April is Sexual Abuse/Assault Awareness and Prevention Month (#SAAPM, #SAAM). This is the second article I’m posting about the subject. Because the first step in fighting the silent epidemic of sexual crimes is awareness. You can read the first article, on how to support a survivor, by clicking here.
The National Sexual Assault Hotline is available by phone (800.656.HOPE) and online (online.rainn.org). Talk with someone who is trained to help anytime, 24/7.
You’ve heard it before.
The old line that “no” never means “yes.”
But maybe that bears repeating.
NO NEVER MEANS YES.
According to RAINN, nearly 1/3 of sexual assaults are by people the victim knows. This means they’re in a situation where they ought to be able to say no, but the other party refuses to listen, refuses to respect, and at the end of the day, commits a crime with a lifetime of horrific implications.
The numbers are even more horrifying for minors. The majority of children under 18 who are abused, molested, and assaulted and who KNOW THEIR PERPETRATOR is a whopping 93%.
I can personally testify to the accuracy of this one.
Those friendly little sleepovers? The relative who’s a little too touchy-feely and insists on getting a child alone? The coach, uncle, aunt, neighbor who takes a special interest in your child? There are warning signs…although many child molestors and family members who commit incest are often charismatic, the “life of the party,” likable, and pathological experts at hiding their crimes. I’ll post more about this topic later. (And click here for important information on warning signs.)
Share this with someone you love.
Because no never means yes.
And learning those boundaries could save someone a lifetime of hurt.
The laws about consent vary by state and situation. It can make the topic confusing, but you don’t have to be a legal expert to understand how consent plays out in real life.
What is consent?
Consent is an agreement between participants to engage in sexual activity. There are many ways to give consent, and some of those are discussed below. Consent doesn’t have to be verbal, but verbally agreeing to different sexual activities can help both you and your partner respect each other’s boundaries.
How does consent work in real life?
When you’re engaging in sexual activity, consent is about communication. And it should happen every time. Giving consent for one activity, one time, does not mean giving consent for increased or recurring sexual contact. For example, agreeing to kiss someone doesn’t give that person permission to remove your clothes. Having sex with someone in the past doesn’t give that person permission to have sex with you again in the future.
You can change your mind at any time.
You can withdraw consent at any point if you feel uncomfortable. It’s important to clearly communicate to your partner that you are no longer comfortable with this activity and wish to stop. The best way to ensure both parties are comfortable with any sexual activity is to talk about it.
Positive consent can look like this:
- Communicating when you change the type or degree of sexual activity with phrases like “Is this OK?”
- Explicitly agreeing to certain activities, either by saying “yes” or another affirmative statement, like “I’m open to trying.”
- Using physical cues to let the other person know you’re comfortable taking things to the next level
It does NOT look like this:
- Refusing to acknowledge “no”
- Assuming that wearing certain clothes, flirting, or kissing is an invitation for anything more
- Someone being under the legal age of consent, as defined by the state
- Someone being incapacitated because of drugs or alcohol
- Pressuring someone into sexual activity by using fear or intimidation
- Assuming you have permission to engage in a sexual act because you’ve done it in the past
If you’ve experienced sexual assault, you’re not alone. To speak with someone who is trained to help, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.656.HOPE (4673) or chat online at online.rainn.org.
The Rape Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) website provides general information that is intended, but not guaranteed, to be correct and up-to-date. The information is not presented as a source of legal advice. You should not rely, for legal advice, on statements or representations made within the website or by any externally referenced Internet sites. If you need legal advice upon which you intend to rely in the course of your legal affairs, consult a competent, independent attorney. RAINN does not assume any responsibility for actions or non-actions taken by people who have visited this site, and no one shall be entitled to a claim for detrimental reliance on any information provided or expressed.