Locust Walk

In 2016, there were 30 reported cases of rape on the college campuses of Philly’s three largest universities: Drexel, Temple and the University of Pennsylvania. | Image courtesy: J. Fusco for Visit Philadelphia

The majority of Philly’s college campuses are back in session this week. 

We thought this was as good a time as ever to remind students that consent goes way beyond just asking for or offering up sex. While the aftermath of last September’s Senate Hearings against now-sworn-in Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh didn’t exactly matter much despite very strong testimony alleging sexual misconduct during his college days, what it did, however, was flip the script on what’s PC and what’s clearly not. 

Inappropriate touching or unwanted attention can land you — yes, you, college student — in hot water your ass won’t easily be able to jump out of. In fact, in July, Gov. Tom Wolf signed a law mandating that all Pennsylvania colleges and universities have one year to develop an anonymous way for students to file complaints of sexual assault and misconduct at the hands of students, professors and other staff and employees. 

“I want to make sure that everybody in the United States and in the world knows that, if you come to college or universities in Pennsylvania, this is a place that you can feel free of the threat of sexual violence,” Wolf said during a July news conference after passing the law. 

It’s that serious. And it should be. 

According to a 2016 PennLive report, there were 30 reported cases of rape at Drexel, Penn and Temple combined, with Penn having 16 reported cases of alleged rape and eight reported cases of unwanted touching and fondling. 

There’s a right (and a wrong way) to approach people these days. As ridiculous as it may sound, a timely public service announcement never hurts. Earlier this week, we were contacted by people representing Dr. Nadine Pierre-Louis, a licensed marriage therapist and adjunct professor of human growth and development. Dr. Pierre-Louis offered tips for students who need a little help with navigating what she calls “complex concepts.”

She noted that more than 90% of human interaction and communication is non-verbal and that these days, consent is a much broader topic than just sex. What one might view as a simple touch, grab or poke could land you in some serious shit. 

While most of what Dr. Pierre-Louis suggests should be assumed, the growing number of cases of alleged sexual misconduct and assault proves that a friendly reminder is good now and again. She notes that the classic movie cliche of guy meets girl (or guy), falls for them and moves in for the hot movie kiss just isn’t realistic in today’s world. 

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The maximum number of years in prison for a rape conviction in Pennsylvania is 20 years. A sentence also carries a fine of up to $25,000 and registry as a sex offender for life. | Image: Inaki Del Olmo

“If you’d like to know if you have consent, say something!’ Dr. Pierre-Louis wrote. “‘I really like you, is it OK if I …’ or ‘I really would like to kiss you?’ and pause for a response. Don’t be ambiguous. ‘Do you want to go to my room?’ is not code for ‘and have sex.’”

When it comes to the “I was drunk” or “we were wasted,” line, Dr. Pierre-Louis notes that ship has sailed as well, which if one recalls was the basis of the Kavanaugh hearings that alcohol-induced partying led to memory loss for him...but not for the victim, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. 

“College protocol and the law do not always have to agree,” she wrote. “In other words, if students are inebriated at the time, and there is what was understood to be consensual sex at the time, and neither lost consciousness, in some states the parties would still be considered incapacitated to consent; however, in other states a legal argument can be made that there was consent.”

And while much of this might assume male students as the aggressor, there’s actually a point to be made about male consent. According to statistics from Rainn.org, male college-aged students are 78% more likely to be a victim of rape or sexual assault than non-students of the same age. 

According to Dr. Pierre-Louis, if you want to take a look at how sexual assault from female to male students occurs, peer inside the world of the modern sorority, where it’s encouraged to collect “sexual scalps.” 

“It is important for young men to realize that they can be sexually assaulted and/or raped,” she wrote. “It is a myth that men cannot be raped...sexual assault of a male is traumatic and should not be minimized because of gender. Males should be encouraged to report and are entitled to the same protections afforded female victims.”

Penn Park

As sexual assault is becoming more common on college campuses (including ones here in Philadelphia), state officials are mandating that schools create a way for students to report it anonymously. | Image courtesy: G. Widman for Visit Philadelphia

Finally, even if you’ve taken all the necessary steps to get someone to come back to your room or allow you inside their own, there’s no threshold for where consent begins and where a person can make it stop. Take it too far in Pennsylvania and you face a max of up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000, according to current statutes. Additionally, anyone that is found guilty of any crime of a sexual nature must register as a sex offender — for life. 

“Just because someone consents to sex, that does not mean they have given up their right to end the experience at any point,” Dr. Pierre-Louis wrote. “Once someone says ‘stop,’ or ‘no’ or ceases participation, they have withdrawn consent and the other party needs to stop as they are no longer with a ‘willing’ participant. [Simply] put, there is no justification to continue the encounter.”

Or to ruin your life just as it’s getting started. 

The comments from Dr. Nadine Pierre-Louis arrived via an essay submission to Philadelphia Weekly, entitled, “Is Your Son Going to College? How to Make Sure He’s Clear on Consent.” Read more on this topic via Dr. Pierre-Louis’ latest book, Richard and the Boyz: A Puberty Experience via GoodReads

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