A new research paper highlights the wide variation in definitions of consent at universities across the United States.
[Photo: “Consent lies at the crux of clearly defining sex versus sexual assault,” said the co-author of a UNC study that highlights the wide variation in definitions of consent at universities across the United States. “Using explicit definitions is a critical step in addressing sexual assault on college campuses.” Photo by Moyan Brenn.]
According to Ms. Sarah Treves-Kagan, doctoral student in the department of health behavior at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health and co-author of the study, most colleges and universities (93 percent) do have a policy against sexual assault, many of which (87.6 percent) define consent. Some schools, however, have significantly more comprehensive definitions than others.
“Consent lies at the crux of clearly defining sex versus sexual assault,” Ms. Treves-Kagan said. “Using explicit definitions is a critical step in addressing sexual assault on college campuses.”
The full article, “Sexual Assault Policies and Consent Definitions: A Nationally Representative Investigation of United States Colleges and Universities,” was published online April 17 in the Journal of School Violence. The student-led research was an interdisciplinary project conducted by student and faculty members of UNC’s Gender Based Violence Research Group (GBVRG).
The study assessed 995 college and university websites to identify the types of schools that are less likely to have sexual assault policies or consent definitions in place. These institutions included several smaller, private universities and universities with a majority of male students.
The GBVRG research team hopes the results will help direct future efforts to expand the number of universities that have clear sexual assault policies and consent definitions on the books.
“There is still a lot to learn about how to craft the best policies to reduce the prevalence of sexual violence on college campuses,” Ms. Treves-Kagan said. “A critical component of improving these policies will be to continue collecting data about sexual assault on college campuses and examining trends over time.”
The article’s first author is Ms. Laurie Graham, a student in UNC’s School of Social Work. Additional co-authors from UNC’s Gillings School include Drs. Beth Moracco and J. Michael Bowling, in the department of health behavior; Ms. Erin P. Magee and Dr. Sandra L. Martin, in the department of maternal and child health; and Ms. Stephanie M. DeLong, in the department of epidemiology. Other co-authors represent UNC’s School of Social Work, the Injury Prevention Research Center and RTI International.