Friday, April 03 2020
In the midst of everything that is going on, April has begun. The weather is warming up, plants are budding, and Sexual Assault Awareness Month is here. Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) is a little bit different this year, but no less important! The theme is I Ask, which focuses on asking consent. Consent is giving and receiving freely given, enthusiastic consent that can be given or withdrawn at any time.
We often think of consent with sexual contact (which is definitely the MOST important place we should be getting consent), consent is a vital aspect of ALL parts of our lives. Building a culture of consent not only decreases sexual violence but it creates healthy relationships with ourselves and others and helps us heal from trauma.
So what is building a culture of consent?
Teach consent from a young age. Research shows that consent is best taught at a young age and can decrease sexual violence throughout the lifetime. Teaching consent helps keep kiddos safe and create a world of respect, healthy relationships, and free from unwanted sexual contact.
Model consent. Be a beacon of consent to show others how to do it! The way that you act and the consent that you show will inspire others to do the same.
Good boundaries. Knowing boundaries is important for consent. When we know our own boundaries, we are best able to give or withdraw consent. It’s also good to learn other people’s boundaries! That way we can not cross any of their boundaries and learn to interact in ways that feel safe, healthy, and fun for everyone. It’s also good to set our boundaries. When we set boundaries (whether it’s on how we communicate, what activities we do, or sex), we do what feels best for us, we help others know what we want and need, and we can feel empowered over ourselves which helps us heal!
Good communication. Communication is everything! Learning how to express yes and no, what we like and don’t like, and what we feel helps in all aspects of our lives but also makes consent especially good for everyone. It’s also good to learn how to listen to different kinds of communication. Learn how to read and respect nonverbals and written tone too, or discuss what things mean in these ways of communicating. The difference between … and !!! is huge as are different body language cues and facial expressions.
Say no when you want to. How many of us have a hard time saying no? 🙋♂️ Part of building a culture of consent is giving yourself permission to say no. It is okay to say no to things that you don’t want to do. Saying you’re not sure or maybe is also okay.
Say yes when you want to. It is also okay and awesome to say yes when you want to! It’s also good to have conversations about what you want and like, whether in the bedroom, for something as simple as dinner, or in how folks can support you.
Accept no. No means no. One of the most important ways that we can build a culture of consent is by watching the way we react to no. Good ways to accept no include, “Okay!”, “Thanks for telling me!,” and “I appreciate you keeping your boundaries.” Sometimes hearing no hurts, especially if we want our kiddos to hug a loved one, hang out with a friend, or some physical touch so learning how to process those emotions, come up with alternatives that feel safe and happy for others, and respect boundaries knowing that it’s not a reflection on us is helpful.
Learn about consent in different scenarios. We often hear of people “consenting and then regretting” or people “consenting when drunk.” Whoa! It’s important to learn more about consent because things like this are absolutely false. If someone is regretting an experience, then likely there was no consent in the first place. Remember, consent is CLEAR, ENTHUSIASTIC, and can be withdrawn at any time! It’s a constant, caring check in and conversation. Consent cannot be given or received when under the influence (if you can’t drive a car, you can’t consent)! If someone feels like they can’t say no, it’s not consent. People under 16 cannot consent and some people with disabilities do not legally have capacity to consent (and some people with disabilities do!). This video is a good way to start: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fGoWLWS4-kU
This SAAM we ask you to help us build a culture of consent! Try to implement some of these ways or let us know what you’re doing and tag us with #IAsk, #SAAM, or @safeplaceforhope.