Legislation defines sexual assault

Cassie Sullivan and Cassie Sullivan

In Ohio, there is a similar legislation to California’s “Yes Means Yes” policy, which is making universities take a closer look at sexual assault on college campuses.

Ohio’s legislation is called the Bipartisan Campus Accountability and Safety Act, and it aims to establish campus resources and support services for student survivors. It also increases campus accountability, among other requirements that universities would have to comply with.

“A lot of legislation … looks like the new bill is at the federal level, the McCaskill Bill [Campus Accountability],” said Associate Dean of Students Julie Snyder. “The thing I appreciate the most about the ‘Yes Means Yes’ bill is the definition of consent, and that’s the part our institution is looking at.”

The University has been looking at the definition of consent being used.

Julie Broadwell, director of The Sexual Assault Awareness For Empowerment Center [SAAFE Center], said the definition of consent is when someone is able to agree to sexual contact and is not under the influence of anything or anyone who might influence his or her choice.

“To us within the SAAFE Center, if someone was not able to give informed consent to anything, including if they were under the influence of drugs or alcohol, then they weren’t able to give consent,” Broadwell said. “The bill is finally catching up to the way people have been working with victims and survivors, which is good. BGSU has also been looking at that and what is a clear definition regarding informed consent.”

The University’s current definition of sexual assault includes consent and also protects students who are under the influence or passed out at the time of the sexual assault, a time when consent cannot be given.

Right now, the University’s definition of sexual assault, according to the Wellness Connection’s page on Definitions, is “An umbrella term covering the classifications above and a wide range of actions taken against a person without the person’s consent, against the person’s will, or under force, threat of force, or coercion. Sexual activity occurring when someone is medicated, asleep, passed out, or drunk can also be illegal. In these situations a person cannot truly consent since she or he is not in a coherent state of mind.”

What Broadwell looks for when searching for a definition of consent is what the University offers as a definition of consent, along with what can be possibly added to the definition used by

the University.

“I think sometimes what you want to look at is: do you have something that is concise, or do you have something that is so long and has so many bullet points people spend so much time reading. I think BGSU’s is good, I think there’s going to be some more tweaks to it in terms of putting silence and silence doesn’t necessarily mean consent.”

While the definition of sexual assault and consent are defined by the University and through the bills, other steps are being taken to educate students on consent, sexual assault and relationships, said Director of Wellness

Faith Yingling.

“We have our peer educators and so our peer educators provide education related to sexual assault,” Yingling said. “They go out and educate the campus community on the issue. We also have, this year, for our incoming students, the “Think About It” program. It is an online educational tool that provides education not only on sexual assault, but healthy relationships. It also includes alcohol and drug use and misuse, all combined.”

For upperclassmen, a supplemental program will be offered.

Another way for students to learn about sexual assault and how to prevent it is through the “It’s On Us” campaign.

“It’s On Us” is a student-led campaign that started in September and is currently in the works by the students involved in the campaign.

“What’s great about it is that it has a positive message,” Yingling said. “All of us play a role on preventing these types of things from occurring. It’s on all of us, it’s not just on males, it’s not just on females, it’s on everyone. Everyone plays a role and it’s how we can all work together to end sexual assaults and sexual violence.”

Another way for students to be involved in stopping sexual assault and violence is to be aware of what’s going on around them, and by participating in bystander intervention.

Bystander intervention started in the sexual violence realm, but has since expanded to include other topics, Yingling said.

While bystander intervention is important, prevention and not letting anything get to the point where intervention is needed is even more important.

“It’s about changing the culture and that’s what I think is great about the ‘It’s On Us’ campaign,” Yingling said. “It’s trying to change the culture. We don’t want to live on a campus where people are sexually assaulted. We don’t want to be a part of that. Is that easy to do? It takes time. But it doesn’t mean it’s impossible.”