Friday, March 22, 2013

Consent is a key component of healthy relationships

by Anna Sieber, Columnist

I know we all went to Green Dot. I know we have heard the horror stories. I know that, for the most part, we all know someone who has had an incident with sexual assault, whether we are aware of it or not.

I know the statistics — one in four women are victims of sexual assault with a great percentage of incidents occurring during the college years. It is horrific and terrifying to think that in 90 percent of cases, the victim knows the perpetrator.
 
But I am not here to write about sexual assault. At least, not really.

This is a friendly reminder to the student body of Pacific Lutheran University about what consent means.
  

There is this misconception that consent is given so long as the word “no” is never used. However, consent is more than simply not saying no.
  
Consent is active and enthusiastic, Jonathan Grove, Men Against Violence project coordinator, said. Consent is something that says “keep going.”
  
It is up to each partner to make sure that all participants are actively engaged and approving of whatever might be going down — or up, as the case may be. 
 
Let’s make something clear: no does not mean yes, silence does not mean yes, going along with it does not mean yes — yes means yes.
 
Yet we still have trouble with sexual assault, with selfish people acting in selfish ways.
 
People still do really stupid things. Sometimes those things hurt other people.

Clearly, the message is not reaching the people it needs to.

Grove said there is a certain mindset to perpetrators of sexual assault. They see it as a game, wanting power and getting a thrill from getting away with it.

Horrifying.

From what I learned in my visit to the Women’s Center, the trouble is that no amount of trying to teach these people “don’t rape” will make them hear it. It is hard to change the mindset of someone who simply does not care.
 
The best method is to change the mindset of the community, Jennifer Warwick, Voices Against Violence project coordinator, said. This way people know how to react to a potentially dangerous situation. It is about changing the language and the frame through which people see sexual assault.
 
And never — ever — should the victim be blamed.
 
Sexual assault is a huge problem, one that places like the Women’s Center are constantly striving to make more wellknown.
 
There are so many misconceptions about the type of person who commits sexual assault: a stranger or a creep jumping from the bushes late at night.
 
There are misconceptions about a person who is sexually assaulted: girls who were “asking for it” or dressed promiscuously —and men are never ever victims.
 
The truth of sexual assault is much more concerning, and it is really a matter of educating people and partners and changing the language involved in discussing assault.
 
Really, let’s have a little respect for the people we get busy with.
 
A person should care enough to be concerned for whether or not the person they are with actually wants to be doing whatever they may be doing.
 
It is the responsibility of each person to be aware of what is going on.

    Anna Sieber is a first-year student at Pacific Lutheran University. She likes to write — which is why you’re reading this.