UAB and Sexual Consent

By on March 7, 2014

Over the years, both Auburn University and Alabama University have experienced their share of sexual assault scandals.  The most recent being Auburn’s current investigation of a potential drugged sexual assault, occurring at one of the university’s fraternity houses.

But where does UAB rank compared in relation to the Big Two?

UAB Police Department’s 2012-2013 Annual Incident Report lists one on-campus incident of forcible sexual assault and one on-campus incident of non-forcible sexual assault in 2013. Two cases of forcible sexual assault occurred in 2012 at UAB Hospital. Zero cases were reported at the UAB Hospital or “Other” in 2013.

In comparison, one forcible on-campus sex offense and zero non-forcible sex offenses were reported at Auburn University in 2012. The University of Alabama University Police’s Campus Security Report lists seven forcible on-campus sexual offenses plus six in resident halls, a subset of on-campus in 2012. Zero non-forcible sex offenses were reported. Statistics for 2013 are not yet available.

Sexual consent involves mutual agreement to any sexual activity, even kissing. By law, everyone must give sexual consent regardless of age, gender, sex, sexual orientation, or relationship status. Anyone can deny consent by simply saying “no,” which means no in any circumstance. Sexual contact without consent constitutes sexual misconduct, assault, or rape.

Sexual consent involves “clear and direct communication” using “actual words or physical conduct indicating freely given agreement to have sexual intercourse or sexual contact,” said Debbie Morgett, Assistant Director of Student Engagement. “Obtaining consent is an ongoing process of mutual communication as sex progresses, regardless of who initiates it.”

“Consent is active, not passive. Silence, in and of itself, cannot be interpreted as consent. Consent can be given by words or actions, as long as those words or actions create mutually understandable clear permission regarding willingness to engage in (and the conditions of) sexual activity. Consent to any one form of sexual activity cannot automatically imply consent to any other forms of sexual activity,” said Morgette.

Sexual consent may not be given while a person is under the influence of alcohol or drugs, asleep, or unconscious. “When in doubt whether or not consent has been given for a sexual act, it is always best to clarify with a partner,” said Morgette.

Each state has specific laws regarding the age at which someone can give consent. Alabama law states that 16 is the legal age of consent. All U.S. states set the age limit between 16-18.

1 and 5 women and 1 in 71 men have experienced rape or attempted rape at least once in their lifetime, according to “Rape and Sexual Assault: A Renewed Call to Action,” released by the White House Council on Women and Girls. In January, President Obama signed a memorandum that established the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault.

“Sexual assault is an affront to our basic decency and humanity,” said President Obama.

The White House’s renewed called to end rape and sexual assault has resulted in a collaboration with colleges and universities to provide best practices, increased transparency, public awareness and coordination to prevent assault and support victims.

To this end, UAB Intrafraternity Council is co-hosting an upcoming education session on healthy relationships featuring Speaker Aaron Boe. Several UAB fraternities organize their own educational events for their members to learn how to prevent sexual violence.

According to National Public Radio (NPR), fraternities nationwide rarely have a legal obligation to address rape and sexual assault but often have a moral obligation. Incidents of sexual assault within fraternities often result in sanctions and/or withdrawal of alumni support.

The Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity convened in the 1988 General Assembly that its members “firmly condemn deliberate or repeated offensive comments, gestures, or contact of a sexual nature and any other form of sexual violence or harassment” (Lambda Chi).

“Our chapter firmly believes in this statement and fully supports treating women as equals and with the utmost respect,” Lambda Chi Alpha President Austin Waid said.

Delta Sigma Phi Fraternity’s preamble supports chivalry of men towards women, and its Code of Conduct states, “I will respect the dignity of all persons and therefore I will not physically, psychologically, or sexually haze or abuse any person.”

In addition, Delta Sigma Phi’s bylaws consider sexual responsibility “a personal moral standard.”

“We have a zero tolerance policy for rape, hazing or the abuse of alcohol,” said a member of Delta Sigma Phi Fraternity.

The Eta Psi chapter of Theta Chi Fraternity holds seminars on recognizing and preventing sexual assault and date rape.

“The men of the Theta Chi chapter here at UAB strive to be complete gentlemen and practice chivalry at all times. We do not tolerate sexual assault or any kind of disrespect towards women,” Vice President of Health and Safety of Theta Chi, Hunter Russo said.

UAB Police also provides tips and information for on-campus situations. For one, “trust your instincts.” If something does not feel right, then it probably is not the best situation to be in.

According to the UAB Police, students can best avoid incidents by walking with a friend on campus in well-lit areas and always carry a cell phone. Lastly, UAB Police notes that shortcuts are not always the safest option.

UAB offers a Guide for Victims of Sexual Assault found here. The Guide emphasizes two points for victims to remember: you have choices and there are caring people who can help you.

Victims of domestic violence crimes can report the incident, which is not the same as pressing charges, by contacting UAB Police at 205-934-3535 or 911. The incident may also be reported to Assistant Vice President of Student Life and Title IX Coordinator Andy Marsch at 205-934-4175 or the Office of Civil Rights at 1-800-421-3481 or

Birmingham’s Crisis Center allows sexual assault victims to come in for a rape kit examination performed by a nurse specially trained as a S.A.N.E (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners). The Center specializes in assisting rape victims and provides an alternative to the emergency room setting. Survivors can choose to file a police report with detectives present to avoid re-telling their story.

“As a volunteer, I am solely there to comfort the survivor whether they want to talk, or they just want a hand to hold during their exam. I also walk them through the entire process, provide them with information and resources, and let them know what options they have as a victim,” Crisis Center Volunteer Amber Ritchie said.

Rape Response is located at 3600 8th Ave. S.. Victims can schedule an appointment with Rape Response by calling (205) 323-7273 or call the Crisis Center’s Crisis Line at (205) 323-7777.

There are a number of smartphone apps available to help protect against sexual assault. The iOS app Attack Alarm SMS allows users to set emergency contacts to access in the event of an emergency. If users find themselves in danger, they can send an alarm to emergency contacts.

Another available app is SafeSnapp, which allows victims to snap a series of pictures of their attacker during the event. The picture are sent directly to the user’s email, a designated contact’s email and the SafeSnapp database for police authorities to access.

For information and advice regarding sexual assault, contact the Rape Response Hotline at 205-323-7273 or National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE.

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About Kaylyn Alexander

  • Stankylegs

    “Alabama University”?

  • Jessi

    OF COURSE the section regarding UAB police is full of victim-blaming. Every other part of the article is written beautifully, emphasizing consent instead of blaming women and men for their sexual assault.

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