April 22, 2022
Unfortunately, sexual assault happens too often but is not talked about enough. Defined as “sexual contact or behavior that occurs without explicit consent of the victim,” according to RAINN, sexual assault includes times when someone is not able to consent, due to being intoxicated, asleep or unconscious.
Speaking of consent, how much have you learned about it? Consent and communication are key parts of any healthy relationship and can make someone feel comfortable and secure. In honor of it being Sexual Assault Awareness Month, I spoke with a few students from my high school in Maplewood, NJ about consent. I asked them about why they think it’s important to learn about it, how they learned about it and whether they think being aware of consent can help prevent sexual assault.
Why is Consent So Important?
Consent is not an automatic thing that happens between people; it takes awareness. Here’s what my peers had to say about why it matters.
“Consent is important to learn about to ensure all partners in the sexual encounter are comfortable and enjoy their experience,” said Sophie, 18.
“Consent is important in order to avoid harmful situations,” agreed Reyen, 18. “I wish that consent was taught much better in schools as it should be something no one ever forgets about, and should always be established in relationships.”
“Consent is essential to learn,” shared Courtney, 18. “We don’t lose anything from communicating, while we can cause significant distress from assuming consent.”
What Have You Learned?
Sophie and Courtney said they’ve learned about consent via school, friends and home. Reyen noted he’s learned “a little in school but mostly online and through peers.” He added, “It’s crucial to have consent in order to avoid an uncomfortable and likely damaging situation.”
“I’m lucky enough to have had a health teacher this year who emphasized the importance of consent,” said Courtney. “In class we learned about setting clear, verbal boundaries and communicating at all times with a partner. The absence of consent can look like more than just a definitive ‘no.’ If someone is clearly feeling nervous, pressured or even just lacking enthusiasm, these can all be indicators that they are not fully ready to consent.”
How Can Consent Help Prevent Sexual Assault?
So what’s the connection between consent and decreasing the likelihood of sexual assault? I asked my peers about some ways they think sexual assault can be prevented.
“[Sexual assault can be prevented by] teaching about the importance of consent and removing the taboo from asking for consent,” said Courtney. Absolutely. Why should consent and communication feel taboo?
Reyen said that “sexual assault can be prevented in the future if we continue to try and educate as many people as we can about consent and its importance.”
“Sexual assault can be prevented by paying attention to consent and signs of apprehension,” added Sophie. “Or if someone is unconscious or under the influence, regardless of circumstances. I wish I’d been taught in school about consent from an early age, to prevent sexual assault experiences between friends.”
It’s so important that we talk about consent and learn how to communicate with partners about what we are and aren’t comfortable with. While some have positive experiences learning about consent, too many students are left with a lack of knowledge which could translate to harming others.
Sexual Assault Awareness Month may be in April, but it’s always important to ask for consent.