected part of sexual relations.

It is essential that Trinity writes into the sexual misconduct policy that verbal consent is a necessary part of consent in no uncertain terms by using “and” rather than “or”.

Many will ask, why such a fuss? It’s just one word, this policy is good in so many other ways.

At the end of the day, we are Trinity College.

We are a step above the rest of the country and we should be setting a higher standard for ourselves, even in bed.

Instead, the message being sent is that the administrators do not get it, that they are not listening.

If Trinity really wants to make an effort to prevent sexual assault and misconduct, protect students (and faculty), and educate students on what consent really is, then all they have to do is change a single word.

This isn’t just for the current and future victims of sexual assault on this campus.

This is for the First-Year man who doesn’t know how to ask.

This is for the senior woman who doesn’t know how to say no.

This is so the men and women on our campus can have healthier, happier, and more consensual relations with each other.

If you want Trinity to require affirmative consent in the new misconduct policy by changing ‘or’ to ‘and’, come to Campaign for Community’s TrinColl2Action on Saturday, November 7th in Vernon Social from 2pm-5pm.

On behalf of Triniy’s entire student population, sign the “We Demand ‘And’” petition at the Rape and Sexual Misconduct student working group booth.

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