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editorial

Harvard’s sex-assault policy should require explicit consent

IT’S A disturbing story that repeats itself, time after time, on college campuses. A student claims to have been sexually assaulted. But because she, fearing her safety, never explicitly said no to her attacker, the university’s hands are tied by its own sexual-abuse policy. There are important reasons to establish clear guidelines for sexual assaults, but the rules shouldn’t be so restrictive as to prevent a university taking action when an otherwise credible claim is made.

That’s the situation at Harvard in the wake of an anonymous op-ed published in the student newspaper last month that detailed one student’s inability to get the help she needed from college administrators after she reported being intimidated into having sex with another student. Harvard’s president, Drew Faust, sensibly responded by appointing a task force to look into sexual assault prevention on campus. But she should also bring the school’s rules into line with those of other universities that accept that sometimes victims may feel too threatened to express their objections outright.

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