MALVERN, Pa., Oct. 10, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Affirmative consent is an idea whose time has finally come. The NCHERM Group, LLC is pleased to see that American society is embracing consent as the foundation for respectful sexual communication through legislation, public discourse and social policy. Colleges and schools will benefit from clarifying the expectation that individuals get consent before and during sexual activity. Law and policy will translate into education and prevention campaigns that teach young adults how to get and give consent that is active, knowing and voluntary if they wish to engage in sexual activity.
Some interest groups have sounded off that consent is an artificial and unworkable idea, but students all over the country who are embracing it are showing that consent has mainstream acceptance and that rejection is relegated to the fringe. Thank you, students, for leading the way on this where previous generations could not. Those who fight against consent and believe it is artificial labor under the misconception that consent must be expressed verbally. The legislation and policy being implemented now is a far cry from the verbal consent policies of Antioch College more than 20 years ago.
To the skeptics, we ask, what is more reasonable than consent? If I walk up to you and I want your wallet or your purse, I have to ask you for it. I can't take it until you say I can have it or you put it in my hand. Consent is already the currency of respectful, legal exchange in our society. Certainly, it's reasonable to protect our autonomy over and control of our own bodies and what happens to our bodies at least as much as we'd protect our own wallets. And, that's the key to how consent changes sexual expectations. Consent is an evolution beyond laws and policies that defined sex offenses as forcible or against someone's will. That led to a need to prove force or resistance. But, if you take a wallet without permission, regardless of whether you take it by force (it could just be lying around), it's still a property crime. If you take a wallet and the owner doesn't resist or try to stop you (maybe they're unaware that you're pickpocketing them, or they're afraid of you), it's still stealing what you know clearly to be theirs and something to which you are not entitled. Those who are skeptical of consent allege that it is harder to prove than showing the use or force or the offering of resistance. Perhaps, but no one ever said evolving was easy.
The laws and policies going into effect now from California to New York are called affirmative consent policies, and that term has caught on. It's a bit of a misnomer, though. Consent IS affirmative. Anything else isn't consent, so the "affirmative" modifier is descriptive, but redundant. Passive resistance or tacit acquiescence aren't enough to communicate consent. You can't take someone's wallet just because it seems to you that they are ambivalent about whether they want to give it to you or because they meet your request with silence. For that reason, the laws and policies now being enacted are pure consent policies. They require consent by word or action, and without it, a line is crossed. That's a pure consent approach, where nothing else is required to prove that someone has crossed the line. No showing of force or resistance is necessary. All that is required is a showing that consent was not sought and not given. In fact, law is following society on the consent issue, not leading it. More than 800 colleges and universities already define sex offenses using a pure consent definition, and have done so for many years. Many of these laws and policies are based on the policy models that The NCHERM Group has published and disseminated for free to higher education for more than fifteen years. These model policies have always been pure consent-based. The California law and the SUNY System policy are actually based on this model.
While policy alone is not enough to prevent sexual violence, it is a powerful tool to be used in combination to make college and university campuses safer places for students.
For more information, contact:
Michelle Issadore, M.Ed.
Associate Vice President for Operations and Public Information
116 E. King Street
Malvern, PA 19355
SOURCE The NCHERM Group, LLC