Can I Get a 'Yes'?

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To borrow a chorus from Sadie Dupuis, frontwoman of Sad13,

“I say yes if I want to/if you want to you’ve gotta get a yes/can I get a yes?”

 

Unfortunately Sad13’s instructional music video somehow manages to explain consent better than any computer program used by Augie. When the idea for this article was first suggested to me, I was initially horrified that people have made it to college without understanding the basics of consent and that consent has to be explained in a college setting at all. But nonetheless, here we are. I’m not going to dance around the words “sexual assault” and “rape”, because the likelihood that you’ve sat in a classroom with a survivor of sexual trauma (on multiple occasions) is high. Acknowledging the fact that you are often surrounded by survivors is a good first step to understanding the gravity of sexual assault and rape. Something incredibly patronizing about consent programs is that they speak as if many people haven’t experienced sexual trauma, and speak in a tone that appeals to cishet white men, so let’s get any false information out of the way with some non fun-and-marketable statistics provided by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center as of 2015.

(CW AHEAD):

  • 1 in 5 women and 1 in 16 men are sexually assaulted while in college
  • Rape is the most under-reported crime; 63% of sexual assaults are not reported to the police (shocker)
  • The prevalence of false reporting is between 2% and 10% (so don’t believe any swimmer who says his reputation is being wrongfully ruined)
  • Students who are members of the queer community are even more at risk, with 46.4% of lesbians and 74.9% of bisexual women reporting sexual violence other than rape during their lifetimes compared to 43.3% of heterosexual women. And 40.2% of gay men and 47.4% of bisexual men reporting sexual violence other than rape during their lifetimes compared to  20.8% heterosexual men. These only take into account crimes that are actually reported.
  • RAINN reports that 21% of trans/gender non-conforming students have been sexually assaulted versus 18% of cic women and 4% of cis men
  • Femme-aligned people make up 91% of the victims of rape and sexual assault, while 9% are male.
  • In 8 out of 10 cases of rape, the victim knew the person who sexually assaulted them (ya know, like someone you might see on a small campus)
  • RAINN reports (as of 2015) that college women are more likely to be sexually assaulted then robbed

 

Your gender and/or sexuality do not diminish or invalidate your experiences. Everyone who has been a victim of sexual violence has an important story and I am not trying to imply that men are not capable of being victims, because they unfortunately can be. However, it is important to keep in mind while talking about sexual assault and rape that the Bureau of Justice reports that 99 in 100 rapists are male, and that 6 in 10 are white.

 

What to Say to Someone Who Tells You

  • Thank them for trusting you with this information
  • Say that you believe them
  • Ensure them that their feelings are valid
  • Remind them that they did not deserve this and that this is not their fault
  • Ask what you can do to help them emotionally process this trauma
  • Ask if they would like help reporting
  • Tell them that they are safe with you

 

It is not a bystander’s fault if someone is sexually assaulted or raped, it is always the fault of the perpetrator. But you can still look out for someone’s well being. Does someone look like they’re being bothered or hit on aggressively? Does someone look like they are being pestered after saying no? Does someone seem not sober and in need of help? Is someone alone? If it is safe for you to do so, assess the situation and see if you can assist someone who may require help. Whether it’s pretending to be old friends with someone and running up to hug them if they look like they’re being bothered, getting someone some water and a safe place to sit down, or simply warning a peer that someone has been staring at them the whole party. It is not our job to prevent sexual violence when we witness something fishy, but unfortunately a lot of people think that these methods make more sense than teaching people basic consent from the get go.

 

What Perpetuates Rape Culture

  • Not believing accusations
  • Worrying about the person accused’s reputation
  • Not listening to or believing survivors
  • Making rape “jokes”- know that every time you make a joke about sexual violence, there is at least one woman in the room who will no longer trust you
  • “She was asking for it”
  • Assuming that what someone wears means yes
  • Telling someone that they shouldn’t drink, be out past a certain time etc. This essentially translates to “it will happen to someone else instead of you”
  • Asking femme-aligned people to carry pepper spray etc rather than telling men to not rape people

 

What is NOT Consent

  • When a partner feels guilty if they don’t have sex with you
  • When a partner feels obligated to have sex with you due to fright or norms they’ve been socialized into following
  • When a partner is not sober
  • If a partner is dissociation and/or experiencing mental health issues
  • If you are in a relationship, your partner still does not have to have sex with you
  • Your partner reserves the right to change their mind, even if you’ve already begun having sex
  • If someone likes to sleep with multiple people, they are still not obligated to have sex with you
  • If someone is a sex worker, they still do not have to have sex with you
  • If someone flirts with you, they do not have to have sex with you
  • If someone is much younger than you, you have an unbalanced power dynamic and you are responsible for recognizing that
  • If someone is a minor
  • “Sure”, “maybe”, and “I guess”

 

“No” is a full sentence. If someone says “no”, it is their body, and you have no right to badger or bother them.

 

The underline here is, it’s less about saying no, and more about saying yes. It’s only consent with an enthusiastic yes. If it’s anything less than that, it’s not consent.

 

Resources:

  • The national sexual assault hotline is (1-800) 656-HOPE
  • There are Title IX resources at Augustana college; Laura Schnack, Associate Dean of Students, 794-7533, Deputy Title IX Coordinator, Student Matters: Chris Beyer, Director of Residential Life, 794-2686 or confiding in a trusted faculty member
  • Safepath, located in Iowa, has a 24 hour toll free number (1-866) 921-3354 and walk in crisis services that are staffed from 8:30am-5:00pm Monday-Friday. Calls are free of charge and confidential. Their locations are  
    • 2800 Eastern Avenue Davenport, IA 52803
    • 1521 47th Avenue Moline, IL 61265  P.309.797.6534
  • The 24 hour regional Illinois crisis line is (1-309) 797-1777

 

 

About The Author

Sage works as a stand in for carby foods in home and garden magazines, as they are regularly mistaken for a pile of mashed potatoes.
Learn too much about their mental illness/sex life @sagielouwho on Twitter