The National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) has a mission to provide leadership in preventing and responding to sexual violence. They do so through collaborating, sharing and creating resources, and promoting research This is the eighteenth Sexual Assault and Awareness Month led by the NSVRC and this year’s theme is I Ask.
I Ask for Consent
The theme I Ask promotes education and understanding of what consent is. This education is intended for men and women.
Consent is when someone gives permission for something to happen or to do something. It is only consent if the person granting consent knows exactly what they are agreeing to. And agreeing to kiss is not granting consent for making out or sexual intercourse. Consent needs to be specific. In other words, if you ask “do you want to mess around,” that isn’t specific. Do you want to kiss is specific but only grants consent for a kiss.
And granted or denied, consent is a one-time thing. Giving consent once does not imply consent for any other time.
Who Can Give Consent
This is one area where the NSVRC handout falls short.
Only competent adults (over the legal age—whatever it is in your country) can give consent.
Children can never give consent—even if they look or act like an adult.
Persons who are unconscious or drunk cannot give consent.
If a person is not mentally or physically capable of giving consent, they cannot legally grant consent even if they answer yes.
If someone says no, there is no consent. If someone sounds uncertain, there is no clear consent. A smile, a nod, a shrug all are unclear. Ask for a verbal consent.
Before accepting your partner’s consent. Check in with your partner. Ask them what they think they are consenting to. Or tell your partner, You sound uncertain. Let’s (watch a movie, go for coffee, etc.) instead.
The NSVRC has a handout on consent. In fact, I used some of the information on it for this post. You can print it off from this page.
There are tons of other resources available on the website. Check it out.
Why I Care
This is the first year I’ve made Sexual Assault Awareness a focus of my April posts. In the past, it was too painful, too frightening, too uncertain. Well, it’s still painful, frightening, and uncertain.
Like Miranda in my novel, My Soul to Keep, I believe I was sexually assaulted at a very young age by a trusted family member. I have no actual memory of the event(s) but I have nightmares. And I have unexplained, emotional reactions to certain triggers. See previous posts, Through the Haze and Help Me Help Prevent Sexual Assault for a little more information.
I will never be certain of any recovered memories. I will never feel safe discussing sexual assault. Not the ones I’ve always remember. Not the ones I believe happened but have no solid memory of. Not even sexual assaults on other persons.
No matter what happened—or didn’t happen to me—no sexual assault on any level is ever acceptable. But sexual assault is nearly epidemic. And it doesn’t happen only in America.
Why Educate About Consent
No one ever spoke to me about consent. I don’t believe anyone ever spoke to my parents about consent, nor to their parents. Would it have changed my life? Maybe not, unless the men involved were educated, too.
Some people say everyone knows what consent is. They don’t. Sexual assaults happen EVERY. DAY. It happens to women, men, children, disabled, and seniors. See some of the statistics in last week’s post, Speak Out—April is SAAPM.
Sexual assault and abuse are preventable. We human beings, across the globe, need to be better at understanding what is and isn’t consent. We need to be better about respecting consent. We need to be better.
I Ask. Do you?