‘Yes’ campaign helps to clarify meaning of sexual assault

Students attended Live Your Oath, a lecture hosted by Sigma Phi Epsilon and Alpha Delta Pi where they received a handout to take an oath against sexual assault. A booklet was also handed out to students during Taking A Stand lecture.  (Photo by Andrea Zepeda)

Students attended Live Your Oath, a lecture hosted by Sigma Phi Epsilon and Alpha Delta Pi where they received a handout to take an oath against sexual assault. A booklet was also handed out to students during Taking A Stand lecture. (Photo by Andrea Zepeda)

By Andrea Zepeda

The Razorback Reporter

A UA doctoral student has found a way to build rapport with students and lecture on the sensitive topic of sexual assault by employing a game that allows students to get comfortable with the subject, even laugh at themselves, when appropriate.

“It’s tricky because you don’t want them laughing at sexual assault because sexual assault is not funny,” said Sasha Canan a Ph.D. student in Community Health Promotion. “So one way of being sensitive to discussing sexual assault is making sure you face it in a way that doesn’t sound accusatory.”

The most difficult task is defining what takes place.

“Sexual abuse is an overarching idea, like an umbrella idea and under that can fall different things,” Canan said. “The two main things under sexual abuse, being assault and rape.”

Rape is sexual intercourse or other forms of sexual penetration without a person’s consent, according to the federal Uniform Crime Report.

Over the last four years the UofA has experienced an increase in sexual assault cases reported to UAPD. The Clery Report and UAPD Crime Log show an increase in sexual assault cases from 2014-2015. With five reported rape cases in 2014 and nine reported cases in 2015.

“The difference between sexual assault and rape is just the act of penetration,” Canan said. “Just because we consent to one behavior does not mean we consent to everything.”

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Canan surveyed UA and Indiana University students, asking about behaviors they encountered during sexual interactions, rather than asking directly whether students had experienced sexual assault or rape.

“Sexual assault is sensitive and can be hard for people to talk about,” Canan said. “ Because no one wants to be told they are a victim of sexual assault, or no one wants to be told that they are a perpetrator of sexual assault.”

The survey questions were based on four variables:

  • Alcohol or drugs involved
  • Force or the threat of force
  • Coercion
  • Addressing whether refusing is useless

Twenty-six percent of women replied that they had experienced rape; 12 percent of men responded they had been raped.

The second part of the survey asked men and women whether they had experienced sexual assault. Among women, 27.2 percent had experienced nonconsensual sexual behavior other than sexual intercourse and 12.1 percent of men.

“People are confused about what rape even is,” Canan said. “They might have actually been raped but they don’t understand that that’s what it is because they think you can’t be raped if it was your boyfriend or if a lot of other things.”

This idea is connected with the stereotypical idea of how a rape happens and how it can’t happen to them if they take a taxi rather than walk home at night.

“One of those myths is the idea that rape occurs in the dark alleys or other isolated areas by a stranger,” said Mary Wyandt-Hiebert director of STAR Central and adviser of RESPECT. “The real issue is that the mixing of sex and violence has become so common that it is not typically recognized as for we have normalized viewing such a combination over and over that the total effect is that we overlook it.”

College programs on campuses across the U.S., report that allegations of rape increasingly show a lack of understanding when yes means yes. Males accused of sexual assault argue they did not commit rape because they had been drinking and things happened.

One reason cited is there is no, “sex-ed in high school” and “no unified consent based education,” said Chelsea Miller the victim service coordinator for the NWA Center for Sexual Assault. “They come in with a preconceived idea before they get to college.

The 2015-2016 school year will be the first academic year a teen violence course will be offered to ninth and 10th graders in Fayetteville, Miller said.

Victim advocates changed the no means no campaign to yes means yes.

“Both men and women are at a misunderstanding that silence is not consent, or unconsciousness is not consent,” Miller said. “If you can’t drive a vehicle, you can’t have sex.”

Yes means yes is gaining traction.

“I think these events could definitely affect college students, especially if they previously had little knowledge on the subject of sexual assault on campus,” senior Hailey Chatman said. “I think lectures like this one should be required for males especially, because women hear all the time about how to protect themselves from being sexually assaulted, which to me, puts the blame on the victims and it’s not the victims’ fault.”