After investigating more than 50 reports of sexual assault on Minnesota campuses, Kathryn Nash and her colleagues couldn’t help noticing a pattern: Young men who apparently thought they had a willing sex partner, but woke up days or weeks later to an accusation of sexual assault.
With them in mind, Nash and her team at trainED, a specialty group within the Gray Plant Mooty law firm, created a training video with a chapter they call: “How not to be a perpetrator.”
Normally, you wouldn’t think college students need a lesson in how not to commit a crime. But on campus, Nash points out, the line between consensual sex and sexual misconduct can be blurrier than many realize.
“Very few of these cases involve the use of force, where someone is saying ‘no’ or someone’s trying to push someone off,” says Nash, a Minneapolis attorney.
“You hear [accused students] say ‘I thought it was consensual, and now here I am and my whole life is about to get ruined,” she said. “We’re trying to back up and say, ‘Wait a minute, there are choices you can make that would lessen your risk significantly of finding yourself in that situation.’ ”
Many campuses have “affirmative consent” or “yes means yes” policies, meaning that sexual consent must be demonstrated through “words or actions.” Otherwise, it’s sexual assault.
The video spells out some practical tips: “Don’t hook up if you’re intoxicated.” “Don’t hook up if the other person is intoxicated.” “Don’t hook up with someone you don’t know very well.”
Most important: be explicit and ask for consent.
Nash knows that last part, especially, makes some people cringe. It’s a buzzkill. It’s unrealistic. It’s awkward.
“My reaction is, you know what’s even more awkward? Finding yourself responding to an allegation of sexual assault. Explaining every detail of the sexual encounter with people you don’t even know. And then really rolling the dice on the outcome.”
Maura Lerner • 612-673-7384