By: Megan Graves, Columnist
As Spring Break shimmers right around the corner, I thought it’d be a good time to discuss consent and bystander intervention once again. When we talk about consent, the majority of the weight is placed on the person giving or not giving their consent, and I don’t find that to be entirely fair.
This way of thinking feeds into our society’s past time of blaming the survivor of sexual violence for being assaulted. It leads to questions like:
“Were you watching your drink?”
“Haven’t you had sex before?”
“Well, did you actually, literally say the word ‘no’?”
As a woman in the world, I can’t count the amount of times I’ve been reminded to watch my drink. And yes, it’s not a bad idea. But if someone slips something into my drink, I refuse to take blame for that. I mean, just thinking about it logically, who is in the wrong? The person who took their eyes off of their drink for 0.2 seconds to check their phone, or the person waiting for a 0.2 second window to drug and incapacitate another human being?
You’d think that answer would be clear by now.
In terms of sexuality, consent isn’t a one-time all-clear. You don’t just stand on a mountain and shout, “I give my consent!” while the dull rumble of willing partners coming toward you shakes the hillside.
You could give your consent 99 times, and on the 100th you could choose not to. If someone ignores that lack of consent that one time, the other 99 don’t make it any less of a serious f*cking problem. Sexual violence is sexual violence, and it holds the same weight whether the survivor has been with zero or 60 partners.
Lastly, there are other ways to deny consent other than the word “no.”
For example, being too inebriated or scared to say anything at all — or saying anything even remotely along the lines of “I don’t want to do this, I am not comfortable, I want to stop.”
If it’s not a clear, definite “yes,” we need to assume it’s a “no.”
So, here’s how we take some of the stress off of individuals: we work as a group to help each other out of situations that don’t feel right. It’s on us as bystanders to prevent sexual violence.
The best way I can suggest to do this is to be aware of what’s happening around you. If you go to a bar or a party, keep an eye on people. If you see a situation in which someone seems to be making another person uncomfortable, don’t hesitate to step in.
When I say “step in,” however, I don’t mean start yelling and drawing attention. You can simply go up to the person who seems uncomfortable and either strike up a conversation with them or ask them to help you with something as a means to remove them from the situation.
Once the person who was making them uncomfortable is no longer around, sincerely ask them if everything is okay. They’ll either say yes, everything’s fine, or they’ll tell you no, and you can help them do whatever they need to be comfortable. This could mean talking to bar management, helping them get home, or potentially calling the police.
The responsibility should not fall on one individual to not be assaulted. It’s illogical, and it allows perpetrators of sexual violence to go free while leaving survivors feeling shamed. The responsibility is on all of us to be aware of what happens around us and to step in when something doesn’t seem right.
Keep an eye one the people around you this Spring Break, whether they’re your friends or total strangers. If you want further information regarding red flags to look out for or ways to intervene, visit your Sexual Assault Peer Educators (SAPEs) when they table around campus. They’d love to talk to you, and one more person informed is one step closer to ending sexual violence.