Is non-consensual sex the same as rape?

Yale LogoThat’s the question burning up blogs and sparking heated discussions around Yale College, the undergraduate program for Yale University, and other college campuses after six Yale students received the equivalent of a slap on the wrist after being found guilty of “non-consensual” sex.

The debate comes on the heels of a new report issued by Yale highlighting sexual misconduct incidents reported from January through June of this year. Some of the report’s findings show:

  • None of the students charged and determined to have committed sexual misconduct were expelled.
  • All those charged and found guilty received reprimands via letters from the university.
  • Some were instructed to get counseling.
  • Two were suspended from school, the harshest penalty being for two semesters.

Here’s how Yale officially defines “sexual misconduct” in its conduct code:

Any sexual activity for which clear and voluntary consent has not been given in advance; any sexual activity with someone who is incapable of giving valid consent because, for example, she or he is sleeping or otherwise incapacitated due to alcohol or drugs; any act of sexual harassment, intimate partner violence, or stalking. Sexual misconduct includes nonphysical actions such as digital media stalking, cyberbullying, and nonconsensual recording of a sexual nature.

In a separate section, Yale further discusses sexual misconduct and describes how the school deals with such behavior:

Sexual misconduct is antithetical to the standards and ideals of our community and will not be tolerated. Yale aims to eradicate sexual misconduct through education, training, clear policies, and serious consequences for violations of these policies.

What are the “serious consequences” for violating Yale’s policies? Apparently they include: a verbal reprimand, a written reprimand, counseling on proper conduct and respect for others, and in the rarest circumstances, suspension from school for a semester or two.

Yale is located in New Haven, Conn. Connecticut law classifies fourth-degree sexual assault as either a misdemeanor or a felony, where an individual “subjects another person to sexual contact without such other person’s consent.”

A misdemeanor conviction for sexual assault in Connecticut carries up to a year in prison and a felony conviction could mean up to five years behind bars. However, if it happens on the Yale campus, you could get just a letter and a suggestion that you get counseling.

A review of the university’s provost’s report shows exactly how Yale College dealt with three students determined to be guilty of “non-consensual sex.”

Case No. 1 involved a student that filed a charge of non-consensual sex and initially decided not to pursue the matter. The reported student was “counseled on appropriate conduct.” However, the case was re-filed and the evidence affirmed the charge. The male student was given a written reprimand.

School reprimanded a student

In a second case, two males were charged with non-consensual sex. In this case, both were found to have violated the school’s policy on sexual misconduct and were sent letters and “measures were taken to limit contact between the parties.”

Two students charged

A third case we reviewed actually ended with the male student being suspended for two semesters. In this instance, the suspension was also met with a recommendation for continued counseling on alcohol abuse, appropriate sexual behavior and respectful treatment of others.

Yale Student suspended

Apparently none of the six cases that were investigated and determined to be violations of Yale’s sexual misconduct rules warranted expulsion from college. Further, the word “rape” was not mentioned anywhere in the section. That has many people upset, including some Yale students returning in the fall.

Student tweets about non-consensual sex

Image: Twitter

Earlier this summer, Alexandra Brodsky joined more than 160,000 people who signed an online petition urging Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan to get involved and “hold colleges accountable that break the law by refusing to protect students from sexual assault.” Brodsky was also part of the group that delivered the petition to the Education Department. TheBlaze will update this post from comment from Brodsky about the group’s status.

This is also not the first time Yale has been involved in a controversy connected to sex. In 2011, a suit was filed against Yale for “failing to eliminate a hostile sexual environment on campus.” Last summer, the school managed to shut down the investigation by agreeing to some changes in the way the campus handles complaints alleging sexual misconduct.

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