Yes! Always is a University of Nevada, Reno's marketing class's effort to raise awareness about sexual assault. The campaign seeks to inform the community that any sexual interaction requires a spoken consent, a “yes.” It seems a simple enough concept, but it gets murky where inexperience and alcohol can be involved. The group will host a student-run forum on the topic of consent on Nov. 18 at 5:30 p.m. in the Reynolds School of Journalism. For more information, check out www.yesalways.org.
What is the Yes! Always campaign? Why are you doing it?
We were tasked at the beginning of the semester to come up with a cause. Our professor … wanted it to be something that we cared about as a team, that we thought was relevant, and kind of a hot topic, and something where we could really make a difference. So we did a ton, a ton of research, and we proposed different things, and we ended up coming to the conclusion that a topic that at least needed to be addressed in our community, on our campus, was sexual assault. [We realized] that an issue past campaigns had that tried to address sexual assault or to decrease it on college campuses is that it isn’t really talked about. People don’t feel comfortable addressing what the problems are or what consent is. It’s a major misunderstanding of what consent even means, and that’s what the Yes! Always campaign addresses. Consent is a clear, verbal yes. … There are no gray areas. You can’t obtain consent if alcohol is involved. Consent is an ongoing thing.
Are you taking kind of a lighthearted view of it with superheroes representing this serious topic, or what was the thinking?
I’m not so sure that we were going for light-hearted; it’s more of a sex-positive thing. Our goal is really to make students feel comfortable in their choice. We’re not telling them “Do have sex” or “Don’t have sex.” We want them to feel comfortable with their bodies and what their sexuality is, whether they’re saying yes or no—either way.
How will you measure whether the campaign is working?
We have lots of measurement analytics in terms of media. We’ve got the collateral just to pass out to inform students, and so we have different measurements and different goals just to see how people are responding. One of the coolest tactics we have is we have a white board that we’re bringing out, and we’re encouraging students to write “Consent is” and then [they write] what they think consent could be. And we’re measuring it in that way just to see what the understanding is, and to see if we can engage them, and get them to understand what consent really means. That’s our goal.
On this number [from the website], one in five women on college campuses are sexually assaulted. Is that from UNR or is that national statistics?
That is a national statistic.
Do you know the number for UNR?
I don’t know the number exactly, in terms of how many women get assaulted, but something I do know about UNR specifically is that there’s a very, very low statistic in terms of people who actually report it after it happens to them. … We looked into that a lot. I think—at least for women—it has to do with kind of being ashamed that they let this happen to them. I think that also goes back to consent. There’s not a clear line. They didn’t feel like they could say, “No,” or they didn’t know how. And then this awful thing happened and that’s why we want to make sure that it’s a clear thing, and that people must get this clear consent in order to proceed, and then hopefully, the rate of people being assaulted will go down. And then also, if you understand what consent is, you’ll be more likely to report assault if it does happen to you.