Affirmative Consent Policies and Legislation: “Yes means Yes!” Replacing “No means No!”

July 28, 2016

Sexual assault can happen to anyone regardless of gender, sex, or sexual orientation. Concerns about what constitutes consent are core issues that have risen with the recent increase in high-profile college sexual assault cases at Steubenville, Vanderbilt, and Stanford . A majority of Americans are familiar with the phrase “No means No” in regards to sexual consent. However, it is apparent that not everyone is able to say “no.” In the cases where a victim does not say no, this indicates a lack of consent.consent

There are of course other factors to be considered. State and federal laws are now addressing those factors by removing the previous “No means No” mantra and replacing it with “Yes means Yes,” along with affirmative consent legislation. California, New York, Illinois, and Connecticut have already enacted affirmative consent laws, and 18 other states are currently drafting legislation. Colleges and universities are creating their own affirmative consent policies as they wait for state and federal action.

Currently, affirmative consent policies or laws require:

  • All individuals be conscious
  • All individuals be in a coherent state of mind (i.e., not incapacitated)
  • All individuals actively and equally participate without hesitation
  • There is an absence of coercion, physical force, or threat of physical force
  • There is an enthusiastic yes, to be verbalized

With more of the public attention focusing on the issue of consent, school policies and state and federal laws are being asked to provide clear definitions for affirmative consent. Policies now acknowledge that previous consensual relations do not constitute consent for future sexual acts. During intimacy, each act is acknowledged as separate, and giving consent for one action does not mean the individual is consenting to everything or anything that follows. Most important, policies now clarify that consent can also be withdrawn at any time.

In the act of changing the mantra we use from “No Means No!” to “Yes Means Yes!” we, as a society, are acknowledging that an absence of “No” does not constitute consent. Instead we are reaffirming that consent must be freely given, free of physical force and coercion, as a conscious decision, and enthusiastically.


Sources: The Affirmative Consent Project (2016), The New York Times, NPR.

Writer: Melanie Emerson is a recent Health Science graduate of Gettysburg College.  While in college she interned at a women’s health center involving issues related to sexual health, assault, and domestic violence. 

The Truth About Drug Use in Middle School Students

July 27, 2016

rx.jpgPrescription drugs can do a lot to help people with medical conditions and, when used appropriately, they can have a positive impact. Unfortunately, many of these drugs are misused and abused by middle-school-aged youth. According to the 2014 Monitoring the Future Survey, the prevalence of prescription drug use in 8th graders was 1.7% and rose to 4.7% by 12th grade. Thirty-three percent of teens believe it is okay to use prescription drugs for an injury, illness, or physical pain even if it has not been prescribed for them. And in 2012, The Partnership Attitude Tracking Study found that a total of 20% of children have misused or abused a prescription drug before the age of 14. Thus, it is essential to educate students on how not to take drugs prescribed to others.

Prescription drug abuse is many times a result of boredom, a need to escape troubles, or a longing to get high. Social pressures and the overwhelming desire to look “cool” in the eyes of peers can also be a driving factor to engage in these behaviors. Students may urge others to use prescription drugs by saying the common phrase “just try it for fun.” Prescription drug abuse has also become more prevalent because of easy accessibility in the family medicine cabinet. A suggested method of prevention is for parents to talk to their children through times of pressure or unhappiness

National Health Promotion Associates (NHPA) is aware of this issue, and is currently creating new sessions on prescription drug abuse for middle-school-aged youth. Based on Botvin LifeSkills Training (LST), the goal of this program is to bring attention to the dangers of prescription drug abuse and misuse while teaching students the skills to refuse them. This adaptation will educate youth on healthy behavioral practices as well as help to deter them from engaging in dangerous health behaviors.

Sources: Monitoring the future national survey results on drug use, 1975–2013: Volume I, secondary school students, University of Utah Health Care.

Writer: Amanda Flower is a rising junior majoring in Public Health at Muhlenberg College


Prescription Drug Abuse: Sharing Is Not Caring

July 26, 2016

A recent study published in JAMA Internal Medicine reported that nearly 60 percent of Americans have opioid painkillers that they no longer use. Within this group, 20 percent of participants stated they shared their opioid painkillers with another person.

Those who shared their medication reported that the primary reason for doing so was to help the other person manage their pain. The second most reported reason was because the person asking for the medication did not have the money to pay for the medication or did not have health insurance.

Possession of opioids by people other than the patients to whom they were prescribed is a growing problem, because misusing prescription medication is both physically harmful and illegal.

Because prescription medication is widely used for the treatment of an array of illnesses and disorders, many Americans do not see a problem with sharing their prescription medication to help their friends and family. In an article in the Washington Post, Johns-Hopkins professor Colleen L. Barry calls for a change of public opinion, stating that it is crucial that officials send “a clear-cut public health message that these medications should never be shared in any circumstance.”

The amount of prescription drug abuse is on the rise, especially among adolescents. In a study published by University of Central Florida professor Jason A. Ford, Ph.D., 22 percent of high school students reported nonmedical use of prescription drugs at some point in their lifetime, with 15 percent reporting nonmedical prescription drug abuse within the last year.

Researchers at National Health Promotion Associates are working to develop a Middle School Prescription Drug Abuse program. The program, based on their LifeSkills Training program, aims to prevent drug use by teaching adolescents to use personal self-management skills, social competency skills, and drug refusal skills.  Developers of the program hope to see reductions in abuse by raising awareness at an early age of the potential harm that can come from sharing prescription drugs and providing the tools needed to increase resilience and stimulate personal growth.

The Food and Drug Administration lists proper disposal techniques as one way  of preventing nonmedical prescription drug abuse. To dispose of unused prescription drugs, drop them off at an authorized collector in your community. You can find authorized collectors in your community by calling your local law-enforcement agency or doing an Internet search to locate prescription drug take-back programs.

Sources:, The Washington Post, Jama Internal Medicine, The Prevention Researcher

Writer: Brooke Dugan is a rising senior majoring in Psychology and Communication at Loyola University Maryland.  

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