By Nikki Seymour, Age 26
The Higher Education and Employment Advancement Committee raised An Act Concerning Affirmative Consent, HB 5376. The public hearing for the bill is today, March 1. The bill would “require the inclusion of affirmative consent as a standard in every institution of higher education’s policy or policies regarding sexual assault, stalking and intimate partner violence.”
Affirmative consent is defined as the affirmative, conscious, and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity. The standard is currently in use at several institutions in the state, University of Connecticut, University of New Haven, and Yale. The passage of HB 5376 would create a universal policy for all colleges across the state.
Under an affirmative consent standard, the accused student will be responsible for proving how they obtained consent. Yes means yes––at every phase of sexual contact, not just the first phase––ensures that both parties are safe. Schools without the policy use the “no-means-no” standard, which relies on victims to prove that they communicated to the alleged perpetrator that they did not wish to engage in the sexual activity.
This policy is important for all college students and young people. Individuals might be navigating their first sexual relationships or continuing to explore their own sexual wants and needs. As students further learn how to articulate what they are and are not comfortable with, “yes means yes” confirms that all individuals must plainly give consent. Receiving and giving the yes ensures that consent is given and not assumed.
My hope is that affirmative consent will continue the work CT has accomplished over the past four years to prevent sexual assault and better protect and support victims. I hope that affirmative consent will reduce the victim-blaming culture of sexual assault and further the conversation on campuses regarding healthy sexuality and relationships. Much more needs to happen before students enter college, most notably comprehensive sexual education. But passing this legislation will play an important role in preventing sexual assault and supporting victims.