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What's 'nonconsensual sex'?
Yale tries to clarify

Controversy continues to flare over Yale's handling of sexual misconduct, as the university tries to clarify its definition of "nonconsensual sex" and President Peter Salovey ’86PhD has agreed to meet with a new group, Students Against Sexual Violence at Yale.

The group formed after a recent report in which Yale said it had resolved several cases of "nonconsensual sex" with written reprimands or probation. Feminist organizations expressed outrage, essentially asking: what part of "no" don't they understand? How can rape or sexual assault deserve only a reprimand?

In a series of frequently asked questions about "How Yale Addresses Student Complaints of Sexual Misconduct," the university answers: rape is not the only form of nonconsensual sex.

"Yale requires positive, unambiguous, and voluntary agreement to engage in specific sexual activity throughout a sexual encounter," says the document, released by the provost's office. It continues:

Consent does not mean the absence of a "no." A clear "yes," verbal or otherwise, is necessary. Yale's definition of consent reflects the University's high expectations and permits discipline for behavior that does not meet a criminal standard. For example, the [University-Wide Commitee on Sexual Misconduct] may find that an encounter took place without coercion, force, or threat of force (criteria often associated with the term "rape") but still deem it to have lacked the unambiguous ongoing agreement that constitutes consent under the Yale standard. Any sexual encounter shown to fall short of this high expectation is, under Yale's policies, a form of "non-consensual sex" or "non-consensual sexual activity."

For complaints that do involve sexual assault, the university reports them all to the Yale police; "advises any person who reports a sexual assault about the resources and assistance that the police can provide; and assists and supports individuals who choose to pursue their complaints through the criminal process," the FAQs say.

The six cases of "nonconsensual sex" were included in a semiannual report of complaints of sexual misconduct brought to the university in any form. Yale began issuing these reports in 2012, as the federal government investigated a complaint by students and alumni that the university's handling of sexual misconduct violated Title IX, the sex-discrimination law.

Yale and the Department of Education settled the complaint last year without a finding of compliance or noncompliance. Activists—including Alexandra Brodsky ’12,’16JD, one of the complainants—call that a "slap on the wrist" and are calling for greater accountability.

Brodsky is an organizer of the new Students Against Sexual Violence at Yale, which issued an open letter to Salovey asking for four policy changes. These include "an explicit preferred sanction of expulsion for those found culpable of sexual violence"; the services of an external victims' advocate; and a special disciplinary process for repeat offenders, even if their victims did not file formal complaints. ("The average college rapist offends six times, and 90 percent of campus assaults are perpetrated by repeat assailants," the letter says.)

Salovey's letter in response says: "I, too, am committed to eliminating sexual violence on our campus." He says the Yale officials most directly involved in handling sex-misconduct matters—Deputy Provost Stephanie Spangler; Kim Goff-Crews ’83, ’86JD, the vice president for student life; and Melanie Boyd ’90, an assistant dean of Yale College—will meet with SASVY as soon as possible, and that he will meet with the group as soon as he is available.

SASVY representatives couldn't immediately be reached for comment.

Filed under Title IX, sexual misconduct
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