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Classes are Back and Students should learn that Yes Means Yes

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The end of September marks the first week of classes for undergrads at Stanford -- where former student Brock Turner will not be returning after being convicted of raping a young woman last year behind a dumpster on campus after a booze-fueled party. Rape-prevention counselors will also tell you that this time of year, between the start of school and Thanksgiving break, is known as "the red zone," when the combination of freshmen on their own for the first time and gallons of alcohol flowing at parties all over campus often results in a spike of sexual assaults.

The Turner case sparked national outrage not only because of what happened but because of the searing 13-page letter Turner's victim read in open court to her attacker, who received a sentence of only a few months in jail after being convicted of three felony sexual assault charges. But the case was also a wake-up call for anyone who still thinks that not saying no means yes. "Consent" does not mean being semi-conscious or not being able to struggle and fight hard enough to stop an attack.

In 2014, California was the first state in the country to pass what is known as the "Yes Means Yes" law which says explicitly that "lack of protest or resistance does not mean consent nor does silence mean consent." But the Turner case made clear that it's going to take more than a law to stop the "blame-the-victim" attitude of those who can't tell the difference between consenting and relenting. Planned Parenthood educators have been in schools for years talking about what consent looks like, but this might finally be the cultural moment when the concept of consent goes viral.

Mario Alfaro, a Planned Parenthood educator in Fresno, said it's often easier to make people understand sexual consent if they look at it from the perspective of someone they care about rather than just from their own perspective. "I ask these young guys I talk to, 'You think you can say you hooked up with someone when you were both drunk and that's a viable excuse for anything that happened? What about if  it was your sister or your daughter who was drunk in a situation like that? '" he said. "That's what flips the switch for them. Then they get it."

Planned Parenthood educators teach that consent needs to consist of four things: Being active, reflecting equal power of both partners, the choice to start or stop and, finally, consent is an ongoing process. Our educators describe different scenarios and use videos to explore what consent means -- and how difficult it is to recognize when alcohol and drugs are involved. This is something that should be a part of the safe sex canon that we have made so much progress with in recent decades, curtailing unintended pregnancies and the spread of STDs.

The best way to erase the "red zone" stain from college campuses is to be sure that everyone automatically understands what forms sexual consent. If anyone has a hard time remembering, just think of these lines from the letter written by the woman that Brock Turner raped:  "You took away my worth, my privacy, my energy, my time, my safety, my intimacy, my confidence, my own voice."

That is what lack of consent looks like

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