Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Dr. Kara Wettersten


Affirmative consent seeks to clarify when sexual assault occurs by framing consent in terms of agreement through positive verbal and non-verbal communication (Little, 2005). Affirmative consent can theoretically account for college students’ limited ability to identify sexual assault outside stereotypical rape scenarios (i.e. stranger rape) (Hammock & Richardson, 1997), thereby decreasing a common barrier to reporting confusion (Brubaker, 2009; McMahone, 2008). Fifteen states are currently considering passing a statewide mandate requiring affirmative consent (the affirmative consent project, 2015); however, universities lack agreement on whether or not affirmative consent should be required to include either verbal or behavioral affirmations, or both verbal or behavioral affirmations. Within current research, it is unclear whether affirmative consent matches college students’ typical modes of communicating and interpreting consent. The present study examined the impact of affirmative consent policies on sexual assault identification and likelihood of reporting. Participants read one of three policies containing a policy definition of affirmative consent and one of three consent communication scenarios that varied consent communication on a non-verbal to verbal spectrum. There was no evidence suggesting that affirmative consent definitions impacted sexual assault or likelihood of reporting, even after controlling for Rape Myth Acceptance. Results strongly suggest a need for continued research examining the empirical backing for affirmative consent.

Included in

Psychology Commons