Beyond “No means No”


Beyond ‘no means no': the future of campus rape prevention is ‘yes means yes’

Originally posted at the Guardian.com  by Jessica Valenti

Survivors from California to New York say universities are failing students. But a once-in-a-generation moment might be upon us

 Emma Sulkowicz is one of 23 students who filed a federal complaint over Columbia’s mishandling of sexual misconduct cases. And Columbia is one of 67 schools facing such accusations. Photograph: Kristina Budelis for Guardian US Opinion

Emma Sulkowicz is one of 23 students who filed a federal complaint over Columbia’s mishandling of sexual misconduct cases. And Columbia is one of 67 schools facing such accusations. Photograph: Kristina Budelis for Guardian US Opinion

While most students at Columbia University will spend the first day of classes carrying backpacks and books, Emma Sulkowicz will start her semester on Tuesday with a far heavier burden. The senior plans on carrying an extra-long, twin-size mattress across the quad and through each New York City building – to every class, every day – until the man she says raped her moves off campus.

“I was raped in my own bed,” Sulkowicz told me the other day, as she was gearing up to head back to school in this, the year American colleges are finally, supposedly, ready to do something about sexual assault. “I could have taken my pillow, but I want people to see how it weighs down a person to be ignored by the school administration and harassed by police.”

Sulkowicz is one of three women who made complaints to Columbia against the same fellow senior, who was found “not responsible” in all three cases. She also filed a police report, but Sulkowicz was treated abysmally – by the cops, and by a Columbia disciplinary panel so uneducated about the scourge of campus violence that one panelist asked how it was possible to be anally raped without lubrication.

Apparently even an Ivy League school still doesn’t understand the old adage of “no means no”.

So Sulkowicz joined a federal complaint in April over Columbia’s mishandling of sexual misconduct cases, and she will will hoist that mattress on her shoulders as part savvy activism, part performance art. “The administration can end the piece, by expelling him,” she says, “or he can, by leaving campus.”

Her performance may be singular, but the deep frustration voiced by Sulkowicz is being echoed by survivors across the United States. Despite increased efforts to curb campus assault and hold schools accountable – the FBI has changed its once-archaic definition of rape, a new White House task force wants answers, and schools likeHarvard and Dartmouth have promised new policies – the nation’s university administrators are still failing young people in their care. In the last year alone, 67 schools have had students file federal complaints accusing their own colleges of violating the Clery Act or Title IX.

With the start of school underway, however, the biggest paradigm shift on rape and sexual consent in decades may just now be emerging in California, where “yes means yes” – a model for reform that feminists like me have been pushing for years – could soon become law.

Late last week, the first state bill to require colleges to adopt an “affirmative consent” model in their sexual assault policies passed the California senate unanimously. The legislation, which is headed to Governor Jerry Brown’s desk for approval by the end of this month (his office declined to comment), effectively requires the presence of a “yes” rather than the absence of a “no” – or else withholds funding from the nation’s largest state school system.

The legislation additionally clarifies that affirmative consent means both parties must be awake, conscious and not incapacitated from alcohol or drugs – and that past sexual encounters or a romantic relationship doesn’t imply consent. The California bill also, importantly, specifies that “lack of protest or resistance does not mean consent, nor does silence mean consent”.

It seems like a no-brainer to only have sex with conscious and enthusiastic partners, but detractors say the standard “micromanages” sexuality. The truth is that a “yes means yes” policy “helps to create a shared responsibility, instead of the responsibility falling on women to say ‘no’,” says Tracey Vitchers, chair of the board at Safer (Students Active for Ending Rape). Anti-violence activists are clearly excited about the bill, which – if all goes well – could be adopted by more states with large public university systems.

Sofie Karasek, a senior at the University of California at Berkeley and co-founder ofEnd Rape on Campus, also supports the new bill. Like Sulkowicz at Columbia,Karasek filed a federal complaint after she said Berkeley didn’t take sufficient action after she reported a sexual assault. As her first week back on campus was winding down on Friday, Karasek told me she thinks the California model has “created an important conversation about consent in the media and public, and I think with affirmative consent, more students will be talking about it as well.”

Indeed, a lot of students – male students, included – already are. Gray Williams, a senior at University of North Carolina at Greensboro, says he likes the “yes means yes” standard. “It’s not that big of a deal, and I appreciate having an unambiguous ‘yes’ or ‘no’ instead of having to read her body language,” he told me. Roo George-Warren, a recent graduate of Vanderbilt University, thinks some young men might be skeptical, but he insists part of the problem is that the “discourse around consent in day-to-day conversation is so unsophisticated.”

And this is what makes the legislation so important for colleges: mandating “yes means yes” in sexual assault policy puts the onus on colleges to give comprehensive consent education. If students are to abide by that standard, they need to know what it means.

So California could lead the way in redefining how we think about sexual consent. But as promising as this overdue measure may be, state legislatures and university administrators alike need to make sure they’re being as thorough as possible in this moment when real reform, for once, doesn’t seem impossible. The legislation doesn’t clearly specify whether affirmative consent means verbal or nonverbal communication. Do students need to say “yes”? Or is clear body language sufficient?

Should Gov Brown sign “yes means yes” into law, I agree with Slate writer Amanda Hess, who believes the standard going forward should itself be more sophisticated and include nonverbal cues – not just because they present a more realistic vision of how we experience sex, but because we need to talk about body language that can mean “no” as well:

If we can admit that enthusiastic consent is often communicated in body language or knowing looks, then we must also accept that the lack of consent doesn’t always manifest itself in a shouted ‘no’ or ‘stop,’ either. It shouldn’t be the sole responsibility of the uninterested party to speak up during a sexual encounter.

At Berkeley, Karasek said she remained worried that such ambiguity could be used to further hurt survivors and that requiring verbal consent would make it easier to “avoid the ‘he said, she said’ that college administrators try to make rape cases out to be.”

emma sulkowicz photo portrait

An estimated one in five women is sexually assaulted during college. Emma Sulkowicz says she was raped in her own bed. Photograph: Kristina Budelis for Guardian US Opinion


We’ve come a long way in the last four decades on sexual assault, but this necessary shift to “yes means yes” will not be an easy one. (Let’s also not forget that it was just four years ago when male students from Yale University were caught on tape chanting “No means yes, yes means anal.”)

The feminist movement of the 70s shined a light on “date rape” – the most common kind of sexual assault that once went ignored is now widely-understood to be a pervasive problem. Twenty-one years ago, marital rape was still legal in some states, but now legislation decries the idea that marriage equals constant consent. Today, politicians and activists alike increasingly recognize that everything we did before is simply not enough: despite these shifts in policy and public perception, rape is still far too common – approximately one out of every five women is sexually assaulted in college.

And that’s just what’s reported, according to the White House. That’s just in America. That’s just in college.

When I spoke to Sulkowicz about her unofficial senior project – she calls it Mattress Performance: Carry That Weight – the brave 21-year-old said something I think most people who care about the issue of violence against women can relate to. “It’s going to be an endurance piece,” she said. In some ways, battling rape always has been.

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I applaud this brave young woman, and throw my support behind “Yes means Yes”, in addition to “No means No”. 

 

I also want to point out that this not a solely American problem.  Rape is rising around the world.  There are those who would say that reported rapes are up, and they would be correct, but this should not be taken to mean that unreported rape is down.  No statistic has been provided to indicate this.
The bottom line is that as long as Women are treated as Second Class Citizens; as long as there is no Equality in fact of Law, or in action, or in religious dogma, women will be raped and men will not be held accountable.  As long as men are allowed to consider women to be property, they will continue to use women however they wish with conscience or consequence.  We cannot force men to have a conscience, but we can make a consequence for their wrong actions, and this cannot be a slap on the wrist, it must be a steep penalty that will have repercussions in their lives.

 

seeking light


Originally posted on johannisthinking:

the dark night of the soul is upon me

torn between the now and the longing

Evening Star on Parkview Circle. Photo Credit: J H Johann, 2014 Summer

Evening Star on Parkview Circle. Photo Credit: J H Johann, 2014 Summer

God you breathe though all of me

Though all those I am with

Through all those on this Mother Earth

Help us to be open to YOU

and BE with us

              humanity is suffering

              our children everywhere are dying

dying because their skin is a different color

dying because one thinks their religion is superior to the other

dying because of our greed

dying because we are so empty inside of ourselves

dying because we have forgotten how to share

dying because of our self-centeredness

dying because we lack love of self, and so cannot love others

God we ask YOU to breathe Your Love into us

Help us to love each other

Help us to be open and receive

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Break the Silence – Save our Women and Children


Originally posted on gillswriting:

Good Morning Friends,

Today I recommend listening to Kiss the Rain as you read my post, for today I step outside my usual mental meanderings and ask for your support.

I came to Tanzania wanting to help change children’s lives. I came to Tanzania vaguely aware of the injustices of a country with no tangible women’s and children’s rights policies. That awareness has heightened over the past year.

These are issues I feel strongly about but can influence little, however I do what I can.

I was honoured and privileged to be asked to help a good friend finalise her petition to the South African government to take action to save the countries women and children. The cases within her petition; of a paedophile father and a girl being raped on the beach are people she is very close to. The picture of the little girl on the petition page…

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The Sound Of A Thousand Butterfly Wings – Video


Originally posted on Children Of Light.:

The amazing photography of Louie Schwartzberg –

(Photographers be warned: There is no other video to compare with this on you tube)

You were born with wings. Why prefer to crawl through life?

“I drank that wine of which the soul is is vessel. Its ecstasy has stolen my intellect away. A light came and kindled a flame in the depth of my soul. A light so radiant that the sun orbits around it like a butterfly.”  -Rumi
photo source: Nowie

photo source: Nowie

Louie Schwartzberg bio

For over three decades, the award-winning cinematographer has been creating iconic and memorable images while becoming widely known as one of the industry’s most innovative cinematographers. Schwartzberg’s work in the areas of time-lapse photography, nature, aerial and “slice-of-life” photography are recognized around the world. Schwartzberg has been the recipient of two Clio Awards and received one Emmy Award nomination. He was recognized as one of…

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“They’re So Wide…”


Originally posted on Women: Each One A Survivor:

DSCF3267My Mom and Dad were both blue collar workers – hard workers.  Daddy worked hard to give our family what he thought they needed – a nice home, vacations, all the newest technology, which back then was a microwave, VCR and cordless telephones. We gathered at six each evening for dinner together at the table.  He grilled steaks most Saturday evenings on the brick charcoal grill he’d built in the backyard while first Lawrence Welk and then Love Boat played on in the background.

But for much of this seemingly idyllic childhood we lived with an ever-present fear, one that haunted our every moment.  We continued on as if all was as it should be, but each of us spoke each word, thought each thought with the image of ‘it’ coming back smothering our certainties.

My brother was almost four years younger than I.  When he was seven months old, I was told he had what…

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Social Media Poster: “Respect for Others”


Originally posted on Soup to Nuts:

Spanking and hitting can cause low self-esteem, unintentional injury and negative behavior outbursts.

Ranting is not something I regularly engage in but…

By Jackie Saulmon Ramirez | September 3, 2014

As many of you know, I volunteer for Parents Anonymous of New Jersey, a leader in the prevention of child abuse. If you have read many of my posts you will also know that I struggle with anger/rage issues. For me, the commitment to non-violence parenting was both heartfelt and life changing.

Fathers teach daughters what to expect in a relationship by how they treat their wives.

Last week, while eating lunch and killing time on social media, I ran across a post by a woman I knew as a well-educated and kind person. The post sent my anger through the roof in a flash, insinuating that she was proud to have learned “respect for others” through her parents spanking…

View original 858 more words

Social Media Poster: “Respect for Others”


Originally posted on Soup to Nuts:

Spanking and hitting can cause low self-esteem, unintentional injury and negative behavior outbursts.

Ranting is not something I regularly engage in but…

By Jackie Saulmon Ramirez | September 3, 2014

As many of you know, I volunteer for Parents Anonymous of New Jersey, a leader in the prevention of child abuse. If you have read many of my posts you will also know that I struggle with anger/rage issues. For me, the commitment to non-violence parenting was both heartfelt and life changing.

Fathers teach daughters what to expect in a relationship by how they treat their wives.

Last week, while eating lunch and killing time on social media, I ran across a post by a woman I knew as a well-educated and kind person. The post sent my anger through the roof in a flash, insinuating that she was proud to have learned “respect for others” through her parents spanking…

View original 858 more words