Spring Break 101: Consent

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Spring Break is infamous for its crazy party scene... but what happens when the party gets too crazy, and even dangerous? Where do you draw the line between having a good time and a situation that is spinning out of control? What can collegiettes do to protect themselves and their friends? 

We spoke with Adriane Bang of the Boise State Women's Center to address some of these issues, relating to the importance of consent, how collegiettes can avoid being taken advantage of, and how collegiettes can be active bystanders if things get out of hand -- during spring break or any other time and place.

HC Boise State: What is your area of expertise at the Women's Center here at Boise State?

Adriane Bang: I am a Licensed Master Social Worker and I have been with the Women’s Center for 6.5 years. At the WC I oversee programs about gender equity and healthy relationships and provide support services to students. My areas of expertise include consent, healthy relationships and violence prevention.

HC: On a spring break trip, what are the best safety precautions that collegiettes should take/consider before going? 

AB: For anyone traveling with a group of folks, I would recommend that they understand when consent can or cannot be given. They should know when to take action when they witness an uncomfortable situation or have concerns about the safety of someone. this is what we call being an active bystander. Being an active bystander includes:

  • Countering others who may be pressuring people to participate in something that they are uncomfortable doing,
  • Distracting someone who appears to be targeting drunk women,
  • Stopping someone who may be drinking to a point where they are in danger of hurting themselves or others,
  • Calling a taxi so folks have safe transportation,
  • Securing medical care for someone who is dangerously drunk or high,
  • Ensuring that someone who is incapacitated is not in an isolated location, among other things. 

Be good bystanders for each other and for any other people you meet on your trip!

HC: What are some big warning signs collegiettes can look for to know if a guy is up to no good?

AB: I struggle with the wording of this question. I think what you are intending to ask is: how can a person know if another person intends to hurt them? A question posed in this way assumes that if we can recognize risk factors we can somehow prevent an assault from happening. While we may be able to take actions to reduce the chances of being hurt, we can never fully control the actions of another person. It's important to note that if someone is assaulted or hurt by another person, it is NEVER the victim's fault. It is always 100% the fault of the person who hurt them.

With that being said, party goers or bystanders should take action when they see the following behaviors: 

  • Testing or ignoring boundaries of a person. This may involve graphic/sexual jokes or stories or touching someone in a progressively intimate way.
  • Someone attempting to isolated a drunk person. This includes helping someone walk to a place, or carrying them to a back bedroom, a car, or another location with limited witnesses.
  • Trying to engage with someone who is clearly incapacitated or otherwise unable to give consent. This includes someone who is buying or making drinks, or encouraging drinking with the intent of “hooking up” with (which is really sexually assaulting) someone who is incapacitated
  • Telling others they will hook up no matter what, or that they plan to hook up with someone who is drunk or high

HC: If a collegiette decides to spend the night at a guy’s place, what safety precautions should she take?

AB: This question also implies that folks can predict the behaviors of another person. While it is true that we may be able to recognize red flags, or that others around us may recognize red flags, we can never fully know what another person is capable of doing. While a person or bystanders may be on the lookout for some of the behaviors we already talked about, it is possible that the person may not demonstrate concerning behavior prior to being in a private or isolated location. 

With that being said, there are things you and a partner can do to take steps towards a fun, pleasurable night:

  • Be clear about your expectations and what you are hoping to happen in any interaction between you.
  • Understand what consent is in advance-- and know when it can and cannot be given.
  • Check in with your partner before, throughout, and after an activity.
  • If at any time a person seems unsure, uncomfortable or unable to consent-- stop.

If you would like to learn more about what consent means or the role of an active bystander, visit the Women's Center on campus (located on the second floor of the SUB). 

Call or visit their website at (208)-426-4259 or http://womenscenter.boisestate.edu/

Have fun, stay young-- and have a safe and awesome Spring Break '14!