Affirmative Consent For Parents: What You Need to Know

Before sending your child off to college, thinking your job is now done; read this.

This is the part one of two in a series of articles on Affirmative Consent and Title IX for parents. Part two can be found here.

All is not well where college kids live and study.

That goes for any campus, anywhere in the U.S. As a parent of a child just starting college, there are some things that you need to know.

You may have already heard some of the statistics, but we should start with the hard numbers anyway.

1 in 5 women will be sexually assaulted while at college.

Women ages 18–24 are at an elevated risk of sexual violence on campus.

22% of women will be the victim of sexual assault, stalking, or intimate partner violence while at college.

58% of all college students say it is difficult to identify dating abuse.

85% or more of sexual assaults on campus will happen at the hands of someone the victim knows.

And then there is this:

91% of all colleges reported zero instances of the above in 2014.

After you click around these links, and let this outrageous juxtaposition sink in, we can continue.

(Go ahead, we’ll wait.)

We think you’ll agree, the hard numbers make it clear.

Sexual assault on campus is an epidemic, and college administrations are in outright denial. It’s also clear from these studies that women have little agency or effective recourse available to them on campus where they live and study.

The crucial bits you should know as parents:

  • If your child is sexually assaulted at college, chances are statistically probable that she or he will feel as though they have nowhere to turn, and no one to tell.
  • The sexual assault reporting and adjudication system in college is woefully broken.
  • The alarm has been sounded, and maybe by now you have heard of Title IX policy and affirmative consent. They are widely considered to be the best chance students have at an effective remedy for the inequalities they battle with on campus now.

Terms parents should know:

Affirmative consent:

is a progressive redefinition of sexual consent on college campuses that is more resistant to coercion and harassment. In essence, it means only Yes means Yes, anything else means there is not consent. Consent cannot be implied, or assumed- rather it must be communicated clearly, and on an ongoing basis. In many colleges, assuming you have consent, or proceeding without explicit consent amounts to the same thing as sexual assault.

Title IX:

is a specific chapter of civil rights legislation dealing with issues of equality, discrimination, and equal opportunity in the educational sphere. The Office of Civil Rights (OCR) enforces and creates guidance for Title IX legislation. Most schools have a Title IX coordinator who helps administration implement and understand Title IX.

Affirmative consent, and Title IX policy won’t prevent rapists from being rapists, but it does redefine the scope of sexual misconduct violations on campus to include many things that might be considered normal behavior by your sons and daughters now.

As parents you also need to know

A. That if your daughter is sexually assaulted at school, statistically speaking, she will probably not report it.

B. That your sons are much more likely under these new OCR directives, and affirmative consent policies to be found culpable in a sexual assault investigation, should one ever be leveled against him.

If your sons do not conform to the affirmative consent standard, they can easily be found culpable with little to no evidence required in any sexual misconduct accusation that is thrown their way. This isn’t conjecture. It’s a fact. Your best advice to them should be to “tread carefully”.

Use a consent verification tool, if they risk having sex at all while enrolled in school. If education is their priority when they attend college, then sex should really be understood as a high risk behavior, and affirmative consent should be a natural part of their schemas and attitudes about sex.

Colleges are currently under enormous pressure to produce higher numbers of students being found culpable and disciplined for sexual misconduct to counteract a historically negligent attitude towards the subject. Institutions risk losing federal funding, and alienating philanthropists and charitable organizations who have historically kept their endowment funds growing.

Considering the fact that there is a market value of about 467 billion dollars sitting in college endowment funds across the country, the OCR does not feel bad at all about applying huge financial pressure on what more and more people are starting to see as a grossly over funded, and systemically negligent cultural environment at college, for women in particular. This systemic negligence constitutes a hostile and unequal educational environment for women, and is a civil rights violation under Title IX legislation in the eyes of the law.

(It is this same historic negligence that prompted the OCR, in 2011 to make these sweeping changes in policy- 39 years after title IX was initially passed in 1972. There is obviously still a huge problem on campus.)

Many students feel the same way, and the lawsuits and federal investigations against institutions of higher education have reached a fever pitch. The above link will tell you if your child’s school is on that list

In summary:

The message is loud and clear from the OCR since 2011, whose fresh vigor and interest in the subject of sexual assault is being spurred by general outcry over the statistics at the beginning of this article, and now schools all over the country are scrambling to tow the line. Sexual misconduct, sexual assault, stalking, and harassment will not be tolerated, even if schools have to go to extreme (many are arguing illegal) measures to ensure this outcome.

Perhaps as parents, it gives you comfort to know that there is something finally being done at all about the problem. Certainly we can afford a certain measure of ambivalence about a loud over-exuberance for eradicating sex crimes on campus, no matter what it takes.

There is even a White House campaign aiming to change this toxic culture that women have been subjected to for hundreds of years at college. Change is coming. It’s on us to bring it.

But does that change your opinion about sending your child to college this fall?

Does this information give you pause? There are many more considerations we have as parents other than funding and school choices when it comes to the American dream. Like the safety of our daughters, and the future of our sons.

After all, rolling a single die gives better odds than the odds of your daughter not being sexually assaulted when she goes to college.

Feeling lucky?

Read part 2 here.