WARNING, there will be descriptions of sexual assault in this post. And I will also be talking about sex. It’s hard to talk about consent without talking about sex.
Here we go.
The second weekend of my first year in university, I was sexually assaulted at a party.
I was forcibly kissed, I was touched where I did not want to be touched multiple times over and I was forcibly pushed (almost dragged) towards a room by my neck with fingernails digging into my skin.
After my assailant had kissed me for the first time I told him to stop. I pushed him away. Consent was not given.
He did not accept that. “No one has ever not wanted it with me.” He assumed that I could not possibly be his first rejection, that someone, especially this supposedly unassuming first year could turn down an attractive older guy such as himself. He didn’t want that POWER taken away from him.
His hands moved to where they definitely were not welcome. I told him to stop again and once again was ignored. I was told to stop fighting. I was being moved against my will inside and towards an empty room. At that point, my body moved into shock as I felt the situation slip further and further out of my control.
I was kissed again, I tried turning away but the fingernail grip of death on the back of my neck tightened. We were almost through the door. All I could do at that point was try to brace myself for what was coming.
I’d like to point out that I know self defense. My wonderful dad has never wasted an opportunity to teach me lessons on how to defend myself, and while I was home for a couple of months before studying abroad, I trained in self defense every day. I know how to defend myself if needed. I know how to potentially hurt people if they are trying to hurt me or others. However, sometimes no matter how well you know how to fight, it will be of no use to you if you feel in shock or you feel as though the situation is completely out of your hands. Self defense is an amazing skill to know. But it is not a solid method of prevention. Unfortunately, we cannot control the reactions of our bodies.
I was scared. Very scared. And then I heard someone say “Stop, man. She said she doesn’t want you.”
“Oh she wants me. Mind your own business”
“No she doesn’t. Dude, she is petrified. Look at her.”
One guy was lightly pushing my assailant off. Another put his arm around me and told me that he was going to take me back to the friends I was separated from earlier. And they did. They walked me over, told me to have a nice night and that they’d keep an eye out for me. Then they were gone as quickly as they appeared. The two active bystanders who saved me that night, who’s faces I am having a hard time to remember and who’s names I will never know.
What happened to me still haunts me sometimes. But it is the reason I work so hard at educating people about the issue of sexual assault, consent how to be a good bystander who intervenes in situations such as mine. I want more people to be like the two men who saved me. I want people to know that consent is everything and when it is not present, nothing should happen.
I became a member of the Student Advisory Committee of It’s On Us because I wanted to spread the messages of being an active bystander and the importance of consent beyond my university community. I have been presented with amazing opportunities such as meeting dedicated men and women from all over the country united on this issue, as well as meet Vice President Joe Biden. But the main reason I do it is because education is the best method of awareness and prevention. People need to know that it’s on all of us to stop sexual assault.
So, here is the whole point of me writing this:
BE AN ACTIVE BYSTANDER:
If you witness a situation where a sexual assault may occur and where consent has not been given, INTERVENE. Bystander intervention is a very powerful, potentially life saving method and also the most effective. Approach the situation directly, distract the parties involved to get them away from the situation, or enlist someone to help.
But please, please, PLEASE DO NOT just stand here and do nothing. If you say nothing, you are a part of the problem.
KNOW WHAT CONSENT MEANS:
Consent is the presence of CLEAR and AFFIRMATIVE actions or words whilst engaging in a sexual activity (or any activity, honestly).
Here is what consent is NOT:
- The absence of the word “no”
- Lack of resistance
The most clear and effective form of consent is a good clear “yes” and the best way to get that is to ask. And if you don’t get a yes, or any other affirmative and clear word, STOP WHAT YOU ARE DOING.
Consent can not be gained through threats, intimidation, coercion, badgering, pleading, blackmail, or any other kind of pressure that would overcome someone’s ability to freely and willingly give consent.
A person CANNOT give consent if they are unconscious, unaware, physically helpless or blackout drunk.
If you engage/try to engage in a sexual activity with someone who is in any one of these states, that is sexual assault. Consent was not present and that person was definitely unable to give it.
Consent is also 100% revocable at any point in time. No one is under any sort of obligation to finish what they started.
Consent is yours to give and yours alone. It is yours to give and take away freely. No one can give it for you. It’s your body. Not anyone else’s.
Sex, or any sort of sexual activity, is something intimate between two people. It is an enjoyable experience. And the way to make it enjoyable is to 100% want to be there in that moment with someone who 100% wants to be there with you.
Stay safe, be sure to give and receive consent, and have fun.
And also remember, if you see something, do something about it. Do not wait for anyone else to take over.
Because it’s on us to stop sexual assault.