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Colleges moving toward 'yes means yes' standard

Posted at 4:49 AM, May 12, 2016

INDIANAPOLIS -- Colleges and universities are trying a different tactic when it comes to preventing sexual assault on campuses.

Back in the day, men and women were told “no means no.”      

Now, in 2016, there’s a relatively new movement on college campuses focusing on affirmative consent, also known as “yes means yes.” 

Just last year, Indiana University released a comprehensive sexual misconduct policy that spells out consent is “expressed through affirmative, voluntary words or actions mutually understandable to all parties involved.”  

An estimated 2,000 colleges and universities now use some type of affirmative consent definition in their sexual assault policies, according to the National Center for Higher Education Risk Management, a for-profit consulting firm. 

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Dani Castonzo, an IU Bloomington student and director of sexual well-being for student run organization Culture Of Care, educates students and parents about consent. 

“Do not take silence as a yes,” said Castonzo. “Now, it’s ‘yes means yes.’ Consent is really important considering the hookup culture at IU and other big schools and when people are drinking, people can struggle to communicate what they want out of a sexual interaction.” 

Castonzo said many parents do not want to talk to their sons and daughters about consent, but it’s a necessity. 

“I think it’s really important to talk about sex and to talk about hooking up with your potential student just to make sure they understand the importance of communicating with the people that they are making out with or having sex with,” said Castonzo. 

Karis Neufeld, a spokesperson with IU group RAISE (Raising Awareness of Interactions in Sexual Encounters), said it’s obvious many parents aren’t talking to their teens about sex before they arrive on campus. 

“So they get thrown into a big party environment where there's alcohol and drugs involved and consent is just skipped over completely," said Neufeld. 

Alcohol and drugs can cloud a student’s ability to give and receive important signals. 

"Everything gets more confusing,” said Neufeld. “You're less likely to communicate. Both parties are less likely to communicate. " 

Indiana University police are also helping to get the word out about affirmative consent, including 35-year veteran Lt. Craig Munroe. 

"The absence of a no is not consent,” said Munroe. “People that are impaired cannot give you consent. So that is important to hear a ‘yes.’" 

Failing to get proper consent can result in a slew of consequences for the victim, as well as the perpetrator, including expulsion from school and criminal charges. 

While parents may believe the police can protect their son or daughter on campus, that’s true, only to an extent. 

“The party setting is a fairly dangerous place for people,” said Munroe. “The use of alcohol and drugs is going to increase your chance of becoming a victim.”

IU police can’t patrol private residences, which is where many of the sexual assaults happen. 

"We do have officers that work at the dormitories but we don't walk the hallways,” said. “We stand in the public areas of the dorms and then on campus." 

Police and student groups told Call 6 Investigates the best ways to help your daughter stay safe on campus is to talk to them about consent, responsible drinking, and choosing your friends wisely.
“I think it's important to go out with people you trust and look out for other people,” said Castonzo. “I think just having that network of people you know have your back, and you have their back is important." 

At least two states, California and New York, have adopted laws concerning affirmative consent. 

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