(Buffalo, N.Y.) – Many organizations across the country, including SUNY Buffalo State, are making efforts to raise awareness about sexual violence and how to prevent it during April, which sexual assault awareness month.
The National Sexual Violence Resource Center reports there are roughly 293,000 victims of sexual assault in the U.S. per year and 91 percent of the victims are female.
A 2015 study, commissioned by the Association of American Universities (AAU), found 27.2 percent of female college seniors and 8.6 percent of male seniors reported they had experienced some type of “unwanted sexual contact” since entering school.
However, nearly 75 percent of those victims did not report the crime, according to the AAU survey. At Buffalo State, statistics provided by the state show, there were only 26 forcible sex offenses reported between 2009 and 2013, which further highlights that sexual assaults go largely unreported.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that sexual violence is any sexual activity where consent is not freely given, including victims, such as those who are intoxicated, who are unable to consent.
“Students don’t know what consent is, so when we hold the workshops, which are pretty brief, they like the workshops and when they leave they always say that they have learned a lot,” said Allexxia Durant, a health educator at the Weigel Health Center. Durant appeared on the Buffalo Review April 4 to discuss the importance of sexual assault awareness and prevention.
Last year, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation requiring schools across the state to adopt a uniform affirmative consent policy, which changes the standard for consent from “no means no” to “yes means yes.” That means a person needs verbal consent from their partner to proceed with a sex act instead of assuming that just because they didn’t say no it is okay.
“We (at Buffalo State) have adopted SUNY’s policy of affirmative consent, which means that consent needs to be a positive enthusiastic ‘yes,’” said Durant. “There cant be a misinterpretation as far as people initially saying ‘no means no.’ It cant be ‘no means no,’ because if (a person) didn’t say anything it would fall under the premise of that so it needs to an enthusiastic ‘yes.’”
However, The New York Times reported July 2015 that very few college students are aware of the law or practicing affirmative consent. Thus, Durant said health educators at Buffalo State are working to make students aware of their responsibilities.
“I think there is a positive effect in that students need to know that there are ways to not make it awkward or uncomfortable in getting consent. We focus on that in our workshop and talk to them about not assuming, it doesn’t have to be so formal when asking” for consent, said Durant.
* Joseph Kasko contributed to this report.