Exploring Sexual Assault: Defining sexual assault

Students are beginning to mobilize, questioning whether Guilford College, like other colleges, is facing the nationwide problem of sexual assault in effective ways.

Senior Taylor Starns, president of Guilford’s Sexual Assault Awareness, Support and Advocacy, said that she wanted to see more accountability from the college where sexually charged crimes were concerned.

Starns thinks that sexual assault is not clearly outlined or understood on campus, which she thinks is problematic.

Vice President and Dean of Student Affairs Aaron Fetrow told The Guilfordian that his office is eager to help those who need assistance when offended, though many students do not report assault for many reasons, usually because most cases of assault have to do with drugs and alcohol.

Sexual assault means any unwanted touch or advances, not just rape. Consider the following scenario:

You and someone you are attracted to meet up at a party. Later in the night you end up making a sexual advance. You are both drunk, and she or he did not indicate not wanting sex or to be touched sexually, so you think they might be into you. You press on. You might have just sexually assaulted someone.

Fetrow said that students should proactively learn what consent really means and dig a little deeper where sexual health is concerned.

“As soon as you’ve taken one drink, consumed any drug, you have just lost the right under the law to give legal consent to have sex,” said Fetrow.

According to the 2010-2011 Student Handbook: “Students must confirm that mutual consent is given for all sexual acts within a sexual interaction.

“A student can withdraw consent at any time during an encounter. Non-communication is not consent. Consent can only be given when a student is able to freely make an informed choice between two options: yes and no.

“Consent cannot be given if someone is asleep, unconscious, incapacitated, coerced, threatened, intimidated or forced, under the age of 16, or impaired by alcohol/drugs.”

Author and Associate Professor of women’s, gender, and sexuality studies at California State University Shira Tarrant told The Guilfordian that most students will not read the handbook cover to cover and reporting after the fact only fixes parts of the problem.

“The 100 percent effective solution is prevention,” said Tarrant. “It is not a matter of getting people to report after the crime is committed. What needs to happen on campus is a very open conversation about consent and sexual assault.”

Tarrant said that having informed conversations about sexual assault and getting the term “bystander intervention” on the table was important.

“Doing this as a collective community will shift the cultural conversation about what is acceptable and unacceptable,” said Tarrant.

“This is the institution’s responsibility to put these conversations on the table,.” she added.

Senior Maddie Lambelet agreed with Tarrant, telling The Guilfordian that she loves Guilford and feels that without accountability and openness for sexual safety the institution will suffer.

“By opening the dialogue about sexual assault and date rape we are bringing these issues to the forefront so we can protect people from one another and making mistakes,” said Lambelet.

Senior Justin Kirchner said that he is exhausted by the silence behind sexual assault.

“This seems like a subject that is too often swept under the rug,” said Kirchner. “Both by the student body and by the college.”