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The Student News Site of Loyola University Maryland

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Sexual assault campaign, ‘Consent is sexy,’ launched

This year, the Committee on Sexual Violence, headed by the Student Government Association (SGA) has been hard at work on a campaign promoting that “Consent is Sexy,” working to centralize efforts and work for prevention of sexual assault.

The Loyola University Student Survey from Spring 2013 showed 27.6 percent of male and 31.7 percent of female students reporting they knew another student who was a victim of unwanted sexual contact. The survey, completed by 1,346 students, is very representative, taking into account nearly 40 percent of the undergraduate population. Two cases of sexual assault were reported on campus in 2013. Angelica Puzio, class of 2015, creator and head of the Committee on Sexual Violence, said that the concern and call to action stemmed from the discrepancy between the numbers shown in the Loyola survey and the actual amount of sexual assault reports on campus. There has also been a rise in the percentage in males reporting sexual assault.

Connor Dooley, a first-year student, said that many of the changes on how sexual assault and violence is viewed today are due in part to the changes in legislation. “As far as how it’s changed it recent years, I think that laws have been introduced appropriately in an effort to eliminate grey areas that in the past had made it harder for people who had been guilty of sexual assault or harassment to face consequences for those such actions,” Dooley said. “The laws now might come across as overreaching and biased but they are an effective method to prevent sexual assault especially on college campuses.”

Just last week, the Office of the Press Secretary released a memorandum from President Obama for the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies regarding the matter. The president has requested the establishment of a White House Task Force that will protect students across the nation from sexual assault. The president is aware of the situation that our nation has found itself in regarding the subject. “The prevalence of rape and sexual assault at our Nation’s institutions of higher education is both deeply troubling and a call to action,” said the memorandum.

Working with the Committee on Sexual Violence on this campaign is a team of Loyola administrators and professors, including Christina Spearman director of Student Life; Timothy Fox, director of Campus Safety; Zachary Hitchens, of Alcohol and Drug Education and Support Services; Mark Broderick, director of Student Activities; and Robby Bacon, associate director of Student Conduct. Loyola University Student Development is also on board with member Kathy Clark Peterson, assistant to the dean of students, adding contributions to the team’s decision-making. Puzio put an emphasis on the importance of the support of the entire Loyola community. “The only way to combat this is by bringing students and staff together,” she said.

The focus on the issue of sexual assault began for Puzio when she attended a National Jesuit Student Leadership Conference in California this past fall. After her return, she decided to form the committee and embark on the pursuit for change for Loyola’s student body. The campaign is not unique to Loyola, and has taken shape at many other universities, including many other Jesuit universities. The Committee looked into the standards of Loyola’s peer Jesuit universities, those bold enough to include consent in their community standards, Puzio specified. Their search was focused especially on the terms of consent, including the type of communication required to convey consent.

First-year C.J. Atkinson explained how he defines consent. “[Consent] means they must have a clear decision without the effects of alcohol, drugs or anything else that may affect the decision to say yes or no to someone,” he said. “Both parties involved must discuss this beforehand so this way if alcohol or drugs are involved they know where their limitations are.”

One of the main focuses of the government in this issue is on prevention of rape and sexual assault, which is primarily what the Committee on Sexual Violence’s campaign “Consent is Sexy” is motivated by. Puzio says, “that the point is to make sure everyone realizes they have a say in what happens to them and they have a say in their own sexual decisions.” The focus is on spoken language, not body language. The Committee’s goal is to make consent a part of community standards at Loyola. They are working on the campaign with an emphasis on “educating students about pillars of consent—mutually understood and communicated words not a silent script of gestures,” said Puzio. The focus on consent has a great deal to do with prevention, putting an emphasis on respect and mutually understood consent can reduce levels of assault.

The aim is not only to increase consent to the sexual conversation of the Loyola student body, but also to change the attitude toward the sexual conversation at Loyola. Being at a Jesuit university, sex and sexual assault is often a “taboo” topic as Puzio put it. Students and staff often refrain from sexually oriented conversation in precautionary ways to avoid “ruffling any feathers.”

The Committee on Sexual Violence wants to change that sheepish attitude that surrounds the mention of the topic. The Committee wants Loyola students to be discussing, comfortably—in the dorm, around campus, with adults, etc.—“the whole body of what sex is on a college campus,” Puzio said. She and her team are hoping that students will be able to discuss sex with their peers in a more mature way and be able to ask, “is this OK?” if they had a real conversation with their partner about what they’re doing. Puzio hopes that students will start “demanding a higher standard” in terms of sexual behavior of themselves and their peers.

First-year Margaret Jokoh explains how she feels the notion of consent has evolved. “People leave it up to actions and assume that inferences made by actions can serve as consent,” said Jokoh. “Not only that but with a generation influenced by technology, communication between people has been lost, leaving most people confused on whether they’ve received consent or just what a person wants in general.”

Once the campaign is fully launched, the best way for students to get involved will be by simply spreading the word. Social media is also one of the most powerful tools that can be used to help the campaign grow, students can use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other sites to spread the word. With the campaign, Loyola students are set up with an excellent system of support, including a partnership with Campus Ministry, the Counseling Center and Campus Safety; should students choose, Mercy Hospital is also available for assistance, if it is needed.

With the “Consent is Sexy” campaign, the Committee on Sexual Violence hopes to have success in changing the attitude of students towards consent.

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Sexual assault campaign, ‘Consent is sexy,’ launched