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Connecting policies to perceptions

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Connecting policies to perceptions how do students at CU Denver understand sexual consent?
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How do students at CU Denver understand sexual consent?
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Siry, Bonnie Justine ( author )
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English
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1 electronic file (82 pages) : ;

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Sexual consent ( lcsh )
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bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )

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Based on data collected through in-depth interviews of CU Denver students, this qualitative research seeks to understand the perceptions women students have of sexual consent. In trying to understand their perspectives, participants were asked about sexual consent, sexual assault, campus life, and campus policies. Drawing on previous research on students’ perceptions of consent as well as research on sexual assault policies, this research explores how the policies translate into the lives of students and how students understand their own experiences. The research focuses on three questions: How do college students at CU Denver understand sexual consent? What sources do they drawn upon to understand this issue? How do students perceive and experience campus policies on sexual assault and sexual consent? Perspectives of CU Denver Students give insight on sexual assault concerns on a commuter campus. These perspectives demonstrate the ambiguity in definitions of consent and the importance of communication with a partner and with family, friends and classmates. Talking about perceptions of consent helps to develop a shared idea of what consent looks like within our community. Building on students’ perceptions of consent can inform how CU Denver policies are shared and promoted. Data collected in interviews can be influential in ways for CU Denver to share policies and programming on our campus.
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Thesis (M.S.S.)--University of Colorado Denver
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Includes bibliographical references.
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System requirements: Adobe Reader.
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by Bonnie Justine Siry.

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University of Florida
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on10071 ( NOTIS )
1007152890 ( OCLC )
on1007152890

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Full Text
CONNECTING POLICIES TO PERCEPTIONS:
HOW DO COLLEGE STUDENTS AT CU DENVER UNDERSTAND SEXUAL CONSENT?
by
BONNIE JUSTINE SIRY
B.A., State University of New York College at Oneonta, 2014
A thesis submitted to the Faculty of the Graduate School of the University of Colorado in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Social Science Social Science Program
2017


This thesis for the Master of Social Science degree by Bonnie Justine Siry has been approved for the
Master of Humanities and Master of Social Science
by
Jennifer Reich, Chair Omar Swartz, Advisor Sarah Fields
Sarah Tyson Date: April 28, 2017


Siry, Bonnie Justine (MSS, Social Science Program)
Connecting Policies to Perceptions: How Do College Students at CU Denver Understand Sexual Consent?
Thesis directed by Associate Professor Jennifer Reich
ABSTRACT
Based on data collected through in-depth interviews of CU Denver students, this qualitative research seeks to understand the perceptions women students have of sexual consent. In trying to understand their perspectives, participants were asked about sexual consent, sexual assault, campus life, and campus policies. Drawing on previous research on students perceptions of consent as well as research on sexual assault policies, this research explores how the policies translate into the lives of students and how students understand their own experiences. The research focuses on three questions: How do college students at CU Denver understand sexual consent? What sources do they drawn upon to understand this issue? How do students perceive and experience campus policies on sexual assault and sexual consent? Perspectives of CU Denver Students give insight on sexual assault concerns on a commuter campus. These perspectives demonstrate the ambiguity in definitions of consent and the importance of communication with a partner and with family, friends and classmates. Talking about perceptions of consent helps to develop a shared idea of what consent looks like within our community. Building on students perceptions of consent can inform how CU Denver policies are shared and promoted. Data collected in interviews can be influential in ways for CU Denver to share policies and programming on our campus.
The form and content of this abstract are approved. I recommend its publication.
Approved: Omar Swartz
iii


DEDICATION
I dedicate this work to the people in my life that believe in me, even when I'm being ridiculous. Thank you for listening to me.
IV


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
I would like to thank Professor Jennifer Reich for answering my questions and asking more questions. I would also like to thank Professor Elizabeth Seale and Professor Chris Curch from SUNY Oneonta for getting me involved in sociology.
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
CHAPTER
I. INTRODUCTION................................................................1
II. ADDRESSING SEXUAL ASSAULT & CONSENT ON COLLEGE CAMPUSES.......6
Policies: Title IX & Changes over time.....................................8
Policies: Support for Title IX Compliances................................13
Policies: CU Denver Title IX compliance and programming...................16
CU Denver campus and resources......................................16
CU Denver programming...............................................20
III. METHODS....................................................................24
Sampling..................................................................24
Interviewing..............................................................29
Coding....................................................................29
Limitations...............................................................30
IV. FINDINGS...................................................................32
Policies & My Shifting Question...........................................32
Students Define Consent...................................................32
Participants use yes means yes language when defining consent.......34
Participants use no means no language when defining consent......37
The ambiguity in consent............................................39
Learning About Consent....................................................41
Learning from family and culture....................................43
Learning from friends...............................................47
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Learning from personal experiences...................................49
Learning from experiences with social media..........................50
Does CU Denver influence perceptions.......................................52
Is Consent Education Important to Students?................................55
Students Suggestions For Improved Programming..............................61
V. CONCLUSION.................................................................64
What Comes Next For CU Denver? ............................................65
Discussion.................................................................67
VI. REFERENCES.................................................................70
vii


List of Figures
FIGURE
Figure I CHart of Report Progress at CU Denver.............................23
Figure II. Table of demographics of Interview Participants ..................28
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CHAPTERI
INTRODUCTION
Consent? I don 7 know, I guess you re both into it. Even if you re in the middle of sex and you say no then that person needs to get off you right away. You know? ... But, if you both say yes in the sense of want to, you know ? Consent is discussing it. Thats a big thing in relationships that a lot of people dont talk about, the communication. ... The thing is a lot of girls are scared to say no but they show signs of it, physically show signs of it. -Lauren, 23 year old CU Denver student
Sexual consent continues to be defined and redefined in both personal spaces and policy. This quote is Laurens own understanding of consent. Her definition is based on all parties being interested in sex and all parties communicating that interest. For Lauren, if there is a lack of interest, it should be recognizable to a partner even if its not explicitly verbalized. Lauren and other University of Colorado Denver (CU Denver) students interviewed for this study placed importance on both verbal and non-verbal communication when defining consent. The personal definitions shared are similar to the universitys definition of consent but the language in policy can lack the flexibility to address the ambiguity of situations.
This study aims to explore how women college students view sexual consent, and the role of consent in sexual assault as well as, where they have learned about sexual consent and what tools they have developed.
Sexual assault is an issue on college campuses that continues to need to be addressed. Women have a 1 in 5 chance of being the victim of a sexual assault or attempted sexual assault during their four years of college (Bolger, 2016). Sexual assaults are defined by the lack of
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consent to the sexual act on the part of the victim; this makes the idea of what consent looks like vital in differentiating wanted sex and sexual assault.
Sexual assault and sexual consent have been a documented issue on college campuses since the early 1950s (Muehlenhard, et al., 2016). In recent years, there has been an increased focus on how to address sexual assault on college campuses. In 2011, a letter came out from the Office of Civil Rights outlining how schools receiving federal funds should be addressing sexual assault concerns on their campuses (Anderson, 2016). This letter made it clear that any form of sexual violence was a violation of a students right to receive an education without fear of sex-based discrimination (Anderson, 2016). This letter solidified the fact that sexual violence is a violation of the Title IX policy of the Education Amendments, on top of being a sexual crime. Title IX is responsible for addressing cases of sex-based discrimination and sexual violence, this letter made it so it is enforced. An act of sexual violence can create a lasting hostile environment for the student or faculty who was victim to the violence (Edwards, 2015). Title IX is an anti-discrimination policy created to protect against sex and gender based discrimination at any federally funded educational institution (Meloy 2014).
When discussing sexual violence, consent is central to the conversations. Consent can tell us if all participants agreed to the sexual interaction that occurred. The fault in looking for signs of agreement to participate is that distinctive individuals may interpret signs of agreement differently (Beres, 2007). CU Denver works to teach students about consent so that they hold similar definitions and understandings of consent. CU Denver defines sexual assault using affirmative consent. Affirmative consent is the yes means yes model which states that in order to consent someone must say, yes. This came as a response to the no means no model which said actions needed to stop when someone said, no.
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CU Denver actively promotes affirmative consent. Recently, a video has been shown at freshman orientation about affirmative sexual consent, using the example of consenting to having tea, although this is not a mandatory orientation session for incoming students. There are also workshops and events through out the semester that work on teaching consent and sexual violence awareness in ways that reflect school policy and federal policy. These programs are meant to help protect students from being victims of sexual misconduct and support them if they do have negative experiences.
I want to know how college students at CU Denver define consent and what tools they use to understand it. For this analysis of student understandings, I approach sexual consent from the perspective given by Melanie A. Beres (Beres, 2007). Beres takes a step back from individual interpretation and usage of sexual consent in a personal space and explores how sexual consent is discussed in the literature on sexual consent,
[Beres] argue[s] that current understandings of consent are underdeveloped and rely largely on assumed and implied definitions. There is a lack of empirical work on the communication of willingness and consent to sexual relations. This empirical work is vital to increase our understandings of sexual consent and sexual violence (Beres, 2007, pp. 94.).
Beres argument is reflected in the literature as well as in policy and policy implementation. The definition of consent varies in policy across universities, cities and states. I am taking the idea of underdeveloped and assumed definitions from Beres and exploring the ways in which individuals at our university, CU Denver, understand and define sexual consent in their lives. Most importantly, I am looking to find the sources and perspectives from which students grow their understanding of consent; from there, we can find what aspects of the definition of consent are
3


underdeveloped and develop them into a more concise definition. Having a definition of consent that can be understood by all students can help decrease the number of negative sexual interactions that happen on campus because of misunderstandings of consent.
To get a comprehensive understanding of student definitions of sexual consent I conducted semi-structured open-ended interviews with 17 women currently attending CU Denver. These in-depth interviews allow me to get a close look at what gaps there could be in students understandings of sexual consent and the policies that are related. The themes developed explore what CU Denver students understand about sexual consent and what that means when trying to understand how our campus is experience, how often theyre on campus and what activities they participate in while there. This research can inform future policy writing and program creation by using the sources students respond to, using the incentives students are interested in, and by writing and disseminating policies that play a bigger role in the lives of CU Denver students. Through the in-depth interviews, I have been able to not only gather data from interview participants but I have been able to share information about our campus policies with those interview participants. From this research on CU Denvers campus, other campuses can repeat the research project and find the perspectives of their students and as a university respond to those perspectives to make policies that address sexual assault in accessible ways. Having the opportunity to hear consent explained in students own words helps to develop accessible language in policy, programs, and future research.
To discuss sexual consent as it is perceived and defined by college women, I begin with an overview of the history of policies addressing sexual consent and the related topics of sexual assault and sexual harassment. This chapter (chapter 2) describes the ways in which consent has been defined. Chapter 3 gives an in-depth explanation of my research methods and why these
4


methods are important for answering the questions I am asking about sexual consent. Chapter 4 focuses on the responses by CU Denver students in their interviews and the ways they define and have learned about consent. Their explanations of consent frame the sources and references they drew on when sharing their perceptions. Students tend to see consent in affirmative ways but there is still a lot of variety in their perceptions. The sources students drew from demonstrated the influences of family, friends, media and personal experiences. Students care about this topic but also felt barriers on campus stop students from accessing the resources that the school has available on consent. I conclude with suggestions about how these findings can be utilized when moving forward in policy writing.
5


CHAPTER II
ADDRESSING SEXUAL ASSAULT & SEXUAL CONSENT ON COLLEGE CAMPUSES
To examine sexual assault and sexual consent on college campuses, it is key to understand what rules are in place on campuses to address these issues. The policy that has continuously been at the forefront of this work is Title IX. Title IX is a federal policy that is implemented at all schools that receive federal funding. Title IX came about as part of the Education Amendments Act in 1972 (Muehlenhard, Humphreys, Jozkowski, & Peterson, 2016). Title LX states:
No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance (Department of Justice, 2000; Muehlenhard, Humphreys, Jozkowski, & Peterson, 2016; Edwards, 2015; Anderson, 2016; Meloy, 2014; Hiers, 1999).
Title LX was created to address discrimination in the classroom, to make sure students of all sexes receive equal treatment and taking on the responsibility of addressing a full spectrum of issues including sexual harassment and sexual assault. Title IX is extends past sex-based discrimination to sexual harassment and assault because these acts of sexual violence are discrimination and mistreatment based on sex. Title IX has been used to the full extent, covering sexual harassment and assault. It has also been used to develop guidelines in how schools must address claims of sexual harassment and assault. Universities are responsible for not only accepting complaints and claims of sex discrimination and violence but they are responsible for actively working to prevent these crimes and protect those affected.
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Title IX is brief; it simply says that educational opportunities may not be denied on the basis of sex. But over the last four decades, the law has evolved, and today, schools are required to take affirmative steps to prevent sexual violence and to ensure that survivors can continue to learn (Brodsky & Deutsch, 2015).
To get to the place we are today, it is important to go back and look at the development of Title IX since its inception in 1972. This history leads into why schools are to take affirmative steps in the handling of cases of sexual violence and misconduct. The goal of these affirmative steps is for schools to have procedures in place to handle cases of sexual violence on their campuses before an incident happens and so the school is ready to act in all cases that do occur. Without structured protocol to prevent and respond to situations of sexual violence, schools are leaving space on their campus for students to be vulnerable to feel that their campus does not support them (Department of Justice, 2000; Department of Justice, 2000; Department of Justice, 2000). Title IX helps ensure that all federally funded schools have policies like the ones implemented at CU Denver. These policies help to make sure no school treats individuals affected by sexual misconduct differently based on who they are.
Policy on CU Denvers campus is built on the federal policies that all universities and colleges adhere to. In the case of policies that discuss sexual consent, this chapter will focus on sex-based discrimination policies, sexual misconduct policies, sexual harassment policies, and sexual assault policies. Of these policy types there is often overlap in the policy coverage of the issues. Specifically at CU Denver, the policy addressing sexual harassment and sexual assault uses the term sexual misconduct to have all forms of harassment and assault addressed by this policy.
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Policies: Title IX and changes over time.
Title IX is an amendment made in 1972 as part of the Education Amendment Act. Its language was based on the language of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act (Hiers, 1999).
Title VII protected people from sex and gender based discrimination in their place of work (Hiers, 1999). Neither Title IX, nor Title VII directly stated that sexual harassment was not allowed, but circuit court decisions in the mid-1990s decided that protections from sexual harassment fell under Title IX (Hiers, 1999). The creation of Title IX made it so the same protections of sex and gender based discrimination were given to individuals in any federally funded institution of education, including K-12 schools and universities. Sex-based discrimination can take the form of sexual harassment. Sexual harassment is defined as any unwanted sexual interaction whether it is statements referring to sex, physical touching or gestures and physical advances that are unwanted. Although Title IX was not explicitly used for sexual harassment, the definition of Title IX was continuously expanding to build the link between sex based discrimination and sexual harassment.
In 1984, Grove City College v. Bell decided that Title IX was not applicable to college departments that were not directly receiving funds (Meloy, 2014). The claim being that departments that were separate from the education program would not fall under Title IX guidelines because the were not receiving direct funds. This decision was reversed with the Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1987, stating that Title IX covers all programs not just the offices receiving federal funds, like the financial aid office (Meloy, 2014). This Act made it so that all groups, organizations and departments of schools were included under Title IX protections, using a broad interpretation of the policy instead of a narrow one. Title IX has since been able to regulate fairness in sex segregated activities, making sure there are athletic teams for men and
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women and if a team does not exist, an individual is allowed to tryout for the team that does.
This is a clear way to find cases of sex-based discrimination that do not involve sexual violence or misconduct. Title IX also handles and investigates crimes of sexual misconduct, which is what this paper focuses on.
In a 1992 case involving Title IX, the Supreme Court found that discrimination based on sex, in an educational setting, could lead to a monetary payout (Hiers, 1999). This case ruled to make it so the practical use of Title IX in federally funded educational institutions reflected the practical use of Title VII in the work place. This was in the Franklin v. Gwinnett County Public Schools case, where the findings spurred an increase in Title IX suits filed and more effort on the schools part to not discriminate (Hiers, 1999). Money motivated people to turn their negative experiences of discrimination based on their sex and occurrences of harassment into legal suits against the school at which it occurred. The number of similar cases dealing with sexual harassment did not have an increase in favorable court decisions on the part of the plaintiff until the late 1990s (Hiers, 1999). Cases were made but they did not lead to a defendant being proven to be a perpetrator of a crime. The cases of sex based discrimination, with their potential for monetary payouts, made the space for cases of sexual harassment to be brought forth with less hesitation. It does not always sound positive to say people would come forward because they knew they could get money from the school mishandling a case but with sex-based discrimination and sexual harassment coming forward can feel dangerous. Coming forward to say that you experienced sex-based discrimination or sexual harassment can cause someone to worry about if they will face repercussions in the classroom or socially. This fear of retaliation for reporting can be addressed in university policies, like it is at CU Denver. The Office of Civil Rights (OCR) also assists with individuals uncertain about coming forward.
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The Office of Civil Rights passed guidelines for handling Title IX enforcement in 1997 (Anderson, 2016). These guidelines made it so schools would be held accountable for the investigation and evidence of harassments that occurred (Anderson, 2016). The focus was on the colleges and universities to appropriately respond to reports of sexual harassment so that students who had been harassed would not feel unsafe in their classes. Using Title IX to dictate responses to sexual harassment makes cases of sexual harassment manageable, in that the school can create a campus culture in which students feel they are protected from harassment based on their sex while they are trying to further their education. Being protected and supported when dealing with sexual harassment helps universities and colleges further the original purpose of Title IX, to protect against sex-based discrimination. The Office of Civil Rights pressed on university and college compliance with Title IX again in 2001 (Anderson, 2016). This is when OCR gave the word that Title IX was to be used to address sexual harassment cases but could not over-power the right to due-process of any person accused of sexual harassment (Anderson, 2016). Due process is the need for those accused to have fair treatment. By this time there had been several attempts by the OCR to make sure that Title IX could be used to address sexual harassment without violating the rights of those involved in cases. Lower courts successfully tried Title IX cases that specifically addressed a sexual harassment encounter (Meloy, 2014). The biggest step for Title IXs procedure to shift to addressing sexual assault came in 2011 with the Dear Colleague letter (Edwards, 2015).
The Dear Colleague letter was issued by the OCR in 2011 with the hope of giving a clean cut layout of the procedures that need to be followed by federally funded institutions when dealing with sexual violence and harassment (Edwards, 2015). This letter included statistics stating that 1 in 5 women on college campuses are victims of sexual assault, or attempted assault
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and 6.1 percent of men are victims of the same (Edwards, 2015). The letter focused on equal treatment of both the accuser and accused in cases of sexual violence between students, reiterating the right to due process of the accused (Anderson, 2016). Schools now need to train those in their employ in Title IX; this is done through offices such as the Office of Equity at CU Denver. The CU Denver Office of Equity hosts hour-long trainings for faculty and staff on the policies of discrimination and harassment. Schools also must have written procedures of how sexual violence cases are handled so there will be a formal, predictable path for all cases to take (Anderson, 2016; Edwards, 2015). Title IX officials at schools are responsible for investigating any reports of sex discrimination, sexual harassment and sexual assault that are reported to them. CU Denver reports and investigations happen through the Office of Equity.
The Title IX sexual misconduct procedures, as implemented by the University of Colorado Denver | Anschutz Medical Campus, demonstrate the investigative processes that follow the reporting of a sexual misconduct case. The University, in compliance with Title IX, outlines the steps they follow with each report they receive (Office of Equity, 2016). Each investigation begins with an initial assessment of the reported concerns (Office of Equity, 2016). This initial assessment includes informing the Complainant of resources available and the process to come (Office of Equity, 2016). This assessment is expanded to explore the concerns of threats and risk factor for the Complainant and the campus community. When these assessments are complete, procedure gives three paths of resolution. If further investigation is needed there will either be an informal (or alternative) resolution or a formal resolution (Office of Equity, 2016). The formal resolution is when a case is made and either closed with an option to reopen it later or it is investigated further with the request of the Complainant (Office of Equity, 2016). The Title IX Coordinator will direct the formal investigation. Once The Office of
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Equity decides upon the formal investigation, an investigator is given charge of the investigation in order to make a prompt, thorough, fair, and impartial investigation(Office of Equity, 2016). The possible paths of investigation are displayed in the table from cudenverequity.org, available to all students, faculty and prospective students.
This example of investigation processes and procedures are in line with what Title IX asks of all federally funded universities. By 2014, there were recognizable flaws in college and university responses to sexual violence in accordance with the written procedural standard that they were supposed to be upholding (Edwards, 2015). These faults were enough to warrant an expansion of the Dear Colleague Letter to address the lack of follow through by universities to investigate the violations of Title IX protections and to create the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault (Edwards, 2015). This Task Force asks for schools to conduct surveys on their campus to better understand the sexual violence that is happening there (Anderson, 2016).
In July of 2014, a survey of 440 four-year colleges and universities was released assessing how these colleges and universities report, investigate and adjudicate sexual violence reports (Ridolfi-Starr, 2016). The findings were of serious concern, with 40% of those schools having no records of any investigations happening over a five-year time period, which does not reflect national statistics of cases of sexual assault (Ridolfi-Starr, 2016).
The Office of Civil Rights made another push to give colleges and universities the resources needed to conduct successful Title IX investigations of the acts of sexual violence occurring on their campuses, providing more detailed guidelines. At this time, there are a large number of colleges and universities that are being investigated for violations of Title IX (Ridolfi-Starr, 2016). A list naming the schools that have not successfully complied with the guidelines
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given by the OCR for handling Title IX complaints is published (Ridolfi-Starr, 2016). May of 2014 showed this list as having 55 colleges and universities on it for being under investigation for compliance violations of Title IX (Meloy, 2014). A later reporting of the list showed at least 172 colleges and universities under investigation (Ridolfi-Starr, 2016). A 2015 count of the colleges and universities being investigated showed there to be 120, and yet another shows 97 investigations of 94 schools (Anderson, 2016; Edwards, 2015). There was certainly space for investigations to be completed as more investigations were being added to the list to be addressed.
Individuals today who file Title IX complaints have a university Title IX office or officer responding and investigating their concerns. Even with universities following guidelines, there are still Title IX complaints that can take years to be addressed (Brodsky and Deutsch, 2015). Even so, it remains important for Title IX complaints to be reported, filing such complaints offers an opportunity to articulate demands, gamer publicity, and educate students about how they, too, can demand more of their university (Brodsky and Deutsch, 2015, pp. 140). For Colleges and universities listed as being in violation of Title IX this is especially true. All schools should respond to the needs of the students and accurately address the rights of those students.
Policies: Support for Title IX Compliance
There have been other policies implemented that work with Title IX, and which have assisted in the shifting of the anti-discrimination focus to include sexual harassment and later sexual assault coverage. In 1990, The Jeanne Clery Act was passed requiring all colleges to release annual security reports listing how many crimes happen on or near their campus that year (Ridolfi-Starr, 2016). The Clery Act did not require colleges to collect data on how they handled
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the crimes happening on or near campus or who was committing the crimes (Ridolfi-Starr,
2016). The focus was on getting the number of occurrences of crime and the types of crime that happen on university and college campuses. The Clery Act did not make a report of how campus security handles these crimes or what came of the individuals involved in the crime mandatory. This leaves a gap in the data after the initial collection of statistics on occurrences of types of crime. The Clery Act has been successful in creating crime statistics of frequency of crimes around campuses, but colleges can report that crimes are occurring without being held accountable for following up (Ridolfi-Starr, 2016). It did not collect statistics addressing the crime, the perpetrators, or if applicable, the victims (Ridolfi-Starr, 2016). When the Cleary Act is applied to crimes of sexual violence, such as sexual assault or rape, there is no responsibility of the college to share how the case was handled or if the victim or perpetrator were a student at the school (Ridolfi-Starr, 2016). Once again there are major gaps, this time in the possible lack of follow up that could allow a perpetrator of sexual violence to repeat the crime, if the school does not successfully handle any case resulting from the crime, or they do not pursue a legal case. The Clery Act is successful in providing campus crime rates to the university, the city the university is in and the state. Having legal cases following the Clery Act reports helps to fill in the gaps of who is being impacted by crimes on campus.
Also, in support of Title IX are policies used to define sexual consent. The Clery Act addresses the rates of crimes tracking the dangers of campus, this cannot be done without first defining what constitutes a sexual assault or sexual harassment. Title IX usage in cases of sexual assault is wholly dependent on the definition of consent. There are models that generally shape policy on sexual consent, no means no and yes means yes. Accusations of sexual assault are serious and with a no means no policy the burden of proof of the sexual assault falls on the
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victim (Muehlenhard, et al., 2016). Including affirmative language in policies about consent is used to make the process easier and more reliable for victims reporting. There are two focal points in policies that define sexual consent. There is the no means no and the yes means yes perspectives. No means no was first in policies, before the affirmative, yes means yes, consent, which came about as an improvement on the no means no consent perspective. The no means no model has been criticized for its ambiguity (Marciniak 2015).
No means no is also referred to as the traditional sexual script (Muehlenhard, et al., 2016). The no means no framework focuses on the necessity to stop sexual activity when someone says no or to stop. This usually means the woman needs to tell the man who is already engaging sexually that she wants him to stop (Muehlenhard, et al., 2016). The ambiguity in no means no comes from the situations that these sexual encounters might be happening in that make a woman unable to verbally say no or she feels unsafe doing so. This is drawing on the sexual script in which the man is the initiator and the woman accepts his advances. One student, in another article by The Washington Post explained a situation where she did not say no although she wanted to, It wasnt rape, but it was kind of similar, she said. I technically did consent. I said okay. ... I was scared to say no. He was bigger, we were alone, he wouldnt stop (Anderson and Craighill, 2015). This students understanding of consent reflects the no means no ideology as well as the reason for the shift to affirmative consent or yes means yes. An individual might not say no to a sexual encounter but that does not indicate that, yes, they are willing to follow through with the encounter (Decker & Baroni, 2012). Having consistent definitions of consent can make cases that use Title IX to address sexual assault easier to understand.
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Policies: CU Denver Title IX compliance and Programming
As of Fall 2016, women made up 52% of the 10,493 CU Denver undergraduate students (The Regents of the University of Colorado, 2017). My purpose in conducting this research is not to understand the general CU Denver student, but to gain a stronger understanding of subjective viewpoints of women students who share their ideas about sexual assault and consent on our campus. These perspectives can open new doors into how students can be connected best to campus policies.
Sexual consent includes; asking for consent, giving consent, assuming consent, coerced consent, affirmative consent, and those from Beress study of consent as agreement (Beres,
2007). CU Denver uses affirmative consent language in their policy and Beres includes the same ideology in her definition of communicative sexuality,
The consent policy requires members of the campus community to verbally ask permission for each type of sexual activity, and also requires a positive verbal response in order for consent to be given (Beres, 2007, pp. 102).
CU Denver campus and resources
This section focuses on our campus community and the policies that impact us. CU Denver shares a campus with Metropolitan State University (MSU) and the Community College of Denver (CCD); the campus is called The Auraria Campus. The campus is located in downtown Denver and is predominantly a commuter campus. CU Denver has the majority of students living off campus who commute to the campus for their classes. Sharing a campus with other schools has its perks; CU Denver has resources available to students through the university as well as through the campus. There are numerous offices and organizations that work to help students that want to learn more about sexual assault and sexual consent and teach policy. There are
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resources that address occurrences of sexual assault and non-consensual activity, and those that further work to provide support and counseling following any occurrence of sexual misconduct, whether it be discrimination, harassment, or assault. The offices and organizations have these programs in order to appropriately implement the University and campus policies that address sexual misconduct. CU Denver has policies that are specific to CU Denver students, staff and faculty.
CU Denver, through the University of Colorado Board of Regents, gives definitions of discrimination, sexual harassment, and sexual assault on the university website, on the Discrimination, Sexual Harassment and Retaliation page (Board of Regents, 2015). The page is used to explain a CU Denver policy on discrimination. The article explains the ways in which, CU Denver does not discriminate and will not tolerate discrimination by individuals,
The University of Colorado does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, disability, creed, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, veteran status, political affiliation, or political philosophy in admission and access to, and treatment and employment in, its educational programs and activities (Board of Regents, 2015).
This university policy is in addition to the federal policies that also discuss discrimination, sexual harassment and assault. The policies are based on definitions of discrimination, harassment and sexual assault that the university has identified as accurate. CU Denver makes the definitions of these terms, and others, accessible to visitors on their website. The definition of discrimination as it relates to this research is, unfair treatment, including harassment, because of one of the traits listed above, that results in a negative employment or educational action (Board of Regents, 2015). These consequences come if discrimination is directed at individuals for any of the
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aforementioned protected categories, and sexual harassment is the same. Sexual harassment is defined here, sexual harassment consists of interaction between individuals of the same or opposite sex that is characterized by unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature (CU Denver Human Resources, 2015). This definition of sexual harassment includes sexual assault. As it is defined here, sexual assault can include quid pro quo, giving into the sexual encounter is made to be necessary for an individuals continued employment, housing or education or in the case of hiring or promotion, or educational success (CU Denver Human Resources, 2015). Sexual assault is also defined as the conduct of others is creating a hostile, negative environment, which makes it difficult for an individual to feel comfortable in their work or academic space (CU Denver Human Resources, 2015). It also includes sexual contact, including touching, groping and penetration that is unwanted (CU Denver Human Resources, 2015).
Through CU Denvers Office of Equity, visitors to CU Denvers website (www.ucdenver.edu) can access all policies related to sex based discrimination, sexual harassment and sexual misconduct. Sexual misconduct falls into the category of sexual harassment but also warrants policies specifically addressing it. In the Administrative Policy Statement, number 5014, CU Denver lays out their desire to protect students and faculty from unwanted sexual advances (Academic Affairs and Employee Services, 2015). Their work to make the campus a safe climate where there is little sexual misconduct and a level of comfort that allows students who are affected by sexual misconduct to feel comfortable reporting to the appropriate offices, for CU Denver it is most often the Office of Equity (Office of Policy and Efficiency (OPE), 2015). This Policy Statement includes a list of what actions are considered sexual misconduct. The sexual misconducts on this list are all punishable through the
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university after an investigation by the Office of Equity. In order to recognize when an action is considered to fall in to one of these sexual misconducts, the policy also defines terms that are used in determining when actions are harmful and unsafe to the individual they are directed towards.
CU Denver defines what consent is in a paragraph, which is followed up with the instances in which consent cannot be given: if force, threats, intimidation, or coercion are present there cannot be consent (Office of Policy and Efficiency (OPE), 2015). The same is true if an individual is incapacitated; they cannot consent (Office of Policy and Efficiency (OPE), 2015). Explanations of these factors of non-consent are followed by examples and a further explanation into how CU Denver focuses on affirmative consent,
The unambiguous and voluntary agreement to engage in a specific sexual activity. Consent is clear, knowing and voluntary words of actions which create mutually understandable clear permission regarding willingness to engage in, and the conditions of, sexual activity. Consent must be active; silence by itself cannot be interpreted as consent (Office of Policy and Efficiency (OPE), 2015).
When there is a case in which someone experiences sexual assault, sexual misconduct or discrimination The Office of Equity can be called or a form can be filled out explaining the events. The Office of Equity is not the police, so if a student wants to report the event to the police they can do that alongside their report to the Office of Equity. They do provide resources to take cases to the police but it is not necessary for a report to the school to go to the police.
Affirmative consent is the first and most in-depth of the definitions CU Denver uses when defining policy terms. Sexual assault is defined using the lack of affirmative consent,
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Any sexual intercourse, however slight, with any object by any person upon another person that is without affirmative consent and/or by force. ... No matter how slight the penetration or contact (Office of Policy and Efficiency (OPE), 2015).
Sexual assault is also defined here as touching without affirmative consent. (Office of Policy and Efficiency (OPE), 2015). These definitions are based in the lack of affirmative consent of an action; this makes it vital to have clear definitions of affirmative consent. Disseminating this definition to the campus community can help to create a more uniform understanding of consent. With more students understanding consent in the same way that is in line with the school policy, it is less likely that there will be miscommunications between individuals and more likely that the school will be able to successfully address reports of sexual misconduct.
CU Denver Programming
The context of educational programs on consent influence the perceptions of those who attend events and workshops. The rhetoric of the curriculum students are exposed to at these events may vary in how sexual assault or sexual consent are defined. Programs are run through student associations and residential life. Program curriculum has been criticized for teaching that people need to work on not getting raped as opposed to not raping (Smiler & Plante, 2013).
Other programs, like at the University of California at Los Angeles use slides, videos and theatre to teach new students about acquaintance rape and the idea that, if youre not sure, you just need to stop. Everyone can stop(Anderson & Craighill, 2015).
Campus resources influence CU Denver students. Our university has programs that are made to influence students perceptions of consent and educate them about the campus and the sexual misconduct policies. CU Denver has programs and workshops available to students on campus that address sexual assault and topics including consent. Programs at CU Denver are not
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mandatory for students to attend. The Phoenix Center hosts workshops and events that include teaching about sexual consent (The Phoenix Center, 2016). Some of the workshops include interpersonal violence, understanding what a healthy relationship should look like, bystander intervention and media literacy. The Phoenix Center is a womens resource center that shares available resources for victims of interpersonal violence, which includes relationship violence, sexual assault and stalking (The Phoenix Center, 2016). I have personally attended four workshop sessions through the Phoenix Center and in each session they began the presentation by going over the definitions of the words we would be discussing, this included, consent, sexual assault, rape, and interpersonal violence. I found out about these workshops because there were fliers up around campus and I was interested. There are also self-defense classes taught a few times a semester on campus. The Phoenix Center advertises these workshops through their social media accounts as well as the accounts of the three schools they service. They also do promotion through flyers for the events and workshops they host. The Phoenix Center is a resource available to students that attend any of the schools on the Auraria Campus.
Another valuable resource at CU Denver is the Office of Equity. They handle cases of sexual misconduct and promote awareness of Title IX. Their website is the main point of access to their information but they also have trainings, much like the Phoenix Center, that focus on learning the policies and resources available on campus when youre a victim of some form of discrimination or sexual misconduct and training members of our campus community to be supportive of survivors (Office of Equity, 2016). The Office of Equity webpage makes it very easy to report an incident or get more information about policies on sexual misconduct and discrimination.
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CU Denver, although in compliance with Title IX, asked the campus community to fill out a sexual misconduct survey in the Fall 2016 semester to get a better understanding of the forms of sexual misconduct being experienced on our campus, the results of which were not available as of this writing.
Title IX makes it so there should be resources for students on their campuses. CU Denver has successfully implemented policies that comply with Title IX and also respect the individual students attending the university. These policies and the programming used to share them are not understood enough for students to be getting the most out of them. The following chapters explore the perceptions of students and how they are currently experiencing campus policies and programing and what changes they think are needed.
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Title IX Sexual Misconduct Investigation Procedures
No Case dosed and may be reopened later
Yes Proceed with Investigation
Draft Investigation Report & Review
Final Investigation Report
Recommended No .findings) of Responsibility
Respondent submits to the Title IX Coordinator a written statement as to why they contest the findings
The Complainant will have an opportunity to review and respond in writing to this statement
Recommended Findings) of Responsibility
X
Complainant Accepts and Case Closed
Respondent Contests
l
Respondent Accepts
Impacts Mitigation Statements received from the Complainant and the Respondent with both having the ability to review any such statements
Review Panel Hearing & Determination (Panel receives copies of final report and ail statements and may consult with parties)
X
Complama nt does not Accept
Complainant submits to the Title IX Coordinator a written statement as to why they contest the findings
X
The Respondent will have an opportunity to review and respond in writing to this statement
Sanctions Imposed
Other Findings
(THi University of Colorado
Anschutz Medical Campus
Final Outcome Letter simultaneously issued
Figure I. Chart of Report Progress at CU Denver.
Here is a chart of the different paths that a report to The Office Of Equity can take when they are investigating a case of sexual misconduct.
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CHAPTER III
METHODS
In order to answer these research questions of how students understand sexual consent, what sources they draw from to understand sexual consent and what they know about campus policies on sexual assault and consent, I conducted semi-structured interviews with CU Denver undergraduate students. Through interviews with 17 women currently enrolled, I was able to collect information on how these students view sexual consent, sexual assault and campus policies. These individuals met with me and talked for 30-90 minutes, with most interviews lasting closer to 50 minutes.
During these interviews, I asked participants questions about sexual assault, sexual consent, policy, and where they learned about these topics. Each interview yielded valuable insight into these students perceptions. I then transcribed and coded each interview using thematic analysis to make sense of the information collected. The coding process moved through various stages through which themes could be developed and patterns could be found (Fereday & Muir-Cochrane, 2006). Starting with CU Denver as a single university being studied can help connect CU Denver students with the policy affecting them and defining the specific resources at this institution. CU Denver has policies that exclusively relate to the students and the campus. Using this one university allows for the research to focus on one set of policies and programs and how they specifically relate to these students.
Sampling
All participants were between the ages of 18 and 24. This is the age range that a traditional college student would be part of if they went straight from high school to college and
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attended their college for 4 or 5 years (Sinozich &Langton, 2014). This is important to included, it makes sure this research, using CU Denver, is easily transferable and capable of being merged with other undergraduate universities. Of the 17 interview participants 7 of them are white, 1 of which is European-American with dual citizenship. Five participants self identified as either Latina or Hispanic. Two participants are Asian American, 1 Korean and 1 Chinese, and 2 participants are African-American and 1 is Indian. Of these 17 students there were 8 majors; Biology, Communication, Psychology, International Business, Music Business, Political Science, Theater, Nursing, and Undeclared. The major of each student is important to know what materials they are exposed to in their classes and finding if there are majors that discuss sexual assault and consent more than others. A Political Science major might have to learn about Title IX for class, whereas a English major might take a class on trauma in literature, and further, a chemistry major might not come across the topics at all. The age range was from 18 to 24 and I was able to interview 3 18-year olds, 6 19-year olds, 4 20 year olds, 2 21-year olds, 1 22-year old and 1 24- year old.
All were full-time undergraduate CU Denver students, in hopes of finding students who spend the most amount of time on campus and have the most exposure to the programs available on campus. A CU Denver full time undergraduate schedule is usually at least 4 classes. Interviewing students from one university gives insight into specific aspects of that university and how it handles sexual assault policy and education. We saw in the previous chapter that CU Denver uses its own policy language to enforce Title IX guidelines.
Specifically looking at CU Denver is different from looking at a traditional university with a residential campus. CU Denver is a commuter campus that is developing to include more residential options for students. Expanding sexual assault research to explore differences
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between residential campuses and commuter campuses can help address how handling sexual assault can be successful in different ways depending on contexts. Another aspect of Auraria campus and CU Denver that give it a unique atmosphere is the proximity to downtown Denver and its easy accessibility to individuals who are not part of the campus community.
I chose to recruit women for this study because they are not only more often the targets of sexual assaults but are predominately the targeted audience for education programs about preventing sexual assault (Anderson & Craighill, 2015; Bennett, 2016; Szymczak, 2016; Wilson, 2015). In 2002, statistics show that women made up 91% of victims of sexual assault (Rennison, 2002).
To recruit interview participants I used convenience sampling and snowball sampling, where one participant refers the next. I reached out to my network of CU Denver students and classmates, asking them to invite friends and acquaintances to reach out to me to be interviewed. Major was a vital factor in recruitment, as I did not want to only interview women from one major or one department. I wanted to see if major had any influence in what individuals were exposed to or interested in. I supplied the individuals I reached out to with fliers and business cards with my contact information on them and a description of what the project is and what the interview would entail. The flyer stated:
Seeking Participants Social Research Connecting Policies to Perceptions: How do students at CU Denver understand sexual consent? We are looking for volunteers to take part in a study of sexual consent and college campuses. As a participant in this study you would be asked to participate in a one-time interview lasting up to an hour. Were looking for women who are full time students at CU Denver.
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Along with reaching out to my network, I began building new networks through social media. I joined 25 different CU Denver focused Facebook groups and posted similar reach out messages on each of them. I posted at least two posts in each group where it was allowed, based on rules of moderation. Not every post that went up on a group page received attention, but I had a number of people contact me directly through Facebook messenger. I also contacted some of the readers who liked my posts with a private Facebook message directly to them asking if they would be interested in participating.
The other method of reaching out was through classroom recruitment. I went into three different course classrooms and explained my research and what I was asking for from the students who chose to participate. These sampling methods were limited to individuals who had access to my recruiting materials. By using Facebook posts, potential interview participants could only be those who use Facebook and show interest in being active in these CU Denver group pages. The individuals who chose to reach out, comment or like my post initiated their own participation and may be more compelled to talk about sexual assault and consent than other students (Fereday & Muir-Cochrane, 2006). I could not offer any incentives other than buying coffee or refreshments during the interview.
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Table of Interview Participant Demographics
Name* Age Ethnicity/Race+ Major Where interviewee lives/distance from campus.
Eileen 20 Chinese-American Pre-med Biology with parents
Nora 21 White Communication within 1 mile of campus
Melissa 19 Hispanic Psychology with parents
Lauren 24 German-America International Business within 5 miles of campus
Harper 18 White Music Business campus housing
Reagan 19 White Political Science, Economics minor within 5 miles of campus
Sophia 20 Korean-American Music Business with parents
Allison 18 White Undeclared within 1 mile of campus
Kaylee 19 Latina Nursing with parents
Gina 22 Latina Psychology within 5 miles of campus
Liza 18 Latina Undeclared with parents
Patrice 19 Latina Theater within 1 mile of campus
Breeze 21 White Psychology, Biology minor more than 5 miles from campus
Lilly 20 African-American Biology with parents
Valda 19 Indian Undeclared with parents
Sarah 19 White Undeclared with parents
Co nine 20 African-American Psychology, Sociology minor with parents
* Not actual names of women who participated. + These are self reported by the women who participated.
Figure II. Table of Demographics of Interview Participants
All 17 interview participants are listed in this table along with their age, ethnicity/race, major and how far they live from campus, living with parents is noted as such as well because many interview participants just said they lived with their parents, when they did not live in campus housing.
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Interviews
I use a semi-structured interview guide, which allows for data that represent intimate understandings of individuals and their social world (Fereday & Muir-Cochrane, 2006). I use an interview guide to keep the focus on the thesis questions and those questions support it.
I would use the time filling out the consent form and explaining the project to get to know them and let them know that I am a friendly energetic individual ready to listen to their perspective and that all their responses are right. Qualitative interviews are able to get participants ideas about events and ideas in great detail (Weiss, 2004). With face-to-face interviewing, like what was done for this project, not only are the words important but so are the inflections, facial expressions and body language (Hermanowicz, 2002). Every interview gave me new questions to ask and follow-up with. Two participants brought up resources addressing sexual consent that I was previously unaware of, including, a bystander intervention video as well as two articles discussing cases at other universities.
The interview guide was able to direct our conversations to focus on the research questions. The guide was divided into four sections, background, college, policy and programs and conclusion. All four sections discussed sexual consent alongside the main topic. In every interview conducted there was space for the interview participant to take the conversation in the directions they found the most relevant to the questions.
Coding
I coded the interview transcripts to explore my thesis questions; how do college students at CU Denver understand sexual consent, what sources do they draw upon to understand sexual consent, how do students experience campus policies around sexual consent. My initial themes were based on these research questions and prior research on sexual assault and sexual consent.
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Reading the research about sexual assault on college campuses and the articles arguing for different methods of handling sexual assault rely on the different perceptions of sexual consent. Because the interview guide grew from there, so did my coding methodology. I began by looking for the mentions of ideas about consent, sexual assault, relationships, Title IX, our campus (CU Denver), sources of information, and stigma in our conversations. These were broad themes created to help explore the transcripts of the interviews for more details and themes. I looked through the interviews to find the similarities in definitions of consent and to find what interview participants referenced the most often when talking about learning sexual consent. I draw on thematic analysis to build themes from the data Ive collected through interviews (Hermanowicz, 2002). Using thematic analysis, I was able to expand on the themes I started with (Fereday & Muir-Cochrane, 2006). As I read through the transcripts the first time, notations were made for what should be looked for. The second time through demarcations were made in the left margin for where each theme appears. The third read through for coding the transcriptions was to make notes of the potential themes not already noted, this was done in the right margin. I ultimately created a collection of categories within the themes.
Limitations
The limitations of these sampling methods include the limited group of individuals who gain access to my recruiting materials. By using Facebook posts, potential interview participants could only be those who use Facebook and show interest in being active in these CU Denver group pages. The individuals who chose to reach out, comment or like my post initiated their own participation and so are people who are compelled to talk about sexual assault and consent or they understand the challenges a student might have finding research participants. This factor makes it so those who do not think sexual assault is a topic worth discussing were not
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interviewed. I lacked the tools or resources to draw in indifferent individuals, which is a common issue in Qualitative research (Fereday & Muir-Cochrane, 2006). Two interview participants told me that they have conducted interviews before and understand the effort in collecting participants, while other participants shared their personal reasons for finding sexual assault and consent important topics to discuss. One limitation often used when discussing qualitative research is the lack of generalizability. A 17 interview participant sample is on the smaller side and is not representative of the whole CU Denver population of women (52% of students).
I did not get input from groups other than women, notably men. I made reference to research that looked specifically at mens understandings of sexual assault and sexual consent but I did not ask CU Denver students who were not women. In the future, it would be useful to create a comparison using a similar interview guide to get the perspectives men on our campus hold in regards to sexual consent, where they learn about it and how they view it.
The Office of Equity put out a survey at the same time I was conducting my interviews, collecting data on interpersonal violence. They put out annual numbers on the reports that come through their office but actual numbers collected through the university have not been published at the time of this writing so I cannot speak of the prevalence of sexual misconduct on our campus. Throughout my discussions with women, there was only one mention of consent in a same sex relationship, the majority of responses about what consent looks like relied on a heterosexual relationship narrative.
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CHAPTER IV
FINDINGS
The following pages will describe these findings and explain their positions in the broader conversation on sexual consent at our campus. The interview participants shared their definitions of sexual consent. Those definitions came from the different perspectives these women were each coming from. There are many influences on individuals in how they define sexual consent; of the women interviewed, I recognized references to cultural background, parental influence, experiences with sexual consent, and exposure to sexual consent in the media. Sources of sexual consent are influential in how consent is talked about and defined. The women interviewed responded with strong emotions to different topics, they care about how sexual consent is addressed but they dont see it being addressed enough on our campus.
Policies & My Shifting Questions
At the start of this research, I had hoped to get a sense of what students thought about the policies on our campus and their stance on Title IX. As I conducted interviews, it became apparent that interview participants did not have opinions on Title IX; some had heard of it while others admitting to having never heard of it. This caused my goal of understanding interview participants thoughts on policies to have to adjust to only look at sexual consent. Instead of coming at the questions from perceptions of policy and perceptions of consent, I shifted focus to start at definitions and understandings of consent and how those definitions could be used in policy.
Students Define Consent
There is variety in the definitions of sexual consent across personal understandings to the literature and policy. This is why Melanie A. Beres exploration of sexual consent is not only
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relevant when reading the literature on sexual consent but in the context of this research. Here, Beres helps to explain why conversations on sexual consent are not simple. Beres recognizes the role of sexual consent in sexual violence and also finds the inconsistencies in its definition to hinder its use.
Sexual consent plays a pivotal role in discussions and debates about sexual violence because the absence of sexual consent is most often the defining characteristic of sexual violence (sex without consent) (Beres, 2007).
The role of consent is the most important in understanding if an act of sexual violence or sexual misconduct has occurred. It is difficult to understand exactly how sexual consent is experienced in the private everyday lives of individuals.
Beres research explores the ways in which consent is portrayed in the literature on consent. She recognizes how underdeveloped the ideas on consent are and she looks to define the different frameworks from which sexual consent is understood (Beres, 2007). Beres advocates for more research on this topic as being a necessity (Beres, 2007). A space Beres feels is not accessed enough to understand is the personal interactions that involve implementing definitions of consent. She writes,
While consent is critical to the understanding of sexual violence, it remains a nebulous concept. We are not privy to the details of the sexual experiences of others, and therefore we cannot learn how to communicate sexually based on others experiences, and talking about sex with a prospective partner is often considered taboo (Beres, 2007).
Consent is important to talk about so that this inability to understand others experiences becomes less taboo. Once the taboo aspect of talking about sexual experiences begins to be broken down, we can begin to understand the experiences of others in ways that can be applied
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in personal experiences moving forward. This makes sex safer and sexual violence less prevalent.
Participants use yes means yes language when defining consent.
CU Denvers definition of sexual consent includes affirmative consent, the unambiguous and voluntary agreement to engage in a specific sexual activity. Participants generally thought of consent in similar ways. They used language prioritizing saying yes over saying no,
Melissa: I mean [consent is] definitely them saying, yes, I want to do this. I think the word yes definitely has to be in there. If its not, even if no isn 7 in there but yes isn 7 then its still not okay, you know what I'm saying?
Gina used language that made it so consent is only given if it is a yes. She referenced the tea consent video that CU Denver showed at freshman orientation. This video directly reflects the yes means yes policy used by CU Denver.
Gina: [Consent is] me agreeing it sex, and if I say I don 7 know then I don 7 think thats a yes -1 think its really relatable to that tea video unless they explicitly say yes then I don 7 think anything should happen.
Ginas explanation of consent really reflects the affirmative consent language that silence or lack of resistance cannot be interpreted as consent and that it should be assumed that anyone who has yet to say yes, I would like to... has not yet consented to the start of any activity (Muehlenhard, et al., 2016, pp. 464). Many of the women interviewed made use of this affirmative consent language before I brought up the yes means yes policy language during our interviews.
Patrice: A lot ofpeople they like, I hear that a lot in rape cases and stuff like that. She like looked like she was okay with it, but did she say yes. Like, did she? Was it very clear
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and she was like well not "clear clear, but almost" and I'm like, then that's not clear. You
have to be like clear clear, you know like it has to be 100% clear on both sides.
Patrice echoed the sentiments of Gina, that there is no consent without a definite positive statement saying that everyone wants the activity to happen. Gina continuously reiterated this affirmative stance on consent throughout her interview,
Gina: It's just the like, well I think that the only consent is if someone says "yes" not shrugged shoulders or "I guess", "maybe", "I don't know". Yes is the only "yes" that you should take as "I'm okay with having sex with you".
She thoughtfully paused before her responses, working out the best ways to make her point. Recognizing that consent should be someones affirmative active response to the suggestion of sexual interaction came up in the majority of interviews. As Valda, a 20 year old transfer student to CU Denver, explained while talking about hook-ups,
Valda: I feel like if its a hook up and sex is involved both parties should be like yes, this is okay and if somebody is feeling iffy then just don 7 go on with it.
Valda specifically talked about making sure theres consent in sexual interactions between people who do not have a generally intimate relationship, such as people who are hooking up for the first time. For Valda it was important that all people needed to be paying attention to how the other is feeling as to not go further than your partner is comfortable with. The same sentiments of understanding your partner came from Harper. Harper approached the definition of consent as an aspect of an established intimate relationship and felt, as Valda did, that uncertainty meant things needed to stop.
Harper: when somebody is saying hey lets do this; it's going to be fun" and you say "no I don't really know and you're unsure about it that even, the slightest bit of uncertainty is
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lack of consent and if the other person keeps saying "no! Come on. that's obviously breaking that. It's the slightest hint of like "I don't know ", how small it can be.
Harper included in her definition that pressuring or saying come on after someone says theyre not interested. Coercion or pressuring a partner into saying yes is not consent; if someone is to consent, they need to do it of their own free will. This is exactly what Allison, the 18-year-old freshman, found to be important,
Allison: Probably either a verbal or obvious non-verbal agreement to be doing things... Just being into things, not being forced into anything.
For Allison, consent could be saying yes or showing your partner that youre interested, and more importantly the agreement had to be made to move forward with sexual interaction without pressure from your partner.
The idea of verbal statements given during a sexual interaction has received some negative responses, both in my interviews and research elsewhere. Two interview participants responded to the idea of verbally agreeing to have sex mockingly, as if to say that saying yes was an unreasonable extra aspect of a sexual encounter. For example, Breeze, a 19-year-old Psychology student, said,
Breeze: I don 7 know, it sounds weird because when you re working up to the sex you re like, YEAH. (Tone changes to a more formal prestigious tone) Yes, I would like to do it. (She laughed) I can 7 see where you just pause and you re like do you want to? and [They re] like ye-e-es .
Breeze isnt the only critic of affirmative consent ideologies. When I explained affirmative consent to Eileen, she had a similar distaste for it, she felt as if yes means yes policies were not
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safe for both parties because there is to much space between verbally saying yes and verbally saying no.
Eileen: it just makes me very very uncomfortable as a person. Like Ifeel physically uncomfortable. ... yeah because how you explained it.... I don't know how you would explain it to other people in a sense for like both people are safe. I think they should just do away with that completely, just stick with (whispers) "no means no".
Eileen knew more about the no means no perspective coming into the interview and felt much more comfortable with it than she felt with yes means yes. For Eileen, no means no is the better ideology for addressing consent because its clear in that when you say no all action must stop. Her understanding of yes means yes was less clear because different words could be used that might look like a yes but really mean maybe on uncertainty.
Participants use no means no language when defining consent
Not all interview participants spoke of consent in terms of affirmative consent. Some interview participants defined consent as a statement of refusal, no means no perspective or found consent to be difficult to define.
Eileen: both of you have to understand what's going on and then if there's some sort of uneasiness then you don't do it at all. Cause it's like you're drunk when you said yes but as a person, like you as a person should be like I don't want that to happen. So like "no means no" like even if she's like Sigh, oh no don't do it Don't do it, because it can result in a lawsuit or in people getting hurt and even getting killed and that's not a good thing.
Eileen sees no as being the most important aspect of consent because it is easy to understand in a legal situation; if someone said no then any further action is an act of sexual violence. Misunderstanding was Eileens focus when she was defining consent; she wants a way to make
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sure that when you do not want to do more you can say no and that no will be understandable to the partner, translatable to court, and successful even when said in a less than serious way. This misunderstanding from one individual exemplifies what universities are struggling with on a larger scale, getting their students to view consent in the same way.
Kaylee started defining consent but stopped to share a story of her experience that demonstrated how consent could be difficult to understand or give, regardless of how policy may tell you to define consent,
Kaylee: Um, I mean, thats a tricky situation [defining consent]. Um, agreeing to do it, I guess. I don 7 know. Just saying no is consent. Not saying no is like saying yes. ... Yeah, well, I was in a situation a couple weeks ago where I did something that I probably shouldn 7 have done and Ifelt like it was just kind of required. But I never. I didn 7 want to do it and then I felt awful afterwards. But then again, I was the doer So theres nothing I could have done about it. ... We were in the car and he lay back in his seat and I'm like (tilts head to the side and scrunches her face inquisitively) o-kay, Ifeel like I have to.
Kaylee is enthusiastic and open throughout our conversation but when sharing this story her voice was shaky, her demeanor was immediately cool and I could see her face change as she decided to tell her story. She spoke flatly, in a matter of fact way, reflecting on the story as she told it. Later in the interview when I asked her if she thought other people defined consent in similar ways to how she saw it and shared that she felt people saw consent as being the fact that they progress in their actions.
Kaylee: [other people see consent as] probably just whether they decide to do it or not... It's more of it's ayes if it's not a no. ...If I don't say no then fair game kind of thing, but still if
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someone were to take that to court, it's like how do you know I said yes? It's not like you have a recording thing in their room, "I have you saying yes right here. I can't be charged. It can't be controlled, unless you have a third person in your room making sure it's going the way it's supposed to. ... Nobody wants that?
Kaylees thoughts during our interview were driven by trying to understand her experience and how interactions could be explained to people not present during the sexual encounter. This is one of the problems with cases involving sexual consent; it is challenging to explain to others how the consent happened, especially if there are perspectives with different stories. Kaylee felt that the best way to portray that there is not consent is to say no to the activity, anything else is consenting because youre acting or letting the acts happen.
These definitions from Eileen and Kaylee do not reflect the policies of CU Denver, but they do open up the conversation on consent to include these understandings that need to be addressed as well. There are students who understand consent in ways different from how our university defines it. This brings us into our third perception of consent from interview participants, in which consent is harder than just saying that it looks one way in all situations. Acknowledging the struggles of understanding the ambiguity of situations in which consent is occurring can help to relate these ambiguities to the consent policies.
The ambiguity in consent
When defining consent, interview participants brought up the grey area of consent on a few occasions. Kaylees story of her experience exemplifies more than one aspect of consent that can create a grey area or a hazy line between wanted sexual interaction and sexual assault. The fact that Kaylee felt like she had to participate makes her actions questionable, did she feel she had the ability to make a choice to consent? Without having a choice, or feeling there was only
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one choice makes it so the individual participating did not consent when using an affirmative definition of consent.
Reagan feels that consent is important to sexual interactions but there is a grey area where consent is dependent on the circumstances and the individuals involved,
Reagan: So, I think, obviously consent is necessary, but my thing, like, the grey line in consent is, I know a lot ofpeople say that if you re drunk it doesn 7 count as consent but I can definitely say I have consented when Ive been drunk and I don 7 see an issue with that. That was my choice at the time and I still think that was an okay choice... Obviously if you re blackout drunk its a different story.
This is a line that Reagan has drawn for herself in her own sexual interactions that she does not see as being the standard for all individuals. The definition that we get from Reagans story is one that is in response to the idea that a person cannot consent if they are intoxicated. Reagans definition is that if you are capable of making choices, even when drunk, then that should be viewed as consenting. Her grey line is that people respond to alcohol in different ways so one persons tipsy and able to consent might be someone elses too drunk to make important decisions.
The grey areas in personal definitions of consent vary. Reagan focused on alcohol consumption and when a person can give consent and mean it, whereas Liza looked at the different interpretations of consent by the individuals involved as well as the legal system.
Liza: I think there needs to be kind of like an agreement. Like it's always going to be their word against mine and I think you kind of have to look at the emotional side of it sort of. See in a way where they're coming from and be like okay, why would they make this up?
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Maybe, I mean yeah there have been cases of false accusations and all but like, I don't know. There's a lot that goes into it.
Making an agreement with another individual to move forward with a sexual encounter is important, but Liza is looking at how that agreement would look if one individual ended up saying that an encounter was non-consensual while the other felt it was consensual. Lizas understanding shows that different interpretations of consent can cause problems in interpretations of that interaction.
A mutual understanding of consent can make sexual interactions feel safer. Using affirmative consent can make actions certain. Sarah sees affirmative consent as only being necessary in certain spaces,
Sarah: Consent is someones mutual agreement between someone else to do something. ... / think it depends on the situation [if affirmative consent should be used] but yeah. Sarahs definition of consent really emphasized that context influences what kind of consent is needed. She also continued on to talk about word meanings and how they change based on tone and inflection so an agreement was needed that could be valid beyond the words used to give or not give consent. Playfully saying no dont do that might not be taken as a sincere no if a prior relationship does not exist.
Learning About Consent
Where have you learned the most about sexual assault?
Corrine: honestly, mostly through personal experience. Ive learned a lot about what happens afterward and how it works because I went through it.
CU Denver and other universities work to create and distribute resources on sexual assault, sexual misconduct and sexual consent to be shared with their student population. The
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students do not always recognize the efforts universities are making in creating programs to educated students. Students will draw on other sources to help them navigate the world of sexual consent. In this section, I show how students draw on a range of sources in informing their understanding of sexual consent and sexual assault. Corrines experience with sexual assault is what informed her perspectives on sexual assault and sexual consent. She was not motivated to learn about the resources available in cases of sexual assault until she needed the resources herself.
There has been research discussing where students perceptions of sexual assault and consent come from and what might influence their perceptions. Much of this research focuses on perpetrators. It is important to recognize that all understandings of consent are influenced by the surroundings of the individual. Assumptions about understandings of consent can be a cause of problems in sexual interactions. Beres understanding of spontaneous consent is based on the lack of reflection on where a definition of consent that appears to be common sense is coming from (Beres 2007). This spontaneous consent is based in spontaneous sociology in which the cultural, historical and social forces involved in creating these common sense explanations are not used to explore how we got to these common sense definitions. The research and stories I am exploring here are looking at the sources in the lives of students I have interviewed.
Of the women I interviewed, I was able to listen to stories of where they have heard about consent, who has influenced their current perceptions and stories about their specifically cultural influenced that overshadowed other resources. There were many references to the role that family perceptions of sexual assault have on these womens own perceptions. Peers, social media and television also came up as references when women would explain consent or give an example of a non-consensual interaction.
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Learning from family and culture
Cultural influences affect all aspects of life; especially how sex is talked about. Sophias parents had passed away when she was young but her family culture remains strong. Her family is from an Asian country and she felt as if her culture made it so sex was not talked about at all. For Sophia, she learned about sexual assault towards the end of her high school career but when she did learn about it, she went to her sister to tell her that she had been sexually assaulted when she was younger.
Sophia: I was raped when I was like 11 when I was with a boy that was 4 years older than me but in our culture that was okay. ... If the man wants it then you just have to give it up. It's like very submissive; women are very submissive in Asian cultures already. I didn't know what to do and there was no Phoenix Center, no resource center to understand what was going on. I didn 't even realize it until senior year of high school where I finally talked about it. Which was really different and eye opening to see.
The influence of Sophias culture stopped her from talking about her own negative experience with adults. She attributed her lack of sharing to not being exposed enough to ideas about sex or sexual assault to know what to make of what happened to her when she was 11. She knew she felt bad afterwards but did not learn until later that something could be done about it. When she talked to her older sister about it they were able to try to press charges, talk about sex in the future and Sophia learned that this was something that her mother had also experienced as a young child.
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Valdas parents, similarly, were not open to talking about sex. Valda said her parents were very traditional and closed off to having conversations about the possibility that Valda might have sex before marriage. Only after Valda was sexually assaulted did her parents talk about sex and relationships with her. Both Valda and Sophia were raised in cultures where sex was not a talked about topic, they both talked about how it was challenging to talk about their experience with sexual assault, as was seen in Sophias statement and as Valda described,
Valda: Our relationship changed a lot after what happened to me [at my other school] and weve become a lot more open about things and a lot closer about that... [My Mom told me] 7 don 7 want you having casual sex, you should wait until you find someone and you re in a relationship for a while.
The influence of culture can often overshadow the things your parents teach you about sex. Kaylees mom talked to Kaylee about sex and healthy relationships but tried to hide her own abusive relationship. Kaylee talked about how good her parents were always asking about where she would be and making sure she had ways to get home at night. Her parents are protective and cautious, They make sure Kaylee has mace to carry with her when she has to be out by herself.
As Kaylee talked about how she felt about relationships, she continually referenced that she did not want to fall into the same patterns as her mother. Kaylees mother was with an abusive partner and did not tell Kaylee about it directly but as Kaylee described her influences and perspectives, she drew more from her moms experience with an unhealthy relationship than from the safety rules her parents gave her while out alone. When talking to Kaylee, she talked about how her parents told her to be safe but her stories revolved around being concerned about being in an abusive relationship. Her parents worried about her being at risk out in public and she was more concerned about her relationships looking like those her mother was in.
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Sarah learned the most about sexual consent from her dad and the stories he told her.
Sarahs dad has a unique perspective on sexual assault because of his role as a police officer and School Resource Officer (SRO) who has had to deal with cases of sexual assault. He taught her about staying out of certain risky situations where consent is hard to interpret. He also taught her to be honest and not to lie about being raped,
Sarah: And he also taught me about those situations, Cause I know you do get into situations where you get into bed with a boy and then your parents walk in or someone walks in. Your instinct is to go he raped me or something like that so that you don 7 get in trouble. But be honest, like, oh I messed up accept the consequences type of deal. Sarah talks with her dad about his stories from working at the school and her definition of consent shows that. She sees consent as an agreement between people but that the agreement must be translatable so that other people can see that there was indeed consent or indeed a lack of consent.
Harpers parents also talked to her about sexual assault after doing their own research about college. They were excited about the blue emergency poles that can be found across campus. From what Harper shared with me it sounds as if her parents research paid off, she was listening to the information they shared and took it to heart. Their sharing with Harper really influenced how she views sexual assault on college campuses.
Harper: College campuses in general I think [sexual assault is] a really big problem. My dad read me a statistic, ... 1 in 5 women are raped in their four years at college and that was just like are you serious? So me my roommates and another person down the hall, one of us could get raped.
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Harpers parents were able to inform her before she went to college about the being safe as a student living in the Campus Village, the on-campus housing.
Eileens mom also shared resources with her. She found videos and articles on Facebook that talk about sexual assault and what to do as a bystander.
Eileen: My mom recently watched a video where people were doing simulations where a drunk girl is getting into a car and then someone tried to get her away. Then, Samaritans were like okay and step in and ask do you know her name and do you know where she lives or do you know anyone in her family, like phone numbers and stuff. and like they would take things away and like just hold onto them and kind of guard the person. Eileens mom shared this videos message about bystander intervention with Eileen and Eileen talked about it as if the process of being a helpful bystander is a delicate process. Its important to step in to help but it is also important to make sure that you are not putting yourself into a more dangerous situation. There are situations where stepping in to protect someone from a sexual assault can lead to them being hurt or even you being injured. Eileens greatest influence in her understanding of sexual assault was her older brother.
Eileen: I don't know maybe it's because of how my brother raised me, if you honestly feel as if you are endangered in any sort of which way you show physically and so you would hit somewhere that you could take down the person and get away safely. Which could involve making them... permanently blind or yeah. He used a very dark method, like it was just if I had to reach a point where Ifeel my life is great danger Em going to take yours too, like that kind of idea.
Her brother taught her the importance of defending herself against any physical assault and to be prepared incase a situation escalated to a point where she felt unsafe. Throughout our interview,
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this preemptive attitude came up frequently, such as when she would describe examples of sexual assault or consent and would harshen her tone.
Being able to connect the lessons from her brother and her mom in her understandings of sexual assault has a strong influence on how Eileen views situations. Although she has never needed to use any of the defense skills her brother has taught her, she talked aggressively about how she would act in a situation that she felt would call for it.
Learning from friends experiences
People who did not bring up their family did bring up the experiences of their friends as being lessons for them on sexual assault. An individuals cultural upbringing will influence how they perceive sex and sexual consent but to them that might not be the biggest factor in what influences their perceptions. Some interview participants focused on how their perceptions on sexual consent were shaped by the experiences of their friends. This was the case with Melissa; her interest in understanding consent came from her friends. Melissa has two friends with different experiences involving sexual consent and sexual assault.
Melissa: I guess I could tell you cause you don't know them, I mean one of my friends went to [another university] and got really drunk one night and then woke up in a guys bed and didn't know what happened and then my other friendjust kept saying no and it still happened.
Melissa talked openly to her friends about their experiences and noticed that their behaviors changed afterwards. Melissa was able to learn about the dangerous aspects of being in a situation where consent is not included in the sexual interaction. For Melissa, consent is not dependent on if someone says no things should stop but the idea that someone needs to actually say yes to sex
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before anything happens. This definition comes from seeing her friends being negatively impacted by their unwanted sexual experiences.
Laurens voice was shaky as she shared the story of being with her friend when she went through a sexual assault. Like Melissa, she learned about the importance of being able to say yes to a situation in order to consent.
Lauren: I mean, I like watched my friend essentially get sexual assaulted and at the time I didn't really know. We were at a party and she was drinking really heavily and she got so drunk and then she was gone and I didn't know where she went and so she was locked in a room with a guy and he was like {She whispers} having sex with her. She was completely unconscious and I found that out and I tore the door down and I ripped this guy off of her and I was like "don't touch her I was so pissed. ...It was a day party. It was a pool party. You know what I mean? It wasn't even at night where like you know I was drinking. I wasn't really drinking I just sat by the pool the whole time and then she was just gone and I was like "where did she go" and so I went and lookedfor her and found her like... it was crazy. ... That literally had such an impact on me.
Laurens experience with her friend opened her eyes to the fact that she had stereotyped sexual assaults as something that happens at night and starts in crowded clubs. She said herself it had such an impact on her, and she went on to tell me that now shell drink less and watch to make sure her friends dont drink too much. She takes on the responsibility of making sure everyone stays safe because she has seen first hand how horrible a sexual assault can be.
Reagan, a political science major, felt that there was a grey area in consent and she also talked to her friends about it. Being able to share her thoughts on sexual consent and policies allows those she shares with to have a space where they can also share their thoughts.
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Reagan: Being a Poli-Sci major, I think [consent is] something I talk about a lot with people. You know, we sit around and talk about politics and get on rants about consent and things like that. I think theres a grey line with it. Thats just my personal opinion Having open communication with your friends can help with creating understandings of consent. Sometimes with friends, it can be difficult or feel unnecessary to talk about sexual assault and consent but talking is what helped Reagan see that there are grey areas in how consent is defined. Both Lauren and Melissa shared that they felt their friends did not need to talk about what sexual assault and consent mean because they have already been through it. Reagan talks with her friends about their experiences and how policy influences experiences. Talking to friends has helped Reagan define consent for herself and understand what influences how others define their own consent. This sharing of experiences is what our campus is looking to gain through developing resources to teach consent. Reagans experience allowed her to recognize the different situations that can make consent look differently to different people.
Learning from Personal Experience
Harper has a very strong explanation of what consent looks like. She draws from her own experiences of being in an unhealthy long-term relationship,
Harper: That both parties need to be okay with whats happening and they need to be transparent with each other, knowing whats okay and whats not okay so that even if youve been in a relationship for however long, you know? If something is okay one day, it might not be okay the next day.
Harper looks at consent as being a necessary aspect of maintaining a healthy long-term relationship because of her own relationship which when she looks back she sees it as having lacked respect.
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Harper: My friends, after I got out of an abusive relationship my freshmen and sophomore year [of high school]. I didn't know it was happening until after the fact and my friends were always saying, "yeah, that was happening", "you should have done something." and I was like "I didn 't know that was considered that."... Now I know because of them, I know where the line is and when to say no. Like I said: even with the tiniest bit of uncomfortability, nope.
Harpers view of consent includes an affirmative and certain yes in that moment. She does not think that there should be any signs that a partner is uncomfortable with moving forward with sexual actions, or that a yes should always be assumed just because you are in a relationship. Much of how Harper defines sexual consent comes from her own experience in an abusive relationship and the conversations she had with friends after she got out of that relationship. This sharing with her friends about her experience and about their recognition of her experience as being abuse strengthened her own understanding of the relationship as abuse.
Still, other interview participants talked about their own experiences with sexual consent. Reagan shared that consent was often not verbally asked for when she slept with men, even in positive sexual experiences but was asked when sleeping with women.
Reagan: Okay, so personally, I know I ask [for consent] when I'm sleeping with girls because -1 don 7 know, when I'm with a girl, I'm like is this okay? is this fun?
With guys, I think theres a big stigma that guys just always want to sleep with you -which is -1 don 7 know It seems super true. I don 7 ask when I sleep with guys, sometimes guys ask me but not really.
In understanding sexual consent, there remains to be ambiguity in how individuals give and understand consent in sexual interactions. Reagan has developed her understandings of consent
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through different experiences in her personal interactions along side conversations with her friends about consent.
Experiences with social media
Another interview participant Nora continually made references to the media and how she has talked about the sexual assault cases that are on the news and the discussions in her communication classes. Nora brought up the Stanford case involving Brock Turner as well as the Florida State University (FSU) sexual assault case involving Jameis Winston and a case involving college students in Indiana. She knew about a number of different cases because of a documentary that drew her into wanting to find out more. Noras major, Communication, gave her the basis to read and follow sexual assault cases that are shared in the media.
Allison said that she has probably learned more about sexual consent from watching Law & Order: SUV than she did from her high school sex education program. Lauren also made references to Law & Order: SUV. Eileen found one story on television particularly compelling and she described the scene,
Eileen: There's this scene from Fresh Off The Boat... The father was explaining to his son what sex is ... and he comes downstairs and is like "whelp, it is done and wipes his hands together. His wife is like "did you tell him about rape? You didn't tell him!" and so she runs up and she takes a stuffed animal and she's hitting her son and screaming, "How does that feel? Do you like that! Do you like that? Girls don't like that either!" and he's like "Mom, what are you doing? and she's like "now you know and she like walked off and I think that was the best of like comedy with something very serious, especially to a child, because someone is wailing on you and probably to a victim that's how it feels.
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The lively description that Eileen gives of this scene from Fresh Off The Boat gave her the space to think about how a victim of sexual violence feels. Some interview participants referenced television shows but it was more common that they made reference to seeing something online. References were made to articles on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts that they followed.
Valda: Articles that I see on social media or posts I see on social media, thats where I get most of my information from. ... Lots of them are like Teen Vogue, a lot of the time they post articles on consent.
Valda found posts by Teen Vogue magazine relevant to issues of sexual assault and consent most frequently. This magazine posts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. It has been focusing on issues such as sexual assault more frequently than it has been addressing fashion. There are many different outlets within these social media sites that discuss sexual assault and consent.
Melissa: yeah sharing the information and also Twitter Ifollow this feminist activist group and they post a lot of stuff like that. {!'akes out her phone to look up what it's called.} It says it's calledfeminism matters. But yeah they just sometimes post stuff relating to that.
Twitter is a resource where it is easy to follow many different accounts that focus on different issues, ideas and fandoms. Melissa uses her Twitter account to follow a feminist activist group so she can be up to date on feminist issues. Consent was one issue that Melissa said was covered by this feminist Twitter account. Being exposed to consent on social media can have an impact on individuals even if they dont realize it. This is what Reagan explained when talking about what she sees on social media,
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Reagan: I think it's [consent] been talked a lot about on social media a lot which is good because even ifpeople don't agree with you, even if they see it that like at least influences a tiny part of their mind and maybe some day they'll come around and start to see it. Exposure to conversations and resources that focus on sexual consent or sexual assault can be influential even when individuals are not particularly interested in the topic. CU Denver works to make sure students have access to information on the resources that are available on campus. Does CU Denver influence student perceptions
When asked about resources on campus, the majority of interview participants brought up flyers in the bathroom of the Tivoli building, our student union, as a main source of information on campus. These flyers are a method of disseminating information that is successful in reaching the actual students but is often not enough to fully inform them. Like Reagans understanding of how social media influences people even when they are not interested, campus fliers in the bathroom expose bathroom users to information on sexual violence, not because theyre interested but because theyre using the bathroom.
Interview participants have seen these flyers and received emails about CU Denver resources but have not attended the programs available. They draw on their experiences with family and friends, as well as, social media and news when defining what sexual assault and consent look like to them. Even though our university has a number of different resources available that teach about sexual assault and consent, the women I interviewed drew more heavily on other resources because they did not have the time or desire to stay on campus for workshops or events.
Melissa: I mean like honestly in bathroom stalls I see it. I've seen ads for like if something has happened to you, you can go to the Auraria Phoenix Center or something,
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or the counseling resources center, just like confidential things you can go to for help is mostly what I've seen. Many of the flyers in the bathrooms are created by the Phoenix Center, the womens resource center on campus.
Melissa has seen the flyers and knows about the resources they are promoting and what they do. She, like other interview participants, has not had the time to attend events on campus outside of her classes. Melissa and Lauren did feel that the bathroom signs were influential to students even though they themselves were not influenced to attend any events or workshops.
Lauren: Um so in the bathroom stalls there are like the Phoenix thing cause when you're peeing and all you see is Phoenix health center. Thats the only one I think, that's the only one that's on campus. ...It is working because you're exposed to it and you see it, yeah and that's the only thing I see on campus that has anything to do with sexual assault.
Breeze and Sophia brought up the bathroom flyers as well, as being the main source of any information coming from the campus. This seemed to be the one recognized method of researching students, they knew the details of the flyer and who was posting but they still had not attended events or workshops.
Two interview participants brought up a video from freshman orientation that does use affirmative consent. Blue Seat Studios created a series of videos addressing sexual consent and sexual assault through animated videos about drinking tea and blaming a murder victim (Brian, 2016). The video the interview participants, Gina, and Sophia brought up is the one using tea as a metaphor for sexual interaction. In this video, one stick figure is asking another stick figure if they would like some tea, the narrator explains that you shouldnt pressure someone into drinking tea, you shouldnt pour tea down someones throat, and its okay if someone says they
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want tea and then they decide not to drink it. The video is meant to explain affirmative consent using a relatable non-sexual situation.
Sophia: and now at [freshman] orientation, I don't know if you know this, they show that tea consent video. Ifeel like that's how consent should be talked about, in a joking way but like it's so simple to understand. Why don't you understand it.
Its encouraging to see that students are recognizing the resources being shared with them from the university. Not only that but they understand the content of the tea consent video as pushing for a clearer understanding of affirmative consent in sexual interactions.
These sources of information about sexual consent and sexual assault are not separate from each other; as you read about familial references and social media references, you see that there is overlap in what influences individuals. We are all products of our cultural upbringing and we are continually impacted by the experiences and information we are exposed to in our lives.
Is consent education important to students?
Students interviewed may not have attended any workshops or events about sexual assault or consent on our campus before participating in my interviews but they showed interest in learning more. Many of the women interviewed showed their interest through their emotional responses to the stories they shared with me. Many of the interview participants made references to current stories involving sexual assault and harassment.
Nora: it's really aggravating and this whole idea of Rape myths like "how much were you drinking? "What were you wearing? and there's this movie that came out within the last year, I can't remember exactly what it's called but it talks about the Title IX lawsuit that's happening, like the federal government is suing like 129 different universities...
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Nora is a Communication major; she continually referenced different news stories, social media posts and specifically the documentary The Hunting Grounds during our interview. She would bring up a case and shake her head and furrow her brow as she told me what she read or heard and then snap into excitement to ask me if I had heard of the next story that she wanted to share. For a conversation saturated with sexual assault cases and negative experiences of sexual assault victims, it was very lively. You could see that Nora had really absorbed every incident discussed in The Hunting Ground and then took it upon herself to find out more. The Hunting Ground is a documentary meant to share the experiences of the victims of sexual assault at universities and the negative treatment they face along with the lack of punishment faced by those accused. Shes definitely passionate about the topic, talking about her frustration with the lack of assistance for victims and, like in the above quote, her dislike for putting the blame on the victims and on women for how they dress.
From Noras interest in learning about sexual assault, she had heard of Title IX and the work that Joe Biden has done to protect students from being victims and being re-victimized by the formal processes that that comes after a sexual assault.
Nora: ... and I think Joe Biden was awesome in his response to the Brock Turner case, of like telling the girl "our justice system failed you". Our justice system is supposed to protect you and we're constantly failing you and people that this has happened to.
Noras Communication courses helped her get exposure to the issues surrounding sexual assault on college campuses; she also had her own strong opinions about whats happening at universities, who is benefitting, and who is suffering. Nora was informed and opinionated, and she was not the only one.
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When I began this research, Brock Turner had just been sentenced to 6 months in jail after being found guilty of three accounts of sexual assault on a woman (Baker, 2016). The victims statement, which she read during her testimony against Brock Turner also came out, describing the feelings of finding out that she was sexually assaulted and how she was coping since the incident (Baker, 2016). Both pieces of that story, the trial and sentencing and the victims response, spurred social media and news outlets to discuss sexual assault and consent. The women I interviewed shared what they knew about the case as well as, how they felt about the case and the information that is out there about it.
Gina: One [example of a dangerous situation] that comes up the most is, someones drunk or not fully aware. I suppose, then they can 7 really express the feelings of no or try to stop someone from doing that. ... I'm pretty sure youve heard of the whole Stanford student thing. ... Thats an exact example of non-consensual sex.
Gina used the Brock Turner case as an example of sexual assault, while talking about the case, she would sigh as if the topic was to heavy to be talking about. Other interview participants said just how exasperated they were.
Reagan: I think [sexual consent] has been talked about a lot on social media. ... The whole thing with Brock Turner, oh my god.
Reagan followed the Brock Turner story closely and had read about the different ways people have been responding to the fact that he only served three months instead of the already short six months of time. Reagans statement, oh my god was said through a clenched jaw. She was angry about the case. Harper also talked about how mad it made her to learn about the case and hearing the victims testimony but her tone sounded more sad than angry.
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Harper: (in a whisper) oh my gosh. The most recent thing [on sexual assault] I can think of is the Stanford rape case. That just makes me so mad.
The emotional responses to the Brock Turner case came from all the interview participants who brought the case up. Regardless of definitions of consent or perceptions of sexual assault, there was a consensus that this case was bad, bad enough to need to have attention paid to it.
Lauren: Look at the publicity Stanfordjust got from that case! Nobody wants that, nobody wants to be the school where rape is a normal thing.
This case was covered from all perspectives by the media and students statements about the many aspects of the case reflected that. Lauren talked about how negative the media coverage is for Stanford. Nora followed the stories about the lawyer and her activism after the case.
Nora: The Brock Turner case [is an example]... I also read an article about the Stanford lawyer; shes a professor on campus and activist going down to the Santa Clara County Jail and courthouse protesting to remove the judge [of Brock Turners trail].
There were many references to different aspects of the Brock Turner case, including the use of media where he was referred to by his athletic career and the story of the lawyer who protested the judge who tried this case and only gave a 6-month sentence for 3 cases of sexual assault.
Also referenced was the testimony letter from the victim and a news story about armed men surrounding Brock Turners house.
Also at the time of these interviews, the presidential campaigning between Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump was happening, dominating a large portion of the news. A number of interview participants brought up Donald Trump, in reference to a video released in which Trump said, grab [women] by the pussy. His explanation for using aggressive, threatening language was that it was locker room talk. The medias coverage of this story lead to the
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sharing and creating of content about resources for victims of sexual harassment and assault. Hilary Clinton had a campaign ad addressing Donald Trumps character and his treatment of women. The women interviewed after both of Donald Trumps statements and his subsequent election discussed the influence of Donald Trump,
Kaylee: Donald Trump and the way he talks to women, there's that. That's why my brother didn't like him, he's like, "he treats women bad" that was his response, my 8year old brother. Yeah he's a terrible man. But what can you do? And that's just from him watching campaign commercials where the tv is on in the background and there are two kids sitting at the table, and he's [Trump] like cussing out a girl and these kids are just sitting there eating their breakfast and the mom is just doing dishes or whatever it is and is just shaking her head. It's a pretty powerful commercial. My brother definitely picked up on it.
The election really highlighted the need to talk about sexual assault and sexual consent. The nonchalant way Donald Trump talked about his mistreatment of women really got interview participants attention.
Gina: I don 7 think the election helps much either (laughs)... Just because of that video, about Donald Trump and what he said, that made people think that those things are okay. So, I think it [the election] kind of backtracked the whole consent thing.
Even with Ginas statement of this news story backtracking the push for implementation of consent policies, it is still encouraging to hear that not only are these women hearing and paying attention to these news stories but also they recognize that theyre not advantageous to the work of policy makers and educators to define sexual consent affirmatively. Each of these responses on Brock Turner and Donald Trump were filled with exasperated tones and offended laughter.
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They were not just stating facts they heard about sexual assault and sexual consent in the media but they responded with anger and heartbreak over how negative these two situations are for the progress of respect in sexual interactions.
Women are affected by sexual misconduct at higher rates than men, but the women I interviewed felt it was important to talk about the fact that men can be victims and women can be perpetrators. Patrice was the only interview participant to discuss the fact that same-sex couples could experience sexual assault, or any form of sexual misconduct, from their partner. While others wanted to make sure that sexual assault is an issue for all people
Sarah: I also think it [consent] should go both ways because females can do it to males ...I mean, you don 7 hear about it as often, I don 7 think its as socially thought of but it definitely happens, maybe not to the same extent because women don 7 technically have a lot of power or strength in most cases. I mean, it does happen [that men are victims].
Sarah and Sophia wanted to make sure that men were talked about because they found that cases of sexual assault involving men as victims were not seen in the media but do happen and need to be talked about.
Sophia: ... even that men get raped too and that's like never even talked about.
Making the case that the rhetoric should change to include both women and men as possible perpetrators came up. Interview participants brought up making sure that sexual assault was not gendered in our conversations. They were concerned that gendering the conversation and focusing on women would discount the experiences of men as victims and make it harder for them to come forward and share and have people believe them. Non-gendered sexual assault goes against the statistic that women make up 91% of sexual assault victims, which demonstrates
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that sexual assault is indeed gendered (Rennison, 2002). There is reason to bring up men and explore heir experiences with sexual assault but bringing it up here was suprising to me.
Melissa: A guy, or even a girl, because it's not just guys raping. They can think they're doing everything right and think they're being a good person but really they're not just because they don't know.
The topic of men as victims came up in many interviews, interview participants wanted to make sure that they did not stereotype groups or blame victims for their situation. The attention to detail in relaying stories and making sure they were not excluding victims experiences demonstrates the amount of thought these students put into their ideas on sexual assault and consent. Many of the instances of men as victims being discussed came when the conversation started to get challenging. It was a deflection from the focus on women being in danger; every participant I interviewed is a woman and talking about the prevalence of sexual assault and the cases that involve women as victims. Talking about men as victims distances interview participants from the fact that this impacts them.
Students Suggestions For Improved Programming
Interview participants shared their interest in learning about consent but they also shared that they are not on campus enough to attend the events that our campus hosts. Although they care about the issues, they do not feel like our campus fosters an environment that they want to spend their free time in. One suggestion for how our university could address sexual assault and sexual consent and get students to attend events is to build the community. This could help CU Denver to be a more informed and safer space. Lauren promoted the idea of building a community throughout our time together; discussing how our campus does not have the social atmosphere seen at other campuses she has visited.
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Lauren: Ijust feel like it's not a very social campus. Ifeel like compared to [other campuses] and all the frats and all the dating there is a little bit different than here. Ifeel like here it's slim to none. Meeting people is harder especially personally like going to class and trying to meet guys here is impossible. I'm going to stay single for a very long time in this school.
Me: Why do you think our school is like that?
Lauren: We have no main sports, so nothing really brings people together as much in social settings. I think it's also that we don't have any Greek life on Campus. Like as much as some people hate Greek I think that does benefit the community, and the culture of the school versus not having any of that and Greek life invites people and in that sense you become one.
Lauren and Valda saw community as being necessary to getting students on campus to attend events and want to stay on campus to be able to attend events. They both felt that the best way to build a community was through Greek life and expanding our athletics program, both connected to higher occurrences of sexual assaults on campuses (Warren, Swan, & Allen, 2015). Valda loves the idea of getting Greek life on our campus which, was surprising considering she transferred from a school where her sexual assault was the result of a Greek life party.
Valda: I almost love it [Greek Life] because I love having a group of filends and right now I don 7 really know anybody... I feel like ifpeople are part of cultural groups then they have that community.
Building a community can make students feel safer on campus and make them want to stay on campus more often. It also comes with greater risks; Greek life and athletics expose students to more alcohol and more situations that are dangerous. Both Lauren and Valda want our campus to
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have a stronger community than when they are seeing now and they think that the community can help students share and teach each other about consent and safety. Building a stronger community could definitely be beneficial to our campus and our sense of shared culture. Our campus is a commuter campus and this creates more challenges in getting people to stay on campus for events than at residential campuses. A residential campus has more opportunities to develop a shared understanding of consent within their campus community; our commuter campus leaves fewer opportunities to reach students.
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CHAPTER V
CONCLUSION
Studying the perceptions of sexual consent on our campus can help CU Denver reach out to students in ways that students will receive positively, making them want to participate in our campus community. Sexual violence is something that has been addressed on college campuses for a long time; there are different approaches to adhering to Title IX policy. CU Denver successfully implements resources to teach and support victims of sexual misconducts and violence, but students I interviewed did not know about the policies, and although they knew about events and workshops, they had not attended any themselves. From these interviews we learn about how students define sexual consent, what they draw on when building their definitions and what they feel is important.
Students I interviewed felt that sexual consent is a topic that they have had exposure to, enough so that they have developed their own definitions of sexual consent. Having personal understandings of consent can help them in their personal lives. The number of people impacted by sexual assault on college campuses is too high, two of the women I interviewed open up about their own experience with sexual assault at other college campuses. Both of these women shared that they have learned more about consent and sexual assault since their negative experiences. They both were glad to be able to share their experiences with me and with peers because they both wanted to help others do what they can to stay safe.
Federally funded universities must follow Title IX guidelines and have procedures in place for handling cases of sexual misconduct on their campuses. CU Denver has this through the Office of Equity. The Office of Equity maintains the definitions by which procedure follows.
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The Definition of consent used at CU Denver, and the other CU campuses, is an affirmative consent model, a yes means yes model.
Yes means yes consent was the most commonly referenced model among my interview participants. Although, how they explained their affirmative consent contained variations in when affirmative consent should be used and what it should look like. These differences of understandings, even in a small population of students demonstrated just how much variety there is in what consent looks like to individuals. The variety in definitions and understandings comes from differences in how individuals build on their definitions of consent.
Students definitions of consent come from their cultural upbringing, the influence of their family and friends, their own personal experiences and what they are exposed to through social media. Each of these sources of information does not stand-alone but work beside the others to create definitions of consent. Some interview participant draw on one source more than others. One interview participant drew all of her information from social media and a documentary and another learned from personal experience and facts from her parents. When people draw on different sources when building their definitions of consent it can be challenging to reach out to them in ways that get their attention.
What comes next at UC Denver
The purpose of going through what these women draw on when developing and sharing understanding of sexual assault and consent is to find how CU Denver can become an influential source of information. CU Denver already has policies and programs available to students but of the students I talked to, at least half of them felt as if there were not enough resources on campus to help students understand sexual assault and consent, or that they just did not have the motivation to stay on campus for related events.
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The women I interviewed made suggestions about what kind of resources would get their attention and make them show more interest in campus events and workshops on sexual consent. Some ideas suggested to just add more of what CU Denver already has,
Melissa: maybe just implementing it in a required class or providing incentive to use a questionnaire about it, and then maybe putting up more flyers to where people would see them, I mean bathroom stalls, that's a good idea, but maybe other places like doors to rooms.
Other students really pushed on the idea that students need incentives to stay on campus and attend events. The most prominent suggestion was to create a campus community that people want to be a part of. Another suggestion was to hold a rally; because rallies have been bringing people together recently, about causes theyre interested in. Some smaller initiatives were to give food incentives or to just share information more often online, in emails and on canvas as well as making a workshop mandatory with a class or with freshman orientation. When making suggestions interview participants focused on ways to reach out to the entire campus community, no only people who showed interest in learning more about sexual consent.
Patrice: umm changes. I think there should be some sort of campus wide announcement or something like that. I mean I know you can't really have an assembly like they have in high school, cause there's so many kids. But maybe like every class is required to talk about it on this Monday or whatever. Something like that where they... like everybody's informed about it so it's not just like oh I hear people talking about it, I don't know what this is. Okay I'll just ignore it because I don't know what it is.
Patrice is right; talking about consent should not only be focused on those who are showing interest but on the campus community as a whole.
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CU Denver policy on sexual misconduct defines consent in this affirmative way. Although, some interview participants stated that their education on sexual consent came from experiences, some also made reference to resources shared at CU Denver. There are impactful resources coming from the university that are being recognized, such as the bathroom flyers. Our university does work to make sure that our policies are supportive of our students and that there are programs to teach students about sexual misconduct and the perceptions in policies. Students do not always see the work that is being done. This research gave insight into what some of the students think could be more successful ways to getting students to come to events and teaching students about campus policies.
Discussion
When starting this project I was interested in hearing what students had to say about our campus policies that define consent and where they stood on the Title IX measures involving sexual assault. I soon learned that these students were not exposed to campus policy and Title IX in the same capacity that I was. This created a shift in focus to find out what these students think the campus can do to teach students about sexual consent and sexual assault and how our policies fit into that.
Of the findings, it was important to follow the issues that the women being interviewed find most relevant when talking about sexual consent. Many of the interview participants came to the conversation from vastly different circumstances. The sources found to play a principal role in individuals understandings of sexual consent varied but could be categorized to focus on whether or not they were likely to reference the universitys resources, the role of the internet and social media, and the influence of family and friends. Women interviewed continually
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referenced the importance of communicating and knowing what a partner wants in order to have consent.
Womens suggestions of more flyers and more exposure at big events on campus could help CU Denver to reach a wider audience but interview participants saw fliers and heard about events but had not attended because they did not have the time to go while they were on campus. Making resources that can be available to students who might not stay on campus is useful.
Much of CU Denvers information and The Phoenix Centers information can be found on their website, but being on those sites means you are already looking for more information. Interview participants wanted efforts to reach the students who are not specifically looking to learn more. Two suggestions that the campus can implement are, putting something on canvas and building our campus community. All students are on canvas to access the classes they are signed up for. With the positive feedback on the tea video that explains consent, this video and others like it can be posted on Canvas throughout the semester to continuously reiterate the idea that consent is necessary. Whether it is verbal consent, an agreement of consent or showing consent through body language it is important to be able to show students that they need to communicate with their partners what consent looks like to them.
Working on building a community with a strong support network can help students feel safer on campus and make them want to spend more time on campus outside of classes. With more time on classes, students can attend events and workshops that focus on spreading awareness about sexual assault and consent.
Consent is the underlying factor in sexual misconducts such as sexual assault and sexual harassment. If there were consent in a sexual interaction, it would not be an assault or harassment. Research has been done and policies have been written to better understand sexual
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misconducts, how they happen, why they happen and how to stop them from happening. Definitions of what a sexual assault can look like may have changed, but the numbers have remained that many women will have an unwanted sexual encounter in their time at college. Understanding consent can help this. What Beres called communicative sexuality focuses on communication; people show their willingness to participate in sexual activity, whether verbally, through agreement or physically. There will be communication of a yes, a no, or a in the process of thinking it over a partner just needs to be in communication with the other so that there are not misunderstandings or unwanted encounters. Consenting to something sexual will always involve communication, I was grateful to get the opportunity to talk to these women about how they consent and what they feel can help our school reach out to more people. Researching how to connect policy to people can help inform people of how to use policy and what policy can do for them. Clarifying the definition of consent in policy can help students to learn affirmative consent perspectives for their sexual interactions, thus leaving less room for misunderstandings. This will not solve all instances of sexual assault and sexual harassment but it can lead to progress in lowering the amount of women that experience sexual assault and attempted sexual in their time on campus.
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Full Text

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CONNECTING POLICIES TO PERCEPTIONS: HOW DO COLLEGE STUDENTS AT CU DENVER UNDERSTAND SEXUAL CONSENT? by BONNIE JUSTINE SIRY B.A., State University of New York College at Oneonta, 2014 A thesis submitted to the Faculty of the Graduate School of the University of Colorado in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Social Science Social Science Program 2017

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ii This thesis for the Master of Social Science degree by Bonnie Justine Siry has been approved for the Master of Humanities and Master of Social Science by Jennifer Reich, Chair Omar Swartz, Advisor Sarah Fields Sarah Tyson Date: April 28, 2017

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iii Siry, Bonnie Justine ( MSS, Social Science Program) Connecting Policies to Perceptions: How Do College Students at CU Denver Understand Sexual Consent? Thesis directed by Associate Professor Jennifer Reich ABSTRACT Based on data collected through indepth interviews of CU Denver students, this qualitative research seeks to understand the per ceptions women students have of sexual consent. In trying to understand their perspectives, participants were asked about sexual consent, sexual assault, campus life, and campus policies. Drawing on previous research on students perceptions of consent as well as research on sexual assault policies, this research explores how the policies translate into the lives of students and how students understand their own experiences. The research focuses on three questions: How do college students at CU Denver under stand sexual consent? What sources do they drawn upon to understand this issue? How do students perceive and experience campus policies on sexual assault and sexual consent? Perspectives of CU Denver Students give insight on sexual assault concerns on a commuter campus. These perspectives demonstrate the ambiguity in definitions of consent and the importance of communication with a partner and with family, friends and classmates. Talking about perceptions of consent helps to develop a shared idea of what consent looks like within our community. Building on students perceptions of consent can inform how CU Denver policies are shared and promoted. Data collected in interviews can be influential in ways for CU Denver to share policies and programming on our ca mpus. The form and content of this abstract are approved. I recommend its publication. Approved: Omar Swartz

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iv DEDICATION I dedicate this work to the people in my life that believe in me, even when I'm being ridiculous. Thank you for listening to me

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v ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I would like to thank Professor Jennifer Reich for answering my questions and asking more questions. I would also like to thank Professor Elizabeth Seale and Professor Chris Curch from SUNY Oneonta for getting me involved in sociolog y.

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vi TABLE OF CONTENTS CHAPTER I. INTRODUCTION ........................................................................................................................... 1 II. ADDRESSING SEXUAL AS SAULT & CONSENT ON C OLLEGE CAMPUSES ....................6 Policies: Title IX & Changes over time ..............................................................................8 Policies: Support for Title IX Compliances .......................................................................13 Policies: CU Denver Title IX compliance and programmin g ............................................16 CU Denver campus and resources .........................................................................16 CU Denver programming ......................................................................................20 III. METHODS .................................................................................................................................... 24 Sampling ............................................................................................................................24 Interviewing .......................................................................................................................29 Coding ................................................................................................................................29 Limitations .........................................................................................................................30 IV. FINDINGS .........................................................................................................................32 Policies & My Shifting Question .......................................................................................32 Students Define Consent ....................................................................................................32 Participants use yes means yes language when defining consent ..........................34 Participants use no means no language when defining consent ............................37 The ambiguity in consent .......................................................................................39 Learning About Consent ....................................................................................................41 Learning from family and culture ..........................................................................43 Learning from friends ............................................................................................47

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vii Learning from p ersonal experiences ......................................................................49 Learning from e xperiences with social media .......................................................50 Does CU Denver influence perceptions .............................................................................52 Is Consent Education Important to Students? ....................................................................55 Students Suggestions For Improved Programming ...........................................................61 V CONCLUSION .............................................................................................................................. 64 What Comes Next For CU Denver? .................................................................................65 Discussion ..........................................................................................................................67 V I. REFERENCES .............................................................................................................................. 70

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viii List of Figures FIGURE Figure I CHart of Report Progress at CU Denver ................................................................23 Figure II. Table of demographics of Interview Participants .................................................28

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1 C HAPTER I I NTRODUCTION Consent? I dont know, I guess youre both into it. Even if youre in the middle of sex and you say no then that person needs to get off you right away. You know? But, if you both say yes in the sense of want to, you know? Consent is discussing it. Thats a big thing in relationships that a lot of people dont talk about, the communication. The thing is a lot of girls are scared to say no but they show signs of it, physically show signs of it. Lauren, 23 year old CU Denver student Sexual consent continues to be defined and redefined in both personal spaces and policy. This quote is Laur ens own understanding of consent. Her definition is based on all parties being interested in sex and all parties communicating that interest. For Lauren, if there is a lack of interest, it should be recognizable to a partner even if its not explicitly ve rbalized. Lauren and other University of Colorado Denver (CU Denver) students interviewed for this study placed importance on both verbal and nonverbal communication when defining consent. The personal definitions shared are similar to the university s de finition of consent but the language in policy can lack the flexibility to address the ambiguity of situations This study aims to explore how women college students view sexual consent, and the role of consent in sexual assault as well as, where they have learn ed about sexual consent and what tools they have developed. Sexual assault is an issue on college campuses that continues to need to be addressed. Women have a 1 in 5 chance of being the victim of a sexual assault or attempted sexual assault during their four years of college (Bolger, 2016). Sexual assaults are defined by the lack of

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2 consent to the sexua l act on the part of the victim; this makes the idea of what consent looks like vital in differentiating wanted sex and sexual assault Sexual ass ault and sexual consent have been a documented issue on college campuses since the early 1950s ( Muehlenhard, et al., 2016) In recent years, there has been an increased focus on how to address sexual assault on college campuses. In 2011, a letter came out from the Office of Civil Rights outlining how schools receiving federal funds should be addressing sexual assault concerns on their campuses ( Anderson, 2016) This letter made it clear that any form of sexual violence was a violation of a students right t o receive an education without fear of sex based discrimination ( Anderson, 2016) This letter solidified the fact that sexual violence is a violation of the Title IX policy of the Education Amendments, on top of being a sexual crime. Title IX is responsibl e for addressing cases of sex based discrimination and sexual violence, this letter made it so it is enforced An act of sexual violence can create a lasting hostile environment for the student or faculty who was victim to the violence ( Edwards, 2015) Tit le IX is an anti discrimination policy created to protect against sex and gender based discrimination at any federally funded educational institution (Meloy 2014) When discussing sexual violence, consent is central to the conversations. Consent can tell us if all participants agreed to the sexual interaction that occurred. The fault in looking for signs of agreement to participate is that distinctive individuals may interpret signs of agreement differently (Beres, 2007) CU Denver works to teach students a bout consent so that they hold similar definitions and understanding s of consent. CU Denver defines sexual assault using affirmative consent. Affirmative consent is the yes means yes model which states that in order to consent someone must say, yes. T his came as a response to the no means no model which said actions needed to stop when someone said, no.

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3 CU Denver activ ely promotes affirmative consent. R ecently a video has been shown at freshman orientation about affirmative sexual consent using the example of consenting to having tea although this is not a mandatory orientation session for incoming students. T here are also workshops and events through out the semester that work on teaching consent and sexual violence awareness in ways that refle ct school policy and federal policy. These programs are meant to help protect students from being victims of sexual misconduct and support them if they do have negative experiences. I want to know how college students at CU Denver define consent and what tools they use to understand it. For this analysis of student understandings, I approach sexual consent from the perspective given by Melanie A. Beres (Beres, 2007) Beres takes a step back from individual interpretation and usage of sexual consent in a personal space and explores how sexual consent is discussed in the literature on sexual consent, [Beres] argue[s] that current understandings of consent are underdeveloped and rely largely on assumed and implied definitions. The re is a lack of empirical work on the communication of willingness and consent to sexual relations. This empirical work is vital to increase our understandings of sexual consent and sexual violence (Beres, 2007, pp. 94.) Beres argument is reflected in the literature as well as in policy and policy implementation. The definition of consent varies in policy across universities, cities and states I am taking the idea of underdeveloped and assumed definitions from Beres and exploring the ways in which indi viduals at our university, CU Denver, understand and define sexual consent in their lives. Most importantly, I am looking to find the sources and perspectives from which students grow their understanding of consent; f rom there, we can find what aspects of the definition of consent are

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4 underdeveloped and develop them i nto a more concise definition. Having a definition of consent that can be understood by all students can help decrease the number of negative sexual interactions that happen on campus because of misunderstandings of consent. To get a comprehensive understanding of student definitions of sexual consent I conducted semi structured openended interviews with 17 women currently attending CU Denver. These i ndepth interviews allow me to get a close look at what gaps there could be in students understandings of sexual consent and the policies that are related. The themes developed explore what CU Denver students understand about sexual consent and what that means when trying to understand how our cam pus is experience, how often theyre on campus and what activities they participate in while there. This research can inform future policy writing and program creation by using the sources students respond to, using the incentives students are interested i n, and by writing and disseminating policies that play a bigger role in the lives of CU Denver students. T hrough the indepth interviews, I have been able to not only gather data from interview participants but I have been able to share information about our campus policies with those interview participants. From this research on CU Denvers campus, other campuses can repeat the research project and find the perspectives of their students and as a university respond to those perspectives to make policies th at address sexual assault in accessible ways. Having the opportunity to hear consent explained in students own words help s to develop accessible language in policy, programs and future research. To discuss sexual consent as it is perceived and defined by college women, I begin with an overview of the history of policies addressing sexual consent and the related topics of sexual assault and s exual harassment. This chapter (chapter 2) describes the ways in which consent has been defined. Chapter 3 gives a n in depth explanation of my research methods and why these

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5 methods are important for answering the questions I am asking about sexual consent. Chapter 4 focuses on the responses by CU Denver students in their interviews and the ways they define and have l earned about consent. The ir explanations of consent frame the sources and references they drew on when sharing their perceptions Students tend to see consent in affirmative ways but there is still a lot of variety in their perceptions The sources student s drew from demonstrated the influences of family, friends, media and personal experiences. Students care about this topic but also felt barriers on campus stop students from accessing the resources that the school has available on consent I conclude with suggestions about how these findings can be utilized when moving forward in policy writing.

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6 C HAPTER II A DDRESSING SEXUAL ASSAULT & SEXUAL CONSENT ON COLLEGE CAMPUSES To examine sexual assault and sex ual consent on college campuses, it is key to unders tand what rules are in place on cam puses to address these issues. The policy that has continuously been at the forefront of this work is Title IX. Title IX is a federal policy that is implemented at all schools that receive federal funding. Title IX came a bout as part of the Education Amendments Act in 1972 (Muehlenhard, Humphreys, Jozkowski, & Peterson, 2016) Title IX states: No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be de nied benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance ( Department of Justice, 2000; Muehlenhard, Humphreys, Jozkowski, & Peterson, 2016; Edwards, 2015; Anderson, 2016; Meloy, 2014; Hiers, 1999) Title IX was created to address discrimination in the classroom, to mak e sure students of all sexes receive equal treatment and taking on the responsibility of addressing a full spectrum of issues including sexual harassment and sexual assault. Title IX is extends past sex based discrimination to sexual harassment and assault because these acts of sexual violence are discrimination and mistreatment based on sex Ti tle IX has been used to the full extent, covering sexual harassment and assaul t. It has also been used to develop guidelines in how schools must address claims of sexual harassment and assault Universities are responsible for not only accepting complaints and claims of sex discrimination and violence but they are responsible for actively working to prevent these crimes and protect those affected.

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7 Title IX is brief; it simply says that educational opportunities may not be denied on the basis of sex. But over the last four decades, the law has evolved, and today, schools are required to take affirmative steps to prevent sexual violence and to ensure that survivors can continue to learn (Brodsky & Deutsch, 2015) To get to the place we are today, it is important to go back and look at the development of Title IX since its inception in 1972. This history leads into why schools are to take affirmative steps in the handling of cases of sexual violence and misconduct. The goal of these affirmative steps is for schools to have procedures in place to handle cases of sexual violence on their campuses before an incident happens and so the school is ready to act in all cases that do occur. Without structured protocol to prevent and respond to situations of sexual violence, schools are leaving space on their campus for students to be vulnerable to feel that their campus does not support them (Department of Justice, 2000; Department of Justice, 2000; Department of Justice, 2000) Title IX helps ensure that all federally funded schools have policies like the ones implemented at CU Denver. These policies help to make sure no school treats individuals affected by sexual misconduct differently based on who they are. Policy on CU Denvers campus is built on the federal policies that all universities and colleges adhere to. In the case of policies that discuss sexual consent, this chapter will focus on sex based discrimination policies, sexual misconduct policies, sexual harassment policies, and sexual assault policies. Of these pol icy types there is often overlap in the policy coverage of the issues. Specifically at CU Denver, the policy addressing sexual harassment and sexual assault uses the term sexual misconduct to have all forms of harassment and ass ault addressed by this policy.

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8 Policies: Title IX and c hanges over time. Title IX is an amendment made in 1972 as part of the Education Amendment Act. Its language was based on the language of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act (Hiers, 1999) Title VII protected people fr om sex and gender based discrimination in their place of work (Hiers, 1999) Neither Title IX, nor Title VII directly stated that sexual harassment was not allowed, but circuit court decisions in the mid 1990s decided that protections from sexual harassmen t fell under Title IX (Hiers, 1999) The creation of Title IX made it so the same protections of sex and gender based discrimination were given to individuals in any federally funded institution of education, including K 12 schools and universities. Sex based discrimination can take the form of sexual harassment. Sexual harassment is defined as any unwanted sexual interaction whether it is statements referring to sex, physical touching or gestures and physical advances that are unwanted. Although Title IX was not explicitly used for sexual harassment, the definition of Title IX was continuously expanding to build the link between sex based discrimination and sexual harassment. In 1984, Grove City College v. Bell decided that Title IX was not applicable to college departments that were not directly receiving funds (Meloy, 2014) The claim being that department s that were separate from the education program would not fall under Title IX guidelines because the were not receiving direct funds This decision wa s reversed with the Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1987, stating that Title IX covers all programs not just the offices receiving federal funds, like the financial aid office (Meloy, 2014) This Act made it so that all groups, organizations and department s of schools were included under Title IX protections using a broad interpretation of the policy instead of a narrow one Title IX has since been able to regulate fairness in sex segregated activities, making sure there are athletic teams for men and

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9 wome n and if a team does not exist, an individual is allowed to tryout for the team that does. This is a clear way to find cases of sex based discrimination that do not involve sexual violence or misco nduct. Title IX also handles and investigates crimes of se xual misconduct, which is what this paper focuses on. In a 1992 case involving Title IX, the Supreme Court found that discrimination based on sex, in an educational setting, could lead to a monetary payout (Hiers, 1999) This case ruled to make it so the practical use of Title IX in fe derally funded educational institutions reflected the practical use of Title VII in the work place. This was in the Franklin v. Gwinnett County Public Schools case, where the findings spurred an increase in Title IX suits fil ed and more effort on the schools part to not discriminate (Hiers, 1999) Money motivated people to turn their negative experiences of discrimination based on their sex and occurrences of harassment into legal suits against the school at which it occurred. The number of similar cases dealing with sexual harassment did not have an increase in favorable court decisions on the part of the plaintiff until the late 1990s (Hiers, 1999) Cases were made but they did not lead to a defendant being proven to be a per petrator of a crime. The cases of sex based discrimination with their potential for monetary payouts made the space for cases of sexual harassment to be brought forth with less hesitation. It does not always sound positive to say people would come forwar d because they knew they could get money from the school mishandling a case but with sex based discrimination and sexual harassment coming forward can feel dangerous. Coming forward to say that you experienced sex based discrimination or sexual harassment can cause someone to worry about if they will face repercussions in the classroom or socially. This fear of retaliation for reporting can be addressed in university policies, like it is at CU Denver. The Office of Civil Rights (OCR) also assist s with indiv iduals uncertain about coming forward.

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10 The Office of Civil Rights passed guidelines for handling Title IX enforcement in 1997 (Anderson, 2016) These guidelines made it so schools would be held accountable for the investigation and evidence of harassment s that occurred (Anderson, 2016). The focus was on the colleges and universities to appropriately respond to reports of sexual harassment so that students who had been harassed would not feel unsafe in their classes. Using Title IX to dictate responses to sexual harassment makes cases of sexual harassment manageable, in that the school can create a campus culture in which students feel they are protected from harassment based on their sex while they are trying to further their education. Being protected and supported when dealing with sexual harassment helps universities and colleges further the original purpose of T itle IX, to protect against sex based discrimination. The Office of Civil Rights pressed on university and college compliance with Title IX again in 2001(Anderson, 2016). This is when OCR gave the word that Title IX was to be used to address sexual harassment cases but could not over power the right to due process of any person accused of sexual harassment (Anderson, 2016). Due process is the nee d for those accused to have fair treatment. By this time there had been several attempts by the OCR to make sure that Title IX could be used to address sexual harassment without violating the r ights of those involved in cases. Lower courts successfully tri ed Title IX cases that specifically addressed a sexual harassment encounter (Meloy 2014). The biggest step for Title IXs procedure to shift to addressing sexual assault came in 2011 with the Dear Colleague letter (Edwards 2015). The Dear Colleague l etter was issued by the OCR in 2011 with the hope of giving a clean cut layout of the procedures that need to be followed by federally funded institutions when dealing with sexual violence and harassment (Edwards 2015). This letter included statistics sta ting that 1 in 5 women on college campuses are victims of sexual assault, or attempted assault

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11 and 6.1 percent of men are victims of the same (Edwards 2015). The letter focused on equal treatment of both the accuser and accused in cases of sexual violence between students, reiterating the right to due process of the accused (Anderson, 2016) Schools now need to train th ose in their employ in Title IX; this is done through offices such as the Office of Equity at CU Denver. The CU Denver Office of Equity hos ts hour long trainings for faculty and staff on the policies of discrimination and harassment. Schools also must have written procedures of how sexual violence cases are handled so there will be a formal, predictable path for all cases to take (Anderson, 2016; Edwards, 2015). Title IX officials at schools are responsible for investigating any reports of sex discrimination, sexual harassment and sexual assault that are reported to them. CU Denver reports and investigations happen through the Office of Equity The Title IX sexual misconduct procedures, as implemented by the University of Colorado Denver | Anschutz Medical Campus, demonstrate the investigative processes that follow the reporting of a sexual misconduct case. The University, in compliance with T itle IX, outlines the steps they follow with each report they receive (Office of Equity, 2016) Each investigation begins with an initial assessment of the reported concerns (Office of Equity, 2016) This initial assessment includes informing the Complaina nt of resources available and the process to come (Office of Equity, 2016) This assessment is expanded to explore the concerns of threats and risk factor for the Complainant and the campus community. When these assessments are complete, procedure gives th ree paths of resolution. If further investigation is needed there will either be an informal (or alternative) resolution or a formal resolution (Office of Equity, 2016) The formal resolution is when a case is made and either closed with an option to reope n it later or it is investigated further with the request of the Complainant (Office of Equity, 2016) The Title IX Coordinator will direct the formal investigation. Once The Office of

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12 Equity decides upon the formal investigation, an investigator is given charge of the investigation in order to make a prompt, thorough, fai r, and impartial investigation (Office of Equity, 2016) The possible paths of investigation are displayed in the table from cudenverequity.org, available to all students, faculty and prospective students. This example of investigation processes and procedures are in line with what Title IX asks of all federally funded universities. By 2014, there were recognizable f laws in college and university responses to sexual violence in accordance with the written procedural standard that they were supposed to be upholding (Edwards, 2015). These faults were enough to warrant an expansion of the Dear Colleague Letter to address the lack of follow through by universities to investigate the violatio ns of Title IX protections and to create the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault (Edwards, 2015). This Task Force asks for schools to conduct surveys on their campus to better understand the sexual violence that is happening ther e (Anderson, 2016) In July of 2014, a survey of 440 four year colleges and universities was released assessing how these colleges and universities report, investigate and adjudicate sexual violence reports (Ridolfi Starr, 2016). The findings were of seri ous concern, with 40% of those schools having no records of any investigations happening over a five year time period, which does not reflect national statistics of cases of sexual assault (Ridolfi Starr, 2016). T he Office of Civil Rights made another pus h to give colleges and universities the resources needed to conduct successful Title IX investigations of the acts of sexual violence occurring on thei r campuses, providing more detailed guidelines At this time, there are a large number of colleges and universities that are being investigated for violations of Title IX (Ridolfi Starr, 2016). A list naming the schools that have not successfully complied with the guidelines

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13 given by the OCR for handling Title IX complaints is published (Ridolfi Starr, 2016). May of 2014 showed this list as having 55 colleges and universities on it for being under investigation for compliance violations of Title IX (Meloy, 2014). A later reporting of the list showed at least 172 colleges and universities under investigation (R idolfi Starr, 2016) A 2015 count of the colleges and universities being investigated showed there to be 120, and yet another shows 97 investigations of 94 schools (Anderson, 2016; Edwards, 2015). There was certainly space for investigations to be complet ed as more investigations were being added to the list to be addressed. Individuals today who file Title IX complaints have a university Title IX office or officer responding and investigating their concerns. Even with universities following guidelines, there are still Title IX complaints that can take years to be addressed (Brodsky and Deutsch, 2015). Even so, it remains important for Title IX complaints to be reported, f iling such complaints offers an opportunity to articulate demands, garner publicity and educate students about how they, too, can demand more of their university (Brodsky and Deutsch, 2015, pp. 140). For Colleges and universities listed as being in violation of Title IX this is especially true. All school s should respond to the needs of the students and accurately address the rights of th ose students. P olicies: Support for Title IX Compliance There have been other policies implemented that work with Title IX, and which have assisted in the shifting of the antidiscrimination focus to include sexual harassment and later sexual assault coverage. In 1990, The Jeanne Clery Act was passed requiring all colleges to release annual security reports listing how many crimes happen on or near their campus that year (Ridolfi Starr, 2016) The Clery Act did not require colleges to collect data on how they handled

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14 the crimes happening on or near campus or who was committing the crimes (Ridolfi Starr, 2016) The focus was on getting the number of occurrences of crime and the types of crime that happen on university and college campuses. T he Clery Act did not make a report of how campus security handles these crimes or what came of the individuals involved in the crime mandatory This leaves a gap in the data after the initial collection of statistics on occurrences of types of crime. The Clery Act has been successful in creating crime statistics of frequency of crimes around campuses but colleges can report that crimes are occurring without being held accountable for following up (Ridolfi Starr, 2016 ) It did not collect statistics addressing the crime, the perpetrators, or if applicable, the victims (Ridolfi Starr, 2016) When the Cleary Act is applied to crimes of sexual violence, such as sexual assault or rape, there is no responsibility of the c ollege to share how the case was handled or if the victim or perpetrator were a student at the school (Ridolfi Starr, 2016) Once again there are major gaps, this time in the possible lack of follow up that could allow a perpetrator of sexual violence to r epeat the crime, if the school does not successfully handle any case resulting from the crime, or they do not pursue a legal case. The Clery Act is successful in providing campus crime rates to the university, the city the university is in and the state. H aving legal cases following the Clery Act reports helps to fill in the gaps of who is being impacted by crimes on campus. Also, in support of Title IX are policies used to define sexual consent. The Clery Act addresses the rates of crimes tracking the dang ers of campus, this cannot be done without first defining what constitutes a sexual assault or sexual harassment. Title IX usage in cases of sexual assault is wholly dependent on the definition of consent. There are models that generally shape policy on se xual consent, no means no and yes means yes. Accusations of sexual assault are serious and with a no means no policy the burden of proof of the sexual assault falls on the

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15 victim (Muehlenhard, et al., 2016). Including affirmative language in policie s about consent is used to make the process easier and more reliable for victims reporting. There are two focal points in policies that define sexual consent. There is the no means no and the yes means yes perspectives. No means no was first in policie s, before the affirmative, yes means yes, consent, which came about as an improvement on the no means no consent perspective. The no means no model has been criticized for its ambiguity (Marciniak 2015). No means no is also referred to as the traditiona l sexual script (Muehlenhard, et al., 2016). The no means no framework focuses on the necessity to stop sexual activity when someone says no or to stop. This usually means the woman needs to tell the man who is already engaging sexually that she wants hi m to stop (Muehlenhard, et al., 2016). The ambiguity in no means no comes from the situations that these sexual encounters might be happening in that make a woman unable to verbally say no or she feels unsafe doing so. This is drawing on the sexual script in which the man is the initiator and the woman accepts his advances. One student, in another article by T he Washington Post explained a situation where she did not say no although she wanted to, It wasnt rape, but it was kind of similar, she said. I technically did consent. I said okay. I was scared to say no. He was bigger, we were alone, he wouldnt stop (Anderson and Craighill, 2015). This students understanding of consent reflects the no means no ideology as well as the reason for the shift to affirmative consent or yes means yes. An individual might not say no to a sexual encounter but that does not indicate that, yes, they are willing to follow through with the encounter (Decker & Baroni, 2012). Having consistent definitions of consent c an make cases that use Title IX to address sexual assault easier to understand.

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16 Policies: CU Denver Title IX compliance and Programming As of Fall 2016, women made up 52% of the 10,493 CU Denver undergraduate students (The Regents of the University of C olorado, 2017). My purpose in conducting this research is not to understand the general CU Denver student, but to gain a stronger understanding of subjective viewpoints of women students who share their ideas about sexual assault and consent on our campus. These perspectives can open new doors into how students can be connected best to campus policies. Sexual consent includes; asking for consent, giving consent, assuming consent, coerced consent, affirmative consent, and those from Beress study of consent as agreement (Beres, 2007). CU Denver uses affirmative consent language in their policy and Beres includes the same ideology in her definition of communicative sexuality, The consent policy requires members of the campus community to verbally ask permis sion for each type of sexual activity, and also requires a positive verbal response in order for consent to be given (Beres, 2007, pp. 102). CU Denver campus and resources This section focuses on our campus community and the policies that impact us. CU Den ver shares a campus with Metropolitan State University (MSU) and the Community College of Denver (CCD) ; the campus is called The Auraria Campus. The campus is located in downtown Denver and is predominantly a commuter campus. CU Denver has the majority of students living off campus who commute to the campus for their classes. Sharing a c ampus with other schools has its perks; CU Denver has resources available to students through the university as well as through the campus. There are numerous offices and organizations that work to help students that want to learn more about sexual assault and sexual consent and teach policy There are

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17 resources that address occurrences of sexual assault and nonconsensual activity and those that further work to provide support and counseling following any occurrence of sexual misconduct, whether it be discrimination, harassment, or assault. The offices and organizations have these programs in order to appropriately implement the University and campus policies that address s exual misconduct. CU Denver has policies that are specific to CU Denver students, staff and faculty. CU Denver through the University of Colorado Board of Regents gives definitions of discrimination, sexual harassment, and sexual assault on the univers ity website, on the Discrimination, Sexual Harassment and Retaliation page (Board of Regents, 2015) The page is used to explain a CU Denver policy on discrimination. The article explains the ways in which, CU Denver does not discriminate and will not tolerate discrimination by individuals, The University of Colorado does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, disability, creed, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, veteran status, political affiliation, or political philosophy in admission and access to, and treatment and employment in, its educa tional programs and activities (Board of Regents, 2015). This university policy is in addition to the federal policies that also discuss discrimination, sexual harassment and assault. The policies are based on definitions of discrimination, harassment and sexual assault that the university has identified as accurate. CU Denver makes the definitions of these terms, and others, accessible to visitors on their website. The definition of discrimination as it relates to this research is, unfair treatment, including harassment, because of one of the traits listed above, that results in a negative employment or educational actio n (B oard of Regents, 2015). These consequences come if discrimination is directed at individuals for any of the

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18 aforementioned protected categories, and sexual harassment is the same. Sexual harassment is defined here, s exual harassment consists of interactio n between individuals of the same or opposite sex that is characterized by unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and other verbal or physi cal conduct of a sexual nature (CU Denver Human Resources, 2015) This definition of sexual harassment includes sexual assault. As it is defined here, sexual assault can include quid pro quo, giving into the sexual encounter is made to be necessary for an individuals continued employment, housing or education or in the case of hiring or promotion, or educational success (CU Denver Human Resources, 2015) S exual assault is also defined as the conduct of others is creating a hostile, negative environment, which makes it difficult for an individual to feel comfortable i n their work or academic space (CU Denv er Human Resources, 2015) It also includes sexual contact, including touching, groping and penetration that is unwanted (CU Denver Human Resources, 2015) Through CU Denvers Office of Equity, visitors to CU Denvers website ( www.ucdenver.edu ) can access all policies related to sex based discrimination, sexual harassment and sexual misconduct. Sexual misconduct falls into the category of sexual harassment but also warrants policies specifically addressing it. In th e A dministrative Policy Statement, number 5014, CU Denver lays out their desire to protect students and faculty from unwanted sexual advances (Academic Affairs and Employee Services, 2015). Their work to make the campus a safe climate where there is little sexual misconduct and a level of comfort that allows students who are affected by sexual misconduct to feel comfortable reporting to the appropriate offices, for CU Denver it is most often the Office of Equity (Office of Policy and Efficiency (OPE), 2015) This Policy Statement includes a list of what actions are considered sexual misconduct. The sexual misconducts on this list are all punishable through the

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19 university after an investigation by the Office of Equity. In order to recognize when an action i s considered to fall in to one of these sexual misconducts the policy also defines terms that are used in determining when actions are harmful and unsafe to the individual they are directed towards. CU Denver defines what consent is in a paragraph, which is followed up with the instances in which consent cannot be given: if force, threats, intimidation, or coercion are present there cannot be consent (Office of Policy and Efficiency (OPE), 2015). The same is true if an individual is incapacitated ; they ca nnot consent (Office of Policy and Efficiency (OPE), 2015). Explanations of these factors of nonconsent are followed by examples and a further explanation into how CU Denver focuses on affirmative consent, The unambiguous and voluntary agreement to engage in a specific sexual activity. Consent is clear, knowing and voluntary words of actions which create mutually understandable clear permission regarding willingness to engage in, and the conditions of, sexual activity. Consent must be active; silence by i tself ca nnot be interpreted as consent (Office of Policy and Efficiency (OPE), 2015). When there is a case in which someone experiences sexual assault, sexual misconduct or discrimination The Office of Equity can be called or a form can be filled out expla ining the events. The Offic e of Equity is not the police, so i f a student wants to report the event to the police they can do that alongside the ir report to the Office of Equity They do provide resources to take cases to the police but it is not necessar y for a report to the school to go to the police. Affirmative consent is the first and most in depth of the definitions CU Denver uses when defining policy terms. Sexual assault is defined using the lack of affirmative consent,

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20 Any sexual intercourse, howe ver slight, with any object by any person upon another person that is without affirmative consent and/or by force. No matter how slight the penetration or contact (Office of Policy and Efficiency (OPE), 2015). Sexual assault is also defined here as touch ing without affirmative consent. (Office of Policy and Efficiency (OPE), 2015). These definitions are based in the lack of affirmative consent of an action; this makes it vital to have clear definitions of affirmative consent. Disseminating this defi nition to the campus community can help to create a more uniform understanding of consent. With more students understanding consent in the same way that is in line with the school policy it is less likely that there will be miscommunications between individuals and more likely that the school will be able to successfully address reports of sexual misconduct. CU Denver Programming The context of educational programs on consent influence the perceptions of those who attend events and workshops. The rhetoric of the curriculum students are exp osed to at these events may vary in how sexual assault or sexual consent are defined. Programs are run through student associations and residential life. Program curriculum has been criticized for teaching that people need to w ork on not getting raped as opposed to not raping (Smiler & Plante, 2013). Other programs, like at the University of California at Los Angeles use slides, videos and theatre to teach new students about acquaintance rape and the idea that, if youre not sure, you just need to stop. Everyone can stop (Anderson & Craighill, 2015). Campus resources influence CU Denver students. Our university has programs that are made to influence students perceptions of consent and educate them about the campus and the sex ual misconduct policies. CU Denver has programs and workshops available to students on campus that address sexual assault and topics including consent. Programs at CU Denver are not

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21 mandatory for students to attend. The Phoenix Center hosts workshops and e vents that include teaching about sexual consent (The Phoenix Center, 2016). Some of the workshops include interpersonal violence, understanding what a healthy relationship should look like, bystander intervention and media literacy. The Phoenix Center is a womens resource center that shares available resources for victims of interpersonal violence, which includes relationship violence, sexual assault and stalking (The Phoenix Center, 2016). I have personally attended four workshop sessions through the Phoenix Center and in each session they began the presentation by going over the definitions of the words we would be discussing, this included, consent, sexual assault, rape, and interpersonal violence. I found out about these workshops because there were fl iers up around campus and I was interested. There are also self defense classes taught a few times a semester on campus. The Phoenix Center advertises these workshops through their social media accounts as well as the accounts of the three schools they ser vice. They also do promotion through flyers for the events and workshops they host. The Phoenix Center is a resource available to students that attend any of the schools on the Auraria Campus Another valuable resource at CU Denver is the Office of Equit y. They handle cases of sexual misconduct and promote awareness of Title IX. Their website is the main point of access to their information but they also have training s much like the Phoenix Center, that focus on learning the policies and resources available on campus when youre a victim of some form of discrimination or sexual misconduct and training members of our campus community to be supportive of survivors (Office of Equity, 2016). The Office of Equity webpage makes it very easy to report an inciden t or get more information about policies on sexual misconduct and discrimination.

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22 CU Denver, although in compliance with Title IX, asked the campus community to fill out a sexual misconduct survey in the Fall 2016 semester to get a better understanding of the forms of sexual misconduct being experienced on our campus the results of which were not available as of this writing. Title IX makes it so there should be resources for students on their campuses. CU Denver has successfully implemented policies that comply with Title IX and also respect the individual students attending the university. These policies and the programming used to share them are not understood enough for students to be getting the most out of them. The following chapters explore the per ceptions of students and how they are currently experiencing campus policies and programing and what changes they think are needed.

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23 Figure I. Chart of Report Progress at CU Denver. Here is a chart of the different paths that a report to The Office Of Equity can take when they are investigating a case of sexual misconduct

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24 CHAPTER III METHODS In order to answer these research questions of how students understand sexual consent, what source s they draw from to understand sexual consent and what they know about campus policies on sexual assault and consent I conducted semi structured interviews with CU Denver undergraduate students. Through interviews with 17 women currently enrolled, I was a ble to collect information on how these students view sexual consent, sexual assault and campus policies. These individuals met with me and talked for 3090 minutes, with most interviews lasting closer to 50 minutes. During t hese interviews, I asked parti cipants questions about sexual assault, sexual consent, policy, and where they learned about these topics. Each interview yielded valuable insight into these students perceptions. I then transcribed and coded each interview using thematic analysis to make sense of the information collected. The coding process moved through various stages through which themes could be developed and patterns could be found (Fereday & Muir Cochrane, 2006) Starting with CU Denver as a single univ ersity being studied can help connect CU Denver students with the policy affecting them and defining the specific resources at this institution. CU Denver has policies that exclusively relate to the students and the campus Using this one university allows for the research to focus on one set of policies and programs and how they specifically relate to these students. Sampling All participants were between the ages of 18 and 24. This is the age range that a traditional college student would be part of if t hey went straight from high school to college and

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25 attended their college for 4 or 5 years (Sinozich & Langton 2014) This is important to included, it makes sure this research, using CU Denver, is easily transferable and capable of being merged with other undergraduate universities Of the 17 interview participants 7 of them are white, 1 of which is European American with dual citizenship. Five participants self identified as either Latina or Hispanic. Two participants are Asian American, 1 Korean and 1 Chi nese, and 2 participants are African American and 1 is Indian. Of these 17 students there were 8 majors; Biology, Communication, Psychology, International Business, Music Business, Political Science, Theater, Nursing, and Undeclared. The major of each student is important to know what materials they are exposed to in their classes and finding if there are majors that discuss sexual assault and consent more than others. A Political Science major might have to learn about Title IX for class, whereas a English major might take a class on trauma in literature, and further, a chemistry major might not come across the topics at all. The age range was from 18 to 24 and I was able to interview 3 18year olds, 6 19year olds, 4 20 year olds, 2 21year olds, 1 22year old and 1 24year old. All were fulltime undergraduate CU Denver students, in hopes of finding students who spend the most amount of time on campus and have the most exposure to the programs available on campus. A CU Denver full time undergraduate sche dule is usually at least 4 classes Interviewing students from one university gives insight into specific aspects of that university and how it handles sexual assault policy and education. We saw in the previous chapter that CU Denver uses its own policy l anguage to enforce Title IX guidelines. Specifically looking at CU Denver is different from looking at a traditional university with a residential campus CU Denver is a commuter campus that is developing to include more residential options for students. Expanding sexual assault research to explore differences

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26 between residential campuses and commuter campuses can help address how handling sexual assault can be successful in different ways depending on contexts. Another aspect of Auraria campus and CU Denv er that give it a unique atmosphere is the proximity to downtown Denver and its easy accessibility to individuals who are not part of the campus community I chose to recruit women for this study because they are not only more often the targets of sexual assaults but are predominately the targeted audience for education programs about preventing sexual assault (Anderson & Craighill, 2015; Bennett, 2016; Szymczak, 2016; Wilson, 2015). In 2002, statistics show that women made up 91% of victims of sexual assault (Rennison, 2002). To recruit interview participants I used convenience sampling and snowball sampling, where one participant refers the next. I reached out to my network of CU Denver students and classmates, asking them to invite friends and acquaintanc es to reach out to me to be interviewed. Major was a vital factor in recruitment, as I did not want to only interview women from one major or one department. I wanted to see if major had any influence in what individuals were exposed to or interested in. I supplied the individuals I reached out to with fliers and business cards with my contact information on them and a description of what the project is and what the interview would entail. The flyer stated: Seeking Participants Social Research Connecting Policies to Perceptions: How do students at CU Denver understand sexual consent? We are looking for volunteers to take part in a study of sexual consent and college campuses. As a participant in this study you would be asked to participate in a one time interview lasting up to an hour. Were looking for women who are full time students at CU Denver.

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27 Along with reaching out to my network, I began building new networks through social media. I joined 25 different CU Denver focused Facebook groups and post ed similar reach out messages on each of them. I posted at least two posts in each group where it was allowed, based on rules of moderation. Not every post that went up on a group page received attention, but I had a number of people contact me directly through Facebook messenger. I also contacted some of the readers who liked my posts with a private Facebook message directly to them asking if they would be interested in participating. The other method of reaching out was through classroom recruitment. I went into three different course classrooms and explained my research and what I was asking for from the students who chose to participate. These sampling methods were limited to individuals who had access to my recruiting materials. By using Facebook post s, potential interview participants could only be those who use Facebook and show interest in being active in these CU Denver group pages. The individuals who chose to reach out, comment or like my post initiated their own participation and may be more com pelled to talk about sexual assault and consent than other students (Fereday & Muir Cochrane, 2006). I could not offer any incentives other than buying coffee or refreshments during the interview.

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28 Table of Interview Participant Demographics Name* Ag e Ethnicity/Race + Major Where interviewee lives/distance from campus. Eileen 20 Chinese American Pre med Biology with parents Nora 21 White Communication within 1 mile of campus Melissa 19 Hispanic Psychology with parents Lauren 24 German America Inte rnational Business within 5 miles of campus Harper 18 White Music Business campus housing Reagan 19 White Political Science, Economics minor within 5 miles of campus Sophia 20 Korean American Music Business with parents Allison 18 White Undeclared with in 1 mile of campus Kaylee 19 Latina Nursing with parents Gina 22 Latina Psychology within 5 miles of campus Liza 18 Latina Undeclared with parents Patrice 19 Latina Theater within 1 mile of campus Breeze 21 White Psychology, Biology minor more than 5 miles from campus Lilly 20 African American Biology with parents Valda 19 Indian Undeclared with parents Sarah 19 White Undeclared with parents Corrine 20 African American Psychology, Sociology minor with parents Not actual names of women who parti cipated. + These are self reported by the women who participated. Figure II. Table of Demographics of Interview Participants All 17 interview participants are listed in this table along with their age, ethnicity/race, major and how far they li ve from campus, living with parents is noted as such as well because many interview participants just said they lived with their parents, when they did not live in campus housing.

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29 Interviews I use a semi structured interview guide, which allows for data that represent intimate understandings of individuals and their social world (Fereday & Muir Cochrane, 2006). I use an interview guide to keep the focus on the thesis questions and those questions support it. I would use the time filling out the consent form and explaining the project to get to know them and let them know that I am a friendly energeti c individual ready to listen to their perspective and that all their responses are right. Qualitative interviews are able to get participants ideas about events and ideas in great detail (Weiss, 2004). With faceto face interviewing, like what was done for this project, not only are the words important but so are the inflections, facial expressions and body language (Hermanowicz, 2002). Every interview gave me new questions to ask and follow up with. Two participants brought up resources addressing sexual c onsent that I was previously unaware of, including, a bystander intervention video as well as two articles discussing cases at other universities The interview guide was able to direct our conversations to focus on the research questions The guide was d ivided into four sections, background, college, policy and programs and conclusion. All four sections discussed sexual consent alongside the main topic. In every interview conducted there was space for the interview participant to take the conversation in the directions they found the most relevant to the questions. Coding I coded the interview transcripts to explore my thesis questions; how do college students at CU Denver understand sexual consent, what sources do they draw upon to understand sexual con sent, how do students experience campus policies around sexual consent. My initial themes were based on these research questions and prior research on sexual assault and sexual consent.

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30 Reading the research about sexual assault on college campuses and the articles arguing for different methods of handling sexual assault rely on the different perceptions of sexual consent Because the interview guide grew from there, so did my coding methodology. I began by looking for the mentions of ideas about consent, se xual assault, relationships, Title IX, our campus (CU Denver), sources of information, and stigma in our conversations. These were broad themes created to help explore the transcripts of the interviews for more details and themes. I looked through the inte rviews to find the similarities in definitions of consent and to find what interview participants referenced the most often when talking about learning sexual consent. I draw on thematic analysis to build themes from the data Ive collected through interviews (Hermanowicz, 2002). Using thematic analysis, I was able to expand on the themes I started with (Fereday & Muir Cochrane, 2006). As I read through the transcripts the first time, notations were made for what should be looked for. The second time throug h demarcations were made in the left margin for where each theme appears. The third read through for coding the transcriptions was to make notes of the potential themes not already noted, this was done in the right margin. I ultimately created a collectio n of categories within the themes. Limitations The limitations of these sampling methods include the limited group of individuals who gain access to my recruiting materials. By using Facebook posts, potential interview participants could only be those who use Facebook and show interest in being active in these CU Denver group pages. The individuals who chose to reach out, comment or like my post initiated their own participation and so are people who are compelled to talk about sexual assault and consent or they understand the challenges a student might have finding research participants. This factor makes it so those who do not think sexual assault is a topic worth discussing were not

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31 interviewed. I lacked the tools or resources to draw in indifferent individuals, which is a common issue in Qualitative research (Fereday & Muir Cochrane, 2006). Two interview participants told me that they have conducted interviews before and understand the effort in collecting participants, while other participants shared t heir personal reasons for finding sexual assault and consent important topics to discuss. One limitation often used when discussing qualitative research is the lack of generalizability. A 17 interview participant sample is on the smaller side and is not re presentative of the whole CU Denver population of women (52% of students). I did not get input from groups other than women, notably men. I made reference to research that looked specifically at mens understandings of sexual assault and sexual consent but I did not ask CU Denver students who were not women. In the future, it would be useful to create a comparison using a similar interview guide to get the perspectives men on our campus hold in regards to sexual consent, where they learn about it and how t hey view it The Office of Equity put out a survey at the same time I was conducting my interviews, collecting data on interpersonal violence. They put out annual numbers on the reports that come through their office but actual numbers collected through t he university have not been published at the time of this writing so I cannot speak of the prevalence of sexual misconduct on our campus. Throughout my discussions with women, there was only one mention of consent in a same sex relationship, the majority o f responses about what consent looks like relied on a heterosexual relationship narrative.

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32 CHAPTER IV F INDINGS The following pages will describe these findings and explain their positions in the broader conversation on sexual consent at our campus The interview participants shared their definitions of sexual consent. Those definitions came from the different perspectives these women were each coming from. There are many influences on individuals in how they define sexual consent; of the women interview ed, I recognized references to cultural background, parental influence, experiences with sexual consent, and exposure to sexual consent in the media. Sources of sexual consent are influential in how consent is talked about and defined. The women interview ed responded with strong emotions to different topics, they care about how sexual consent is addressed but they dont see it being addressed enough on our campus. Policies & My S hifting Q uestions At the start of this research, I had hoped to get a sense of what students thought about the policies on our campus and their stance on Title IX. As I conducted interviews it became apparent that interview participants did not have opinions on Title IX ; some had heard of it while others admitting to having neve r heard of it. This caused my goal of understanding interview participants thoughts on policies to have to adjust to only look at sexual consent. Instead of coming at the questions from perceptions of policy and perceptions of consent, I shifted focus to s tart at definitions and understandings of consent and how those definitions could be used in policy. Students Define Consent There is variety in the definitions of sexual consent across personal understandings to the literature and policy. This is why M elanie A. Beres exploration of sexual consent is not only

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33 relevant when reading the literature on sexual consent but in the context of this research. Here, Beres helps to explain why conversations on sexual consent are not simple. Beres recognizes the rol e of sexual consent in sexual violence and also finds the inconsistencies in its definition to hinder its use. Sexual consent plays a pivotal role in discussions and debates about sexual violence because the absence of sexual consent is most often the def ining characteristic of sexual violence (sex without consent) (Beres, 2007). The role of consent is the most important in understanding if an act of sexual violence or sexual misconduct has occurred. It is difficult to understand exactly how sexual consent is experienced in the private everyday lives of individuals. Beres research explores the ways in which consent is portrayed in the literature on consent. She recognizes how underdeveloped the ideas on consent are and she looks to define the different fra meworks from which sexual consent is understood (Beres, 2007). B eres advocates for more research on this topic as being a necessity (Beres, 2007). A space Beres feels is not accessed enough to understand is the personal interactions that involve implementi ng definitions of consent. She writes, While consent is critical to the understanding of sexual violence, it remains a nebulous concept. We are not privy to the details of the sexual experiences of others, and therefore we cannot learn how to communicate sexually based on others experiences, and talking about sex with a prospective partner is often considered taboo (Beres, 2007). Consent is important to talk about so that this inability to understand others experiences becomes less taboo. Once the taboo aspect of talking about sexual experiences begins to be broken down, we can begin to understand the experiences of others in ways that can be applied

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34 in personal experiences moving forward. This makes sex safer and sexual violence less prevalent. Particip ants use yes means yes language when defining consent. CU Denver s definition of sexual consent includes affirmative consent, the unambiguous and voluntary agreement to engage in a specific sexual activity. Participants generally thought of consent in s imilar ways. They used language prioritizing saying yes over saying no, Melissa: I mean [consent is] definitely them saying, yes, I want to do this. I think the word yes definitely has to be in there. If its not, even if no isnt in there but yes isnt then its still not okay, you know what I'm saying? Gina used language that made it so consent is only given if it is a yes. She referenced the tea consent video that CU Denver showed at freshman orientation. This video directly reflects the yes means yes policy used by CU Denver. Gina: [Consent is] me agreeing it sex, and if I say I dont know then I dont think thats a yes I think its really relatable to that tea video unless they explicitly say yes then I dont think anything should happen. Ginas explanation of consent really reflects the affirmative consent language that silence or lack of resistance cannot be interpreted as consent and that it should be assumed that anyone who has yet to say yes, I would like to has not yet consented to the start of any activity (Muehlenhard, et al., 2016, pp. 464). Many of the women interviewed made use of this affirmative consent language before I brought up the yes means yes policy language during our interviews Patrice: A lot of people they like I hear that a lot in rape cases and stuff like that. She like looked like she was okay with it, but did she say yes. Like, did she? Was it very clear

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35 and she was like well not "clear clear but almost" and I'm like, then that's not clear. You have to be like clear clear, you know like it has to be 100% clear on both sides. Patrice echoed the sentiments of Gina, that there is no consent without a definite positive statement saying that everyone wants the activity to happen. Gina continuously reiterated this affirmative stance on consent throughout her interview, Gina: It's just the like, well I think that the only consent is if someone says "yes" not shrugged shoulders or "I guess", "maybe", "I don't know". Yes is the only "yes" that you should take as "I 'm okay with having sex with you". She thoughtfully paused before her responses, working out the best ways to make her point. Recognizing that consent should be someones affirmative active response to the suggestion of sexual interaction came up in the majority of interviews As Valda, a 20 year old transfer student to CU Denver, explained while talking about hook ups, Valda: I feel like if its a hook up and sex is involved both parties should be like yes, this is okay and if somebody is feeling iffy t hen just dont go on with it. Valda specifically talked about making sure theres consent in sexual interactions between people who do not have a generally intimate relationship, such as people who are hooking up for the first time For Valda it was import ant that all people needed to be paying attention to how the other is feeling as to not go further than your partner is comfortable with. The same sentiments of understanding your partner came from Harper. Harper approached the definition of consent as an aspect of an established intimate relationship and felt, as Valda did, that uncertainty meant things needed to stop. Harper: when somebody is saying hey let s do this ; it's going to be fun" and you say "no I don't really know" and you're unsure about it that even, the slightest bit of uncertainty is

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36 lack of consent and if the other person keeps saying "no! Come on." that's obviously breaking that. It's the slightest hint of like "I don't know", how small it can be. Harper included in her definition that pressuring or saying come on after someone says theyre not interested. Coercion or pressuring a partner into saying yes is not consent; if someone is to consent, they need to do it of their own free will This is exactly what Allison, the 18 year old fre shman, found to be important, Allison: Probably either a verbal or obvious nonverbal agreement to be doing things Just being into things, not being forced into anything. For Allison, consent could be saying yes or showing your partner that youre intere sted and more importantly the agreement had to be made to move forward with sexual interaction without pressure from your partner. The i dea of verbal statements given during a sexual interaction has received some negative responses, both in my interviews and research elsewhere. Two interview participants responded to the idea of verbally agreeing to have sex mockingly, as if to say that saying yes was an unreasonable extra aspect of a sexual encounter. For example, Breeze, a 19year old Psychology student said, Breeze: I dont know, it sounds weird because when youre working up to the sex youre like, YEAH. (Tone changes to a more formal prestigious tone) Yes, I would like to do it. (She laughed)I cant see where you just pause and youre like do you want to? and [Theyre] like ye e es. Breeze isnt the only critic of affirmative consent ideologies. When I explai ned a ffirmative consent to Eileen she had a similar distaste for it, she felt as if yes means yes policies were not

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37 safe for both parti es because there is to much space between verbally saying yes and verbally saying no. Eileen: it just makes me very very uncomfortable as a person. Like I feel physically uncomfortable. yeah because how you explained it.... I don't know how you would explain it to other people in a sense for like both people are safe. I think they should just do away with that completely, just stick with (whispers) "no means no". Eileen knew more about the no means no perspective coming into the interview and felt muc h more comfortable with it tha n she felt with yes means yes. For Eileen, no means no is the better ideology for addressing consent because its clear in that when you say no all action must stop. Her understanding of yes means yes was less clear because different words could be used that might look like a yes but really mean maybe on uncertainty Participants use no means no language when defining consent Not all interview participants spoke of consent in terms of affirmative consent. Some interview par ticipants defined consent as a statement of refusal no means no perspective or found consent to be difficult to define. Eileen: both of you have to understand what's going on and then if there's some sort of uneasiness then you don't do it at all. Caus e it's like you're drunk when you said yes but as a person, like you as a person should be like I don't want that to happen. So like "no means no" like even if she's like Sigh, oh no don't do it. Don't do it, because it can result in a lawsuit or in people getting hurt and even getting killed and that's not a good thing. Eileen sees no as being the most important aspect of consent because it is easy to understand in a legal situation ; if someone said no then any further action is an act of sexual violenc e. Misunderstanding was Eileens focus when she was defining consent ; she wants a way to make

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38 sure that when you do not want to do more you can say no and that no will be understandable to the partner, translatable to court, and successful even when said i n a less than serious way. This misunderstanding from one individual exemplifies what universities are struggling with on a larger scale, getting their students to view consent in the same way. Kaylee started defining consent but stopped to share a story of her experience that demonstrated how consent could be difficult to understand or give, regardless of how policy may tell you to define consent, Kaylee: Um, I mean, that s a tricky situation [defining consent]. Um, agreeing to do it, I guess. I dont know. J ust saying no is consent. Not saying no is like saying yes. Yeah, well, I was in a situation a couple weeks ago where I did something that I probably shouldnt have done and I felt like it was just kind of required. But I never. I didnt want to do it and then I felt awful afterwards. But then again, I was the doer So theres nothing I could have done about it. We were in the car and he lay back in his seat and I'm like (tilts head to the side and scrunches her face inquisitively) okay, I feel like I have to. Kaylee is enthusiastic and open throughout our conversation but when sharing this story her voice was shaky, her demeanor was immediately cool and I could see her face change as she decided to tell her story. She spoke flatly in a matter o f fact way reflecting on the story as she told it. Later in the interview when I asked her if she thought other people defined consent in similar ways to how she saw it and shared that she felt people saw consent as being the fact that they progress in their actions. Kaylee: [other people see consent as] probably just whether they decide to do it or not It's more of it's a yes if it's not a no. If I don't say no then fair game kind of thing, but still if

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39 someone were to take that to court, it's like how do you know I said yes? It's not like you have a recording thing in their room, "I have you saying yes right here. I can't be charged." It can't be controlled, unless you have a third person in your room making sure it's going the way it's supposed to. Nobody wants that? Kaylees thoughts during our interview were driven by trying to understand her experience and how interactions could be explained to people not present during the sexual encounter. This is one of the problems with cases involving sexual consent; it is challenging to explain to others how the consent happened, especially if there are perspectives with different stories Kaylee felt that the best way to portray that there is not consent is to say no to the activity, anything else is consent ing because youre acting or letting the acts happen. These definitions from Eileen and Kaylee do not reflect the policies of CU Denver but they do open up the conversation on consent to include these understandings that need to be addressed as well. There are students who understand consent in ways different from how our university defines it. This brings us into our third perception of consent from interview participants, in which consent is harder than just saying that it looks one way in all situations Acknowledging the struggles of understanding the ambiguity of situations in which consent is occurring can help to relate these ambiguities to the consent policies. The ambiguity in consent When defining consent, i nterview participants brought up the grey area of consent on a few occasions. Kaylees story of her experience exemplifies more than one aspect of consent that can create a grey area or a hazy line between wanted sexual interaction and sexual assault. The fact that Kaylee felt like she had to participate makes her actions questionable, did she feel she had the abilit y to make a choice to consent? Without having a choice, or feeling there was only

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40 one choice makes it so the individual participating did not consent when using an affirmative de finition of consent. Reagan feels that consent is important to sexual interactions but there is a g rey area where consent is dependent on the circumstances and the individuals involved, Reagan: So, I think, obviously consent is necessary, but my thing, l ike, the grey line in consent is, I know a lot of people say that if youre drunk it doesnt count as consent but I can definitely say I have consented when Ive been drunk and I dont see an issue with that. That was my choice at the time and I still thin k that was an okay choice Obviously if youre blackout drunk its a different story. This is a line that Reagan has drawn for herself in her own sexual interactions that she does not see as being the standard for all individuals. The definition that we g et from Reagans story is one that is in response to the idea that a person cannot consent if they are intoxicated. Reagans definition is that if you are capable of making choices, even when drunk, then that should be viewed as consenting. Her grey line is that people respond to alcohol in different ways so one persons tipsy and able to consent might be someone elses too drunk to make important decisions. The grey areas in perso nal definitions of consent vary. Reagan focused on alcohol cons umption and when a person can give consent and mean it whereas Liza looked at the different interpretations of consent by the individuals involved as well as the legal system. Liza: I think there needs to be kind of like an agreement. Like it's always going to be their word against mine and I think you kind of have to look at the emotional side of it sort of. See in a way where they're coming from and be like okay, why would they make this up?

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41 Maybe, I mean yeah there have been cases of false accusations and all but like, I don't know. There's a lot that goes into it. Making an agreement with another individual to move forward with a sexual encounter is important, but Liza is looking at how that agreement would look if one individual ended up saying that an encounter was nonconsensual while the other felt it was consensual. Lizas understanding shows that different interpretations of consent can cause problems in interpretations of that interaction. A mutual understanding of consent can make sexual interactions feel safer. Using affirmative consent can make actions certain. Sarah sees affirmative consent as only being necessary in certain spaces, Sarah: Consent is someones mutual agreement between someone else to do something. I think it depends on the situation [if affirmative consent should be used] but yeah. Sarahs definition of consent really emphasized that context influences what kind of consent is needed. She also continued on to talk about word meanings and how they change based on tone and inflection so an agreement was needed that could be valid beyond the words used to give or not give consent Playfully saying no dont do that might not be taken as a sincere no if a prior relationship does not exist. Learning About C onsent Where have you learned the most about sexual assault? Corrine: honestly, mostly through personal experience. Ive learned a lot about what happens afterward and how it works because I went through it. CU Denver and other universities work to create and distribute resources on sexual assault, sexual misconduct and sexual consent to be shared with their student population. The

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42 students do not always recognize the efforts universities are making in creatin g programs to educated students. S tudents will draw on other sources to hel p them navigate the world of sexual consent. In this section I show how students draw on a range of sources in informing their understanding of sexual consent and sexual assault Corrines experience with sexual assault is what informed her perspectives on sexual assault and sexual consent. She was not motivated to learn about the resources available in cases of sexual assault until she needed the resources herself. There has been research discussing where students perceptions of sexual assault and conse nt come from and what might influence their perceptions Much of this re search focuses on perpetrators. It is important to recognize that all understandings of consent are influenced by the surroundings of the individual. Assumptions about understandings of consent can be a cause of problems in sexual interactions. Beres understanding of spontaneous consent is based on the lack of reflection on where a definition of consent that appears to be common sense is coming from (Beres 2007). This spontaneous cons ent is based in spontaneous sociology in which the cultural, historical and social forces involved in creating these common sense explanations are not used to explore how we got to these common sense definitions. The research and stories I am exploring her e are looking at the sources in the lives of students I have interviewed. Of the women I interviewed, I was able to listen to stories of where they have heard about consent who has influe nced their current perceptions and stories about their specifically cultural influenced that overshadowed other resources. There were many references to the role that family perceptions of sexual assault have on these womens own perceptions. Peers, social media and television also came up as references when women would ex plain consent or give an example of a non consensual interaction.

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43 Learning from family and culture Cultural influences affect all aspects of life; especially how sex is talked about. Sophias parents had passed away when she was young but her family culture remains strong. Her family is from an Asian country and she felt as if her culture made it so sex was not talked about at all. For Sophia, she learned about sexual assault towards the end of her high school career but when she did learn about it, she went to her sister to tell her that she had been sexually assaulted when she was younger. Sophia: I was raped when I was like 11 whe n I was with a boy that was 4 years older than me but in our culture that was okay. If the man wants it then you just have to give it up. It's like very submissive; women are very submissive in Asian cultures already. I didn't know what to do and there was no Phoenix Center, no resource center to understand what was going on. I didn't even realize it until senior year of hi gh school where I finally talked about it. Which was really different and eye opening to see. The influence of Sophias culture stopped her from talking about her own negative experience with adults. She attributed her lack of sharing to not being exposed enough to ideas about sex or sexual assault to know what to make of what happened to her when she was 11. She knew she felt bad afterwards but did not learn until later that something could be done about it. When she talked to her older sister about it th ey were able to try to press charges, talk about sex in the future and Sophia learned that this was something that her mother had also experienced as a young child.

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44 Valdas parents, similarly, were not open to talking about sex. Valda said her parents we re very traditional and closed off to having conversations about the possibility that Valda might have se x before marriage. Only after Valda was sexually assaulted did her parents talk about sex and relationships with her. Both Valda and Sophia were raised in cultures where sex was not a talked about topic, they both talked about how it was challenging to talk about their experience with sexual assault, as was seen in Sophias statement and as Valda described, Valda: Our relationship changed a lot after what happened to me [at my other school] and weve become a lot more open about things and a lot closer about that [My Mom told me] I dont want you having casual sex, you should wait until you find someone and youre in a relationship for a while. The i nfluence of culture can often overshadow the things your parents teach you about sex. Kaylees mom talked to Kaylee about sex and healthy relationships but tried to hide her own abusive relationship. Kaylee talked about how good her parents were always asking about where she would be and making sure she had ways to get home at night. Her parents are protective and cautious They mak e sure Kaylee has mace to carry with her when she has to be out by herself. As Kaylee talked about how she felt about relations hips, she continually referenced that she did not want to fall into the same patterns as her mother. Kaylees mother was with an abusive partner and did not tell Kaylee about it directly but as Kaylee described her influences and perspectives, she drew mor e from her moms experience with an unhealthy relationship than from the safety rules her parents gave her while out alone. When talking to Kaylee, she talked about how her parents told her to be safe but her stories revolved around being concerned about being in an abusive relationship. Her parents worried about her being at risk out in public and she was more concerned about her relationships looking like those her mother was in.

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45 Sarah learned the most about sexual consent from her dad and the stories he told her Sarahs dad has a unique perspective on sexual assault because of his role as a police officer and School Resource Officer (SRO) who has had to deal with cases of sexual assault. He taught her about staying out of certain risky situations where c onsent is hard to interpret. He also taught her to be honest and not to lie about being raped, Sarah: And he also taught me about those situations, Cause I know you do get into situations where you get into bed with a boy and then your parents walk in or someone walks in. Your instinct is to go he raped me or something like that so that you dont get in trouble. But be honest, like, oh I messed up, accept the consequences type of deal. Sarah talks with her dad about his stories from working at the school and her definition of consent shows that. She sees consent as an agreement between people but that the agreement must be translatable so that other people can see that there was indeed consent or indeed a lack of consent. Harpers parents also talked t o her about sexual assault after doing their own research about college. They were excited about the blue emergency poles that can be found across campus. From what Harper shared with me it sounds as if her parents research paid off, she was listening to the information they shared and took it to heart Their sharing with Harper really influenced how she views sexual assault on college campuses. Harper: College campuses in general I think [sexual assault is] a really big problem. My dad read me a statistic ... 1 in 5 women are raped in their four years at college and that was just like are you serious? So me my roommates and another person down the hall, one of us could get raped.

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46 Harpers parents were able to inform her before she went to college about the being safe as a student living in the Campus Village, the on campus housing. Eileens mom also shared resources with her She found videos and articles on Facebook that talk about sexual assault and what to do as a bystander Eileen: My mom recentl y watched a video where people were doing simulations where a drunk girl is getting into a car and then someone tried to get her away. Then, Samaritans were like okay and step in and ask do you know her name and do you know where she lives or do you know anyone in her family, like phone numbers and stuff. and like they would take things away and like just hold onto them and kind of guard the person. Eileens mom shared this videos message about bystander intervention with Eileen and Eileen talked about it as if the process of being a helpful bystander is a delicate process Its important to step in to help but it is also important to make sure that you are not putting yourself into a more dangerous situation. There are situations where stepping in to protect someone from a sexual assault can lead to them being hurt or even you being injured. Eileens greatest influence in her understanding of sexual assault was her older brother. Eileen: I don't know maybe it's because of how my brother raised me, if you honestly feel as if you are endangered in any sort of which way you show physically and so you would hit somewhere that you could take down the person and get away safely. Which could involve making them... permanently blind or yeah. He used a very dark method, like it was just if I had to reach a point where I feel my life is great danger I'm going to take yours too, like that kind of idea. Her brother taught her the importance of defending herself against any physical assault and to be prepared in case a situation escalated to a point where she felt unsafe. Throughout our interview,

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47 this preemptive attitude came up frequently, such as when she would describe examples of sexual assault or consent and would harshen her tone. Being able to connect the lessons from her brother and her mom in her understandings of sexual assault has a strong influence on how Eileen views situations. Although she has never needed to use any of the defense skills her brother has taught her she talked aggressively about how she would act in a situation that she felt would call for it. Learning from friends experiences People who did not bring up their family did bring up the experiences of their friends as being lessons for them on sexual assault. An individuals cultura l upbringing will influence how they perceive sex and sexual consent but to them that might not be the biggest factor in what influences their perceptions. Some interview participants focused on how their perceptions on sexual consent were shaped by the ex periences of their friends. This was the case with Melissa; her interest in understanding consent came from her friends. Melissa has two friends with different experiences involving sexual consent and sexual assault. Melissa: I guess I could tell you caus e you don't know them, I mean one of my friends went to [another university] and got really drunk one night and then woke up in a guy s bed and didn't know what happened and then my other friend just kept saying no and it still happened. Melissa talked openly to her friends about their experiences and noticed that their behaviors changed afterwards. Melissa was able to learn about the dangerous aspects of being in a situation where consent is not included in the sexual interaction. For Melissa, consent is not dependent on if someone says no things should stop but the idea that someone needs to actually say yes to sex

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48 before anything happens. This definition comes from seeing her friends being negatively impacted by their unwanted sexual experiences. Lauren s voice was shaky as she shared the story of being with her friend when she went through a sexual assault. Like Melissa, she learned about the importance of being able to say yes to a situation in order to consent. Lauren: I mean, I like watched my friend essentially get sexual assaulted and at the time I didn't really know. We were at a party and she was drinking really heavily and she got so drunk and then she was gone and I didn't know where she went and so she was locked in a room with a guy and he was like {She whispers} having sex with her. She was completely unconscious and I found that out and I tore the door down and I ripped this guy off of her and I was like "don't touch her" I was so pissed. It was a day party. It was a pool party. You know w hat I mean? It wasn't even at night where like you know I was drinking. I wasn't really drinking I just sat by the pool the whole time and then she was just gone and I was like "where did she go" and so I went and looked for her and found her like... it was crazy. That literally had such an impact on me. Laurens experience with her friend opened her eyes to the fact that she had stereotyped sexual assaults as something that happens at night and starts in crowded clubs. She said herself it had such an impa ct on her, and she went on to tell me that now shell drink less and watch to make sure her friends dont drink too much. She takes on the responsibility of m aking sure everyone stays safe because she has seen first hand how horrible a sexual assault can b e. Reagan, a political science major felt that there was a grey area in consent and she also talked to her friends about it. Being able to share her thoughts on sexual consent and policies allows those she shares with to have a space where they can also s hare their thoughts

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49 Reagan: Being a Poli Sci major, I think [consent is] something I talk about a lot with people. You know, we sit around and talk about politics and get on rants about consent and things like that. I think theres a grey line with it. Thats just my personal opinion Having open communication with your friends can help with creating understandings of consent. Sometimes with friends, it can be difficult or feel unnecessary to talk about sexual assault and consent but talking is what helped Reagan see that there are grey areas in how consent is defined Both Lauren and Melissa s hared that they felt their friends did not need to talk about what sexual assault and consent mean because they have already been through it. Reagan talks with her fri ends about their experiences and how policy influences experiences. Talking to friends has helped Reagan define consent for herself and understand what influences how others define their own consent. This sharing of experiences is what our campus is looking to gain through developing resources to teach consent. Reagans experience allowed her to recognize the different situations that can make consent look differently to different people. Learning from Personal Experience Harper has a very strong explanati on of what consent looks like. She draws from her own experiences of being in an unhealthy long term relationship, Harper: That both parties need to be okay with whats happening and they need to be transparent with each other, knowing whats okay and whats not okay so that even if youve been in a relationship for however long, you know? If something is okay one day, it might not be okay the next day. Harper looks at consent as being a necessary aspect of maintaining a healthy long term relationship beca use of her own relationship which when she looks back she sees it as having lacked respect.

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50 Harper: My friends, after I got out of an abusive relationship my freshmen and sophomore year [of high school]. I didn't know it was happening until after the fact and my friends were always saying, "yeah, that was happening", "you should have done something." and I was like "I didn't know that was considered that." Now I know because of them, I know where the line is and when to say no. Like I said: even with th e tiniest bit of uncomfortability, nope. Harpers view of consent includes an affirmative and certain yes in that moment. She does not think that there should be any signs that a partner is uncomfortable with moving forward with sexual actions, or that a y es should always be assumed just because you are in a relationship. Much of how Harper defines sexual consent comes from her own experience in an abusive relationship and the conversations she had with friends after she got out of that relationship. This s haring with her friends about her experience and about their recognition of her experience as being abuse strengthen ed her own understanding of the relationship as abuse. Still, other interview participants talked about their own experiences with sexual consent. Reagan shared that consent was often not verbally asked for when she slept with men, even in positive sexual experiences but was asked when sleeping with women. Reagan: Okay, so personally, I know I ask [for consent] when I'm sleeping with girls be cause I dont know, when I'm with a girl, I'm like is this okay?, is this fun?. With guys, I think theres a big stigma that guys just always want to sleep with you which is I dont know It seems super true. I dont ask when I sleep with guys, sometimes guys ask me but not really. In understanding sexual consent, there remains to be ambiguity in how individuals give and understand consent in sexual interactions. Reagan has developed her understandings of consent

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51 through different experiences in her personal interactions along side conversations with her friends about consent. Experiences with social media Another interview participant Nora continually made references to the media and how she has talked about the sexual assault cases that are on the news and the discussions in her communication classes. Nora brought up the Stanford case involving Brock Turner as well as the F lorida State University (FSU) sexual assault case involving Jameis Winston and a case involving college students in Indiana She knew about a number of different cases because of a documentary that drew her into wanting to find out more. Noras major, Communication, gave her the basis to read and follow sexual assault cases that are shared in the media. Allison said that she h as probably learned more about sexual consent from watching Law & Order: SUV than she did from her hig h school sex education program. Lauren also made references to Law & Order: SUV Eileen found one story on television particularly compelling and she desc ribed the scene, Eileen: There's this scene from Fresh Off The Boat The father was explaining to his son what sex is and he comes downstairs and is like "whelp, it is done and wipes his hands together. His wife is like "did you tell him about rape? You didn't tell him!" and so she runs up and she takes a stuffed animal and she's hitting her son and s creaming, "How does that feel? Do you like that! D o you like that? Girls don't lik e that either!" and he's like "M om, what are you doing?" and she's like "now you know" and she like walked off and I think that was the best of like comedy with something very serious, especially to a child, because someone is wailing on you and probably to a victim that's how it feels.

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52 The lively description that Eileen giv es of this scene from Fresh Off The Boat gave her the space to think about how a victim of sexual violence feels. Some interview participants referenced television shows but it was more common that they made reference to seeing something online. References were made to articles on Facebook Instagram and Twitter accounts that they followed. Valda: Articles that I see on social media or posts I see on social media, thats where I get most of my information from. Lots of them are like Teen Vogue, a lot of the time they post articles on consent. Valda found posts by Teen Vogue magazine relevant to issues of sexual assault and consent most frequently. This magazine posts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. It has been focusing on issues such as sexual assaul t more frequently than it has been addressing fashion. There are many different outlets within these social media sites that discuss sexual assault and consent. Melissa: yeah sharing the information and also Twitter I follow this feminist activist group and they post a lot of stuff like that. {Takes out her phone to look up what it's called.} It says it's called feminism matters. But yeah they just sometimes post stuff relating to that. Twitter is a resource where it is easy to follow many different accou nts that focus on different issues, ideas and fandoms. Melissa uses her Twitter account to follow a feminist activist group so she can be up to date on feminist issues Consent was one issue that Melissa said was covered by this feminist Twitter account. B eing exposed to consent on social media can have an impact on individuals even if they dont realize it. This is what Reagan explained when talking about what she sees on social media,

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53 Reagan: I think it's [consent] been talked a lot about on social media a lot which is good because even if people don't agree with you, even if they see it that like at least influences a tiny part of their mind and maybe some day they'll come around and start to see it. Exposure to conversations and resources that focus on sexual consent or sexual assault can be influential even when individuals are not particularly interested in the topic. CU Denver works to make sure students have access to information on the resources that are available on campus. Does CU Denver influen ce student perceptions When asked about resources on campus the majority of interview participants brought up flyers in the bathroom of the Tivoli building our student union, as a main source of information on campus. These flyers are a method of dissemi nating information that is successful in reaching the actual students but is often not enough to fully inform them. Like Reagans understanding of how social med ia influences people even when they are not interested, campus fliers in the bathroom expose ba throom users to information on sexual violence, not because theyre interested but because theyre using the bathroom. Interview participants have seen these flyers and received emails about CU Denver resources but have not attended the programs available They draw on their experiences with family and friends, as well as, social media and news when defining what sexual assault and consent look like to them. Even though our university has a number of different resources available that teach about sexual as sault and consent the women I interviewed drew more heavily on other resources because they did not have the time or desire to stay on campus for workshops or events. Melissa: I mean like honestly in bathroom stalls I see it. I've seen ads for like if so mething has happened to you, you can go to the Auraria Phoenix Center or something,

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54 or the counseling resources center, just like confidential things you can go to for help is mostly what I've seen. Many of the flyers in the bathrooms are created by the Phoenix Center, the womens resource center on campus. Melissa has seen the flyers and knows about the resources they are promoting and what they do. She, like other interview participants, has not had the time to attend events on campus outside of her clas ses. Melissa and Lauren did feel that the bathroom signs were influential to students even though they themselves were not influenced to attend any events or workshops. Lauren: Um so in the bathroom stalls there are like the Phoenix thing cause when you' re peeing and all you see is Phoenix health center. Thats the only one I think, that's the only one that's on campus. It is working because you're exposed to it and you see it, yeah and that's the only thing I see on campus that has anything to do with sexual assault Breeze and Sophia brought up the bathroom flyers as well, as being the main source of any information coming from the campus. This seemed to be the one recognized method of researching students, they knew the details of the flyer and who wa s posting but they still had not attended events or workshops. Two i nterview participants brought up a video from freshman orientation that does use affirmative consent. Blue Seat Studios created a series of videos addressing sexual consent and sexual ass ault through animated videos about drinking tea and blaming a murder victim (Brian, 2016). The video the interview participants, Gina, and Sophia brought up is the one using tea as a metaphor for sexual interaction. In this video, one stick figure is asking another stick figure if they would like some tea, the narrator explains that you shouldnt pressure someone into drinking tea, you shouldnt pour tea down someones throat, and its okay if someone says they

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55 want tea and then they decide not to drink it. The video is meant to explain affirmative consent using a relatable non sexual situation. Sophia: and now at [freshman] orientation, I don't know if you know this, they show that tea consent video. I feel like that's how consent should be talked about, in a joking way but like it's so simple to understand. Why don't you understand it. Its encouraging to see that students are recognizing the resources being shared with them from the university. Not only that but they understand the content of the tea consent video as pushing for a clearer understanding of affirmative consent in sexual interactions. These sources of information about sexual consent and sexual assault are not separate from each other; as you read about familial references and social medi a references, you see that there is overlap in what influences individuals. We are all products of our cultural upbringing and we are continually impacted by the experiences and information we are exposed to in our lives. Is consent education important to students? Students interviewed may not have attended any workshops or events about sexual assault or consent on our campus before participating in my interviews but they showed interest in learning more. Many of the women interviewed showed their interes t through their emotional responses to the stories they shared with me. Many of the interview participants made references to current stories involving sexual assault and harassment. Nora: it's really aggravating and this whole idea of Rape myths like "how much were you drinking?" "What were you wearing?" and there's this movie that came out within the last year, I can't remember exactly what it's called but it talks about the Title IX lawsuit that's happening, like the federal government is suing like 129 different universities...

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56 Nora is a Communication major; she continually referenced different news stories, social media posts and specifically the documentary The Hunting Grounds during our interview. She would bring up a case and shake her head and furr ow her brow as she told me what she read or heard and then snap into excitement to ask me i f I had heard of the next story that she wanted to share. For a conversation saturated with sexual assault cases and negative experiences of sexual assault victims, it was very lively. You could see that Nora had really absorbed every incident discussed in The Hunting Ground and then took it upon herself to find out more. The Hunting Ground is a documentary meant to share the experiences of the victims of sexual assau lt at universities and the negative treatment they face along with the lack of punishment faced by those accused. Shes definitely passionate about the topic, talking about her frustration with the lack of assistance for victims and, like in the above quot e, her dislike for putting the blame on the victims and on women for how they dress. From Noras interest in learning about sexual assault, she had heard of Title IX and the work that Joe Biden has done to protect students from being victims and being r e victimized by the formal processes that that comes after a sexual assault. Nora: and I think Joe Biden was awesome in his response to the Brock Turner case, of like telling the girl "our justice system failed you". Our justice system is supposed to pr otect you and we're constantly failing you and people that this has happened to. Noras C ommunication courses helped her get exposure to the issues surrounding sexual assault on college campuses; she also had her own strong opinions about whats happening at universities, who is benefitting, and who is suffering. Nora was informed and opinionated, and she was not the only one.

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57 When I began this research, Brock Turner had just bee n sentenced to 6 months in jail after being found guilty of three accounts of sexual assault on a woman (Baker, 2016) The victims statement, which she read during her testimony against Brock Turner also came out, describing the feelings of finding out that she was sexually assaulted and how she was coping since the incident (Baker, 2016) Bot h pieces of that story, the tria l and sentencing and the victims response, spurred social media and news outlets to discuss sexual assault and consent. The women I interviewed shared what they knew about the case as well as, how they felt about the case and the information that is out there about it. Gina: One [example of a dangerous situation] that comes up the most is, someones drunk or not fully aware. I suppose, then they cant r eally express the feelings of no or try to stop someone from doing that. I'm pretty sure youve heard of the whole Stanford student thing. Thats an exact example of nonconsensual sex. Gina used the Brock Turner case as an example of sexual assault, while talking about the case, she would sigh as if the topic was to heavy to be talking about. Other interview participants said just how exasperated they were. Reagan: I think [sexual consent] has been talked about a lot on social media. The whole thi ng with Brock Turner, oh my god. Reagan followed the Brock Turner story closely and had read about the different ways people have been responding to the fact that he only served three months instead of the already short six months of time. Reagans statement, oh my god was said through a clenched jaw. She was angry about the case. Harper also talked about how mad it made her to learn about the case and hearing the victims testimony but her tone sounded more sad than angry.

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58 Harper: (in a whisper) oh my gosh. The most recent thing [on sexual assault] I can think of is the Stanford rape case. That just makes me so mad. The emotional responses to the Brock Turner case came from all the interview participants who brought the case up. Regardless of definitions of consent or perceptions of sexual assault, there was a consensus that this case was bad, bad enough to need to have attention paid to it. Lauren: Look at the publicity Stanford just got from that case! Nobody wants that, nobody wants to be the school where rape is a normal thing. This case was covered from all perspectives by the media and students statements about the many aspects of the case reflected that. Lauren talked about how negative the media coverage is for Stanford. Nora followed the stori es about the l awyer and her activism after the case. Nora: The Brock Turner case [is an example] I also read an article about the Stanford lawyer; shes a professor on campus and activist going down to the Santa Clara County Jail and courthouse protesti ng to remove the judge [of B rock Turners trail]. There were many references to different aspects of the Brock Turner case, including the use of media where he was referred to by his athletic career and the story of the lawyer who protested the judge who t ried this case and only gave a 6 month sentence for 3 cases of sexual assault. Also referenced was the testimony letter from the victim and a news story about armed men surrounding Brock Turners house. Also at the time of these interviews, the presidentia l campaigning between Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump was happening, dominating a large portion of the news. A number of interview participants brought up Donald Trump, in reference to a video released in which Trump said, grab [women] by the pussy. His explanation for using aggressive, threatening language was that it was locker room talk. The medias coverage of this story lead to the

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59 sharing and creating of content about resources for victims of sexual harassment and assault. Hilary Clinton had a cam paign ad addressing Donald Trumps character and his treatment of women The women interviewed after both of Donald Trumps statement s and his subsequent election discussed the influence of Donald Trump, Kaylee: Donald Trump and the way he talks to women, there's that. That's why my brother didn't like him, he's like, "he treats women bad" that was his response, my 8 year old brother. Yeah he's a terrible man. But what can you do? A nd that's just from him watching campaign commercials where the tv is on in the background and there are two kids sitting at the table and he's [Trump] like cussing out a girl and these kids are just sitting there eating their breakfast and the mom is just doing dishes or whatever it is and is just shaking her head. It's a prett y powerful commercial. My brother definitely picked up on it. The election really highlighted the need to talk about sexual assault and sexual consent. The nonchalant way Donald Trump talked about his mistreatment of women really got interview participant s attention. Gina: I dont think the election helps much either (laughs) Just because of that video, about Donald Trump and what he said, that made people think that those things are okay. So, I think it [the election] kind of backtracked the whole cons ent thing. Even with Ginas statement of this news story backtracking the push for implementation of consent policies, it is still encouraging to hear that not only are these women hearing and paying attention to these news stories but also they recognize that theyre not advantageous to the work of policy makers and educators to define sexual consent affirmatively. Each of these responses on Brock Turner and Donald Trump were filled with exasperated tones and offended laughter.

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60 They were not just stating facts they heard about sexual assault and sexual consent in the media but they responded with anger and heartbreak over how negative these two situations are for the progress of respect in sexual interactions. Women are affected by sexual misconduct at hi gher rates than men, but the women I interviewed felt it was important to talk about the fact that men can be victims and women can be perpetrators. Patrice was the only interview participant to discuss the fact that samesex couples could experience sexual assault, or any form of sexual misconduct, from their partner. While others wanted to make sure that sexual assault is an issue for all people Sarah: I also think it [consent] should go both ways because females can do it to malesI mean, you dont hear about it as often, I dont think its as socially thought of but it definitely happens, maybe not to the same extent because women dont technically have a lot of power or strength in most cases. I mean, it does happen [that men are victims]. Sarah and Sophia wanted to make sure that men were talked about because they found that cases of sexual assault involving men as victims were not seen in the media but do happen and need to be talked about. Sophia: even that men get raped too and that's like never e ven talked about. M aking the case that the rhetoric should change to include both women and men as possible perpetrators came up. Interview participants brought up making sure that sexual assault was not gendered in our conversations. They were concerned that gendering the conversation and focusing on women would discount the experiences of men as victims and make it harder for them to come forward and share and have people believe them. Non gendered sexual assault goes against the statistic that women mak e up 91% of sexual assault victims, which demonstrates

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61 that sexual assault is indeed gendered (Rennison, 2002). There is reason to bring up men and explore heir experiences with sexual assault but bringing it up here was suprising to me. Melissa: A guy, or even a girl, because it's not just guys raping. They can think they're doing everything right and think they're being a good person but really they're not just because they don't know. The topic of men as victims came up in many interviews, interview participants wanted to make sure that they did not stereotype groups or blame victims for their situation. The attention to detail in relaying stories and making sure they were not excluding victims experiences demonstrates the amount of thought these student s put into their ideas on sexual assault and consent. Many of the instances of men as victims being discussed came when the conversation started to get challenging. It was a deflection from the focus on women being in danger; every participant I interviewe d is a woman and talking about the prevalence of sexual assault and the cases that involve women as victims Talking about men as victims distances interview participants from the fact that this impacts them. Students Suggestions For Improved Programming Interview participants shared their interest in learning about consent but they also shared that they are not on campus enough to attend the events that our campus hosts. Although they care about the issues, they do not feel like our campus fosters an environment that they want to spend their free time in. One suggestion for how our university could address sexual assault and sexual consent and get students to attend events is to build the community. This could help CU Denver to be a more informed and saf er space. Lauren promoted the idea of building a community throughout our time together; discussing how our campus does not have the social atmosphere seen at other campuses she has visited.

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62 Lauren: I just feel like it's not a very social campus. I feel like compared to [other campuses] and all the frats and all the dating there is a little bit different than here. I feel like here it's slim to none. Meeting people is harder especially personally like going to class and trying to meet guys here is impossible. I'm going to stay single for a very long time in this school. Me: Why do you think our school is like that? Lauren: We have no main sports, so nothing really brings people together as much in social settings. I think it's also that we don't have any G reek l ife on Campus. Like as much as some people hate Greek I think that does benefit the community, and the culture of the school versus not having any of that and Greek life invites people and in that sense you become one. Lauren and Valda saw community as being necessary to getting students on campus to attend events and want to stay on campus to be able to attend events. They both felt that the best way to build a community was through Greek life and expanding our athletics program, both connected to higher occurrences of sexual assaults on campuses (Warren, Swan, & Allen, 2015) Valda loves the idea of getting Greek life on our campus which, was surprising considering she transferred from a school where her sexual assault w as the result of a Greek life party. Valda: I almost love it [Greek Life] because I love having a group of friends and right now I dont really know anybody I feel like if people are part of cultural groups then they have that community. Building a comm unity can make students feel safer on campus and make them want to stay on campus more often It als o comes with greater risks; Greek life and athletics expose students to more alcohol and more situations that are dangerous. Both Lauren and Valda want our campus to

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63 have a stronger community than when they are seeing now and they think that the community can help students share and teach each other about consent and safety Building a stronger community could definitely be beneficial to our campus and our se nse of shared culture. Our campus is a commuter campus and this creates more challenges in getting people to stay on campus for events than at residential campuses. A residential campus has more opportunities to develop a shared understanding of consent wi thin their campus community; our commuter campus leaves fewer opportunities to reach students.

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64 CHAPTER V CONCLUSION Studying the perceptions of sexual consent on our campus can help CU Denver reach out to students in ways that students will receive posi tively making them want to participate in our campus community Sexual violence is something that has been addressed on college campuses for a long time; there are different approaches to adhering to Title IX policy. CU Denver successfully implements reso urces to teach and support victims of sexual misconducts and violence but students I interviewed did not know about the policies, and although they knew about events and workshops, they had not attended any themselves. From these interviews we learn about how students define sex ual consent, what they draw on when building their definitions and what they feel is important. Students I interviewed felt that sexual consent is a topic that they have had exposure to, enough so that they have developed their own definitions of sexual consent. Having personal understandings of consent can help them in their personal lives. The number of people impacted by sexual assault on college campuses is too high, two of the women I interviewed open up about their own experien ce with sexual assault at other college campuses. Both of these women shared that they have learned more about consent and sexual assault since their negative experiences. They both were glad to be able to share their experiences with me and with peers bec ause they both wanted to help others do what they can to stay safe Federally funded universities must follow Title IX guidelines and have procedures in place for handling cases of sexual misconduct on their campuses. CU Denver has this through the Office of Equity. The Office of Equity maintains the definitions by which procedure follows.

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65 The Definition of consent used at CU Denver, and the other CU campuses, is an affirmative consent model, a yes means yes model. Yes means yes consent was the most commo nly referenced model among my interview participants. Although, how they explained their affirmative consent contained variations in when affirmative consent should be used and what it should look like. These differences of understandings, even in a small population of students demonstrated just how much variety there is in what consent looks like to individuals. The variety in definitions and understandings comes from differences in how individuals build on their definitions of consent. Students definiti ons of consent come from their cultural upbringing, the influence of their family and friends, their own personal experiences and what they are exposed to through social media. Each of these sources of information does not standalone but work beside the others to create definitions of consent. Some interview participant draw on one source more than others. One interview participant drew all of her information from social media and a documentary and another learned from personal experience and facts from he r parents. When people draw on different sources when building their definitions of consent it can be challenging to reach out to them in ways that get their attention. What comes next at UC Denver The purpose of going through what these women draw on when developing and sharing understanding of sexual assault and consent is to find how CU Denver can become an influential source of information. CU Denver already has policies and programs available to students but of the students I talked to, at least half o f them felt as if there were not enough resources on campus to help students unders tand sexual assault and consent, or that they just did not have the motivation to stay on campus for related events

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66 The women I interviewed made suggestions about what kind of resources would get their attention and make them show more interest in campus events and workshops on sexual consent. Some ideas suggested to just add more of what CU Denver already has, Melissa: maybe just implementing it in a required class or providing incentive to use a questionnaire about it, and then maybe putting up more flyers to where people would see them, I mean bathroom stalls, that's a good idea, but maybe other places like doors to rooms. Other students really pushed on the idea that st udents need incentives to stay on campus and attend events. The most prominent suggestion was to create a campus community that people want to be a part of. Another suggestion was to hold a rally; because rallies have been bringing people together recently about causes theyre interested in. Some smaller initiatives were to give food incentives or to just share information more often online, in emails and on canvas as well as making a workshop mandatory with a class or with freshman orientation. When maki ng suggestions interview participants focused on ways to reach out to the entire campus community, no only people who showed interest in learning more about sexual consent. Patrice: umm changes. I think there should be some sort of campus wide announcement or something like that. I mean I know you can't really have an assembly like they have in high school, cause there's so many kids. B ut maybe like every class is required to talk about it on this Monday or whatever. Something like that where they... like everybody's informed about it so it's not just like oh I hear people talking about it, I don't know what this is. Okay I'll just ignore it because I don't know what it is Patrice is right; talking about consent should not only be focused on those who are showing interest but on the campus community as a whole.

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67 CU Denver policy on sexual misconduct defines consent in this affirmative way A lthough, some interview participants stated that their education on sexual consent came from experiences some also made reference to resources shared at CU Denver. There are impactful resources coming from the university that are being recognized such as the bathroom flyers Our university does work to make sure that our policies are supportive of our students and that there are programs to teach students about sexual misconduct and the perceptions in policies. Students do not always see the work that is being done. This research gave insight into what some of the students think could be more successful ways to getting s tudents to come to events and teaching students about campus policies. Discussion When starting this project I was interested in hearing what students had to say about our campus policies that define consent and where they stood on the Title IX measures involving sexual assault. I soon learned that these students were not exposed to campus policy and Title IX in the same capacity that I was. This created a shift in focus to find out what these students think the campus can do to teach students about sexual consent and sexual assault and how our policies fit into that. Of the findings, it was important to follow the issues that the women being interviewed find most relevant when talking about sexual consent. Many of the interview participants came to the conversation from vastly different circumstances. The sources found to play a principal role in individuals understandings of sexual consent varied but could be categorized to focus on whether or not they were likely to reference the universitys resources the role of the internet and social media, and the influence of family and friends. Women interviewed continually

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68 referenced the importance of communicating and knowing what a partner wants in order to have consent. Women s suggestions of more flyers an d more ex posure at big events on campus could help CU Denver to reach a wider audience but interview participants saw fliers and heard about events but had not attended because they did not have the time to go while they were on campus. Making resources that can be available to students who might not stay on campus is useful. Much of CU Denvers information and The Phoenix Centers information can be found on their website, but be ing on those sites means you are already looking for more information. Intervi ew participants wanted efforts to reach the students who are not specifically looking to learn more. Two suggestions that the campus can implement are, put ting something on canvas and building our campus community. All students are on canvas to access th e classes they are signed up for. With the positive feedback on the tea video that explains consent this video and others like it can be posted on Canvas throughout the semester to continuously reiterate the idea that consent is necessary. Whether it is v erbal consent, an agreement of consent or showing consent through body language it is important to be able to show students that they need to communicate with their partners what consent looks like to them. Working on building a community with a strong support network can help students feel safer on campus and make them want to spend more time on campus outside of classes. With more time on classes, students can attend events and workshops that focus on spreading awareness about sexual assault and consent. Consent is the underlying factor in sexual misconducts such as sexual assault and sexual harassment. If there were consent in a sexual interaction, it would not be an assault or harassment. Research has been done and policies have been written to better understand sexual

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69 misconducts, how they happen, why they happen and how to stop them from happening. Definitions of what a sexual assault can look like may have changed but the numbers have remained that many women will have an unwanted sexual encounter in their time at college. Understanding consent can help this. What Beres called communicative sexuality focuses on communication; people show their willingness to participate in sexual activity, whether verbally, through agreement or physically. There will be communication of a yes, a no, or a in the process of thinking it over a partner just needs to be in communication with the other so that there are not misunderstandings or unwanted encounters. Consenting to something sexual will always involve communica tion, I was grateful to get the opportunity to talk to these women about how they consent and what they feel can help our school reach out to more people. Researching how to connect policy to people can help inform people of how to use policy and what pol icy can do for them. Clarifying the definition of consent in policy can help students to learn affirmative consent perspectives for their sexual interactions, thus leaving less room for misunderstandings. This will not solve all instances of sexual assault and sexual harassment but it can lead to progress in lowering the amount of women that experience sexual assault and attempted sexual in their time on campus.

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