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Encouraging students to practice consent and self-empowerment


Sexual assault remains a problem in higher ed. Among a random sample of New York undergrads, 22 percent reported experiencing at least one incident of sexual assault since entering college (PLoS ONE, 2017). Women and gender-nonconforming students reported at higher rates—28 percent and 38 percent, respectively—while 12.5 percent of college-aged males reported experiencing sexual assault. In a recent Student Health 101 poll, 63 percent of students said they were aware of sexual assaults happening among their peers.

So what can we do about it? Part of the problem is recognizing that most sexual assault doesn’t look how we might expect it to. The US Department of Justice defines sexual assault as “any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient.” That can include:

  • Forcing or coercing someone to have sex or do any sexual act
  • Penetrating a person’s body with any object without their consent
  • Unwanted sexual touching
  • Unwanted sexual comments
  • Anything that forces someone to join in unwanted sexual contact or attention

“Changing the culture around consent and communication is one of the best ways to prevent sexual assault,” says Evan Walker-Wells, a former communication and consent educator at Yale University and the cofounder of Scalawag, a magazine and website covering Southern politics and culture.

Cultural norms around sexual assault

Sexual assault among young adults is often associated with:

  • Social norms that make it harder to speak up in defense of oneself or others (e.g., a double standard that judges people differently for sexual activity).
  • A party culture that links alcohol with expectations of sex or hooking up.

How do we change the culture? Start with self-empowerment

Self-empowerment means identifying and learning to honor our own needs and desires. Helping students become self-empowered can help them get the sandwich the way they ordered it, help their friends and partners have their back, help them speak up when something’s not working, and help them feel confident in walking away from things when they need to. A key to satisfying relationships and interactions is being aware of and honoring our own feelings—which also helps us appreciate and honor others’ feelings.

4 ways for school staff to support self-empowerment

thoughtful woman in glasses

1. Work with students to normalize conversations about sex and sexuality

Faculty and staff can model thoughtful decision making, provide space for reflection, and introduce new ideas and norms. You can encourage dialogue, help find guest speakers, and incorporate these conversations and concepts into the classroom.

2. Encourage student leaders who are building a more positive culture

Student leaders help facilitate the environments in which their peers hang out, flirt, and sometimes hook up. By providing students with relevant training and resources on things like bystander intervention, sexual culture, and self-empowerment, you can help create an environment that’s less conducive to sexual assault and more conducive to thoughtful choices.

3. Help spread positive and diverse narratives

College plays a vital role in shaping narratives that students see and hear. You’re well positioned to introduce positive examples of self-empowerment and mindful decision making (e.g., when instructors select reading material for class).

4. Model empowerment

Students learn from their professors and school staff. Find everyday situations in which you can model polite boundary setting, make non-coercive requests, and affirm other people’s decision to say “no.”

Keep in mind that there are times when sexual pressure escalates into assault. No matter how good a person is at setting boundaries, it’s not always possible to stop that. A victim is never at fault for someone else’s choice to assault. When students learn to trust their instincts, though, it can make it easier to spot red flags early on.


Diana Adams, JD, Esq., managing partner, Diana Adams Law & Mediation PLLC, New York City.

Jaclyn Friedman, author of What You Really Really Want: The Smart Girl’s Shame-Free Guide to Sex and Safety (Seal Press, 2011).

1in6. (n.d.). Sorting it out for himself. Retrieved from

Anderson, N., & Clement, S. (2015, June 12). Poll shows that 20 percent of women are sexually assaulted in college. Washington Post. Retrieved from

Anderson, S. S., Steve Hendrix, N., & Brown, E. (2015, June 12). Male survivors of sex assaults often fear they won’t be taken seriously. Washington Post. Retrieved from

Bazelon, E. (2014, October 21). Hooking up at an affirmative-consent campus? It’s complicated. New York Times. Retrieved from

Beres, M. A. (2014). Rethinking the concept of consent for anti-sexual violence activism and education. Feminism & Psychology, 24(3), 373–389.

Beres, M. A., Herold, E., & Maitland, S. B. (2004). Sexual consent behaviors in same-sex relationships. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 33(5), 475–486.

Berrington, L. (2015). Finding yourself: 7 steps to self-empowerment. Student Health 101, 10(8).

Blue Seat Studios. (2015). Tea consent. Retrieved from

Boyd, M. (2015, December 17). The case for affirmative consent [blog post]. Huffington Post. Retrieved from

Carmody, M. (2003). Sexual ethics and violence prevention. Social & Legal Studies, 12(2), 199–216.

Catalano, S. (2013). Intimate partner violence: Attributes of victimization, 1993–2011. Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS). Retrieved from

Crome, S. (2006). Male survivors of sexual assault and rape. Australian Institute of Family Studies. Retrieved from

Culp-Ressler, T. (n.d.). What “affirmative consent” actually means. Retrieved from

Davies, M., Gilston, J., & Rogers, P. (2012). Examining the relationship between male rape myth acceptance, female rape myth acceptance, victim blame, homophobia, gender roles, and ambivalent sexism. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 27(14), 2807–2823.

Davies, M., & Rogers, P. (2006). Perceptions of male victims in depicted sexual assaults: A review of the literature. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 11(4), 367–377.

Dube, S. R., Anda, R. F., Whitfield, C. L., Brown, D. W., et al. (2005). Long-term consequences of childhood sexual abuse by gender of victim. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 28(5), 430–438.

Friedman, J., & Valenti, J. (2008). Yes means yes: Visions of female sexual power and a world without rape. Seal Press.

Gavey, N., & Schmidt, J. (2011). “Trauma of rape” discourse: A double-edged template for everyday understandings of the impact of rape? Violence Against Women, 17(4), 433–456.

Gavey, N., Schmidt, J., Braun, V., Fenaughty, J., et al. (2009). Unsafe, unwanted: Sexual coercion as a barrier to safer sex among men who have sex with men. Journal of Health Psychology, 14(7), 1021–1026.

Graham, R. (2006). Male rape and the careful construction of the male victim. Social & Legal Studies, 15(2), 187–208.

Harrell, M. C., Castaneda, L. W., Adelson, M., Gaillot, S., et al. (2009). A compendium of sexual assault research. RAND Corporation. Retrieved from

Kann, L., McManus, T., Harris, W. A., Shanklin, S. L., et al. (2016, June 10). Youth risk behavior surveillance—United States, 2015. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 65(6).

Maine Coalition Against Sexual Violence. (n.d.). Sexual violence against LGBTQQI populations. Retrieved from

McDonough, K. (2014, September 5). Gloria Steinem on consent and sexual assault: “Since when is hearing ‘yes’ a turnoff?” Retrieved December 21, 2015, from

Paulk, L. (2014, April 30). Sexual assault in the LGBT community. National Center for Lesbian Rights. Retrieved from

Rothman, E. F., Exner, D., & Baughman, A. L. (2011). The prevalence of sexual assault against people who identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual in the United States: A systematic review. Trauma, Violence & Abuse, 12(2), 55–66.

Savage, D. (2013). Dan Savage: Gay advice for straight couples. Retrieved from

US Department of Justice. (2016, April 1). Sexual assault. Retrieved from

Walters, M. L., Chen, J., & Breiding, M. J. (2013). The national intimate partner and sexual violence survey (NISVS): 2010 findings on victimization by sexual orientation. Atlanta, GA: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from

Wild, C. (2011, December 13). Dan Savage talks sex, love and clear communication. Retrieved from

Yale CCEs. (n.d.). Myth of miscommunication workshops | Yale CCE Program. Retrieved from

Why you probably need more sleep—and how to get it


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You’re likely pretty familiar with the eight-hour rule. Actually getting eight full hours of shut-eye, however? It’s tricky to prioritize sleep when you’re juggling school, sports, and a life outside of academics.

Getting more sleep, however, can actually help make all those things easier to manage. Take the age-old dilemma: Should you study for a few more hours before that big test or get some sleep? Sleep has major brain benefits, including helping to improve your memory. So trading the flash cards for your pillow might actually do more to boost your grade.

Here’s the case in favor of getting more zzzs:

Sleeping away sickness

You’re not dreaming—you really will feel an amazing difference in your body when you let it reenergize. Researchers consistently find that getting insufficient sleep prevents the immune system from functioning at its best. A 2012 study by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found a significant difference in immune response in those who slept four to six hours compared to those who slept seven to nine hours.

Getting consistent sleep is the key. In a 2017 study among twins, researchers found that “chronic short sleep,” defined as regularly getting less than seven hours, shuts down certain immune responses. In other words, if you’re exposed to a virus when you’re sleep-deprived, you’re more likely to get sick than if you were doing more slumbering.

“When I get enough sleep, I almost never get sick,” says Rachael, a student in Minnesota. “I [recently] made it a priority to get enough sleep and I didn’t get sick once.”

sick woman on couch

Sleep and the scale

A lack of sleep can also affect your health in other ways. It’s all about the endocrine system, which is responsible for managing your hormones. Fluctuations in hormones are associated with increased weight gain, explains Dr. Michel Bornemann, a sleep medicine specialist and former co-director of the Minnesota Regional Sleep Disorders Center in Minneapolis.

The part of your brain that controls these functions—the hypothalamus—needs sleep for regulation and to keep your weight in check. When you haven’t gotten much sleep, you’re also more likely to crave less nutritious foods that will provide a quick shot of energy, such as sugary snacks. Plus, your body can’t fully reap the benefits of regular physical activity if you’re not getting consistent, deep sleep. In other words, sleep can be a big boost when it comes to helping you maintain a healthy weight.

Sleep and stress

This might come as no surprise, but sleep has a major impact on your mood (just think about all the times you’ve gone through the day grumpy because you didn’t get enough shut-eye).

“In the summer, I was getting four to six hours [of sleep] a night and working six days a week. I was always tired and sluggish, and felt negative about most things,” says Jessica, a student in Canada. “Now that I’m back in school and don’t go to work at 7 a.m. every morning and then another job after, I feel a lot better and more positive. It has actually improved my mental health.”

Specifically, sleep deprivation is linked to an increase in the stress hormone cortisol—a huge reason we feel out of whack when we don’t get enough shut-eye. That can turn into a vicious cycle, according to the American Psychological Association. In a survey, more than a third of teens reported that stress was keeping them up at night.

“When I have a bad night’s sleep, I wake up tired, annoyed, and am more easily agitated, whereas when I get a good night’s sleep, I’m happy and a lot less stressed throughout the day,” says Noel, a senior in Warwick, Rhode Island.

Bad sleep = bad focus

student asleep in class

Getting more sleep can help you focus better in class so you can spend less time reviewing the material later in the library. In a recent Student Health 101 survey, respondents stated that they feel groggy and sluggish, and also have difficulty concentrating when not getting sufficient sleep.

“After a bad night’s sleep, I’ll notice I’m a little more stressed and irritable, maybe I just can’t quite think straight, and easy things get confusing for no reason,” says Megan, a student in Orono, Maine. “After a good night’s sleep, however, I’m happier, relaxed, and really ambitious to get as much done as I can as soon as possible.”

If you find yourself falling asleep at your desk (it happens to the best of us), you’re obviously exhausted, but you might not realize how powerful your fatigue really is. “Acute sleep deprivation is often associated with episodes of ‘microsleep,’ or brief, uncontrollable periods of sleep lasting three to six seconds. [They can] intrude upon wake at inopportune times, such as during [class],” explains Dr. Bornemann.

It can also be more serious—Dr. Bornemann points out that research shows driving after pulling an all-nighter is “very similar to the impairment experienced when driving while intoxicated with alcohol.”

Making sleep a priority

Even when you’re totally on board with the importance of sleep, getting enough is easier said than done. To score more sleep, reevaluate your to-do list: If you can prioritize what needs to be done immediately and what can wait, you’ll get a bit more sleep. For example, do you need to spend an hour prepping your student council plans after you study, or can you save that to do over lunch tomorrow? “I know that my body wants to go to sleep [around] midnight,” says Nicki, a student in Chicago, Illinois. “If something isn’t done by then, it’s not usually worth doing.”

Be mindful of time wasters during the day.

Track how much time you spend on social media for a day, including every Twitter break and every minute you spend on Snapchat and Instagram. It adds up. Think about how else you could use mindless scrolling time to be more productive during the day—and get more shut-eye at night.

Don’t check electronics after going to bed.

The blue light from your screen interferes with your body’s internal sleep clock, keeping you from drifting off. Plug your phone in to charge on the opposite side of your room to resist the temptation.

Get in the sleep zone or create a sleep routine.

Take a relaxing shower before bed, practice pre-snooze meditation, or read until you drift off. Try a meditation app like Calm.


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Article sources

Dr. Michel Bornemann, director, Minnesota Regional Sleep Disorders Center; assistant professor of neurology and medicine, University of Minnesota School of Medicine, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

American Psychological Association. (2013). Stress and sleep. Retrieved from

Harvard School of Public Health. (n.d.). Waking up to sleep’s role in weight control. Retrieved from obesity/

Leproult, R., Copinschi, G., Buxton, O., & Van Cauter, E. (1997). Sleep loss results in an elevation of cortisol levels the next evening. Sleep20(10), 865–870. Retrieved from

National Sleep Foundation. (2012, November 9). Young people more likely to drive drowsy. Retrieved from

Watson, N. F., Buchwald, D., Delrow, J. J., Altemeier, W. A., et al. (2017). Transcriptional signatures of sleep duration discordance in monozygotic twins. Sleep, 40(1). doi: 10.1093/sleep/zsw019

Wright Jr., K. P., Drake, A. L., Frey, D. J., Fleshner, M., et al. (2015). Influence of sleep deprivation and circadian misalignment on cortisol, inflammatory markers, and cytokine balance. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity47, 24ؘ–34.

Apps and podcasts we love: MyFitnessPal


ShayneShayne K., second-year graduate student, Loyola Marymount University, California


Overall rating: 5 out 5 stars

“Whether you’re looking to get in shape for the new school year or just want to begin a new exercise program and are eager to see results, it all begins with nutrition. But many college students (myself included) may not know where to start.

MyFitnessPal does a great job of keeping track of the food you eat, as well as tracking all your workouts. The MyFitnessPal app was super helpful to me during my undergraduate career. I played offensive line throughout high school and college, and once I was done playing, I weighed well over 300 pounds, with minimal knowledge about nutrition. I had no idea where to start to get to a healthier weight.

This app helped me understand how I could adjust my portions based off the amount of physical activity I was getting for the day.  I’ve used MyFitnessPal since 2013, and it has helped me keep off the nearly 100 pounds I’ve lost since then.

The app itself is very user-friendly and makes working toward your health and/or fitness goals that much easier. 10/10—would recommend MyFitnessPal to anyone looking to make a healthy lifestyle change!”

Get it on iTunes StoreGet it on Google Play

Student spotlight: Chrystal O.


Chrystal O. is a second-year graduate student at Johns Hopkins University, Bloomberg School of Public Health in Maryland.

She’s currently working toward an MS in public health. For this issue, Chrystal reviewed the app Plant Nanny.

What’s a movie you can watch over and over again?

I absolutely love ’90s and early-2000s teen romantic comedies, especially 10 Things I Hate About You. I love this movie so much that during my first year of college, I wrote my final paper on “modern Shakespearean adaptations” so I could re-watch it several times and write about how the movie is very loosely based off of The Taming of the Shrew.

What was your last Halloween costume?

Diana Prince, from Wonder Woman. It was so much fun dressing up as a strong and powerful female character!

What’s your dream car?

A silver, two-door, black leather interior Nissan 350 Z. There’s a newer model, the 370 Z, but I love the more classic version and I’ve wanted one for as long as I can remember.

What are you reading right now?

I love reading, and I mostly read historical and paranormal romance novels and young adult dystopian novels. Right now, I’m rereading the Harry Potter series for probably the 10th time (#TeamHufflepuff). I always set a goal to read 52 books a year, or a book a week. And I’ve hit that goal four out of the last seven years!

What’s your favorite holiday?

My favorite holiday is definitely Thanksgiving! I love cooking, and spending all day in the kitchen with my parents is one of my favorite parts of the day. There are no expectations during Thanksgiving—it’s just about food, family, and fun—and a killer turkey!

Don’t miss your last chance to enter to win $1,000


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Here are some quick links to get you there faster. Pick one to read, or read them all! Then submit your feedback at the end of the article for your chance to win.

Good luck!

Student spotlight: Brianne S.


Brianne S. is a fourth-year undergraduate student at the University of Windsor in Ontario.

She’s currently receiving her Bachelor of Commerce in Business Administration and works as a Special Projects Coordinator at her university. For this issue, Brianne reviewed the app MyFitnessPal.

What food can you not live without?

Popular opinion, but I could never live without pizza—it’s always been my favourite food. My favourite place to get it from is Dominos!

What bands are you listening to right now?

I currently have Post Malone, Taylor Swift, and Eminem’s new albums on repeat every day. They’re some of my favourite artists.

What’s a movie you can watch over and over again?

Mean Girls. Such a great movie!

What’s your favourite holiday?

Christmas, because I get to have a short break from school and spend time with my family and friends.

If you could travel anywhere, where would you go?

I’d go to Hawaii because I love hot weather and have always dreamed of going there.

Medical Care on Campus


Medical Care on Campus

September: Smoking Cessation Recovery Month


Tobacco Quick Fact

Tobacco Quick Fact

September: Smoking Cessation Recovery Month

September is national recovery month for smoking cessation. It is for people to celebrate who have kicked the habit of smoking. It also promotes awareness and issues related to smoking addiction. Share your story to celebrate and help others recover. Commemorate every year as a non-smoker to celebrate your improved health with family, friends, and coworkers. Especially share your success with current smokers; be a role model.