By Ixchel Samaniego
Hey, everybody! April is finally here- and maybe you’re counting down the days until summer vacation! April brings us relaxing rain, fresh flowers (okay, maybe allergies, too), and more time outside with friends and loved ones. Besides all these great things, April also brings us an important month: Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM)! SAAM was created to raise awareness about sexual violence and to educate communities on how to prevent it, advocate for safety, and be a positive UPstander.
So what is sexual assault? Sexual assault is any type of unwanted sexual contact, including words and actions of a sexual nature against a person’s will and/or without their consent. This also includes harassment, exploitation, exposing one’s genitals to others without consent, masturbating in public, or watching someone’s private acts without their knowledge or permission.
A lot of people think sexual assault only happens with strangers. In fact, most victims of sexual assault are assaulted by someone they know- and that can even be a dating partner. Often times, we’re asked by students how sexual assault or sexual abuse can happen in a dating relationship if both partners are already sexually active with each other (meaning any sort of physical activity, not just intercourse). And we tell them this: it all boils down to consent.
What is consent? It’s permission. True, honest, permission that isn’t forced out of someone. Convincing your partner to say “Yes” isn’t consent. It’s pressure, coercion, and…sexual assault.
Here are five important tips regarding consent in your relationship:
· Consent can be taken away at any time.
o Just because someone consents to something one time, it doesn’t mean that consent lasts forever. So don’t say anything like, “Well, you were cool with this last weekend, so why not today?” Also, it’s perfectly fine for someone to change their mind, even if the two of you are already messing around. Don’t you want both you and your partner to enjoy what’s going on? Which brings me to my next point…
· Consent requires communication.
o Not sure if your partner is comfortable with what’s going on? Just ask! Sure, it can feel uncomfortable, but a healthy relationship has communication, no matter how weird it may feel. Having these conversations early on in the relationship can ease any possible awkwardness. I like to say, an awkward conversation is a heck of a lot better than making your partner do something they don’t want to do, right?
· Consent and body language go hand in hand.
o Communication isn’t just about talking. It’s about body language, too! Maybe your partner looks uncomfortable. Are they leaning away? Does their face look worried? Are they pushing on your hand to stop? Check in with them- it shows you care and are more concerned with getting their consent than anything else.
· Consent to one thing doesn’t equal consent to another.
o If I tell you can have a french fry, does that mean you reach over and take half of my burger? HECK NO! The same works for sexual consent in your relationship. If your partner says it’s cool to hold hands, then that’s what they mean. The same goes for any other physical activity you get consent for. And if you’re not sure, then….yep, you guessed it…just ask!
· Consent makes things more fun!
o Seriously. Your time together will be waaaaay more enjoyable if you’re both totally clear on what’s cool and what’s not! Even a simple “Is this okay?” makes all the difference in the world.
So there you have it! Now you know more about consent, just in time for Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Help yourself, help your friends, help your dating partner, and help your communities by spreading your newfound knowledge and doing your part to end sexual assault! If you or your friends still need some help, that’s totally cool! Check out this video below and/or drop us a line here or on IG and we’ll be happy to help.
Happy SAAM, TAP fam! Can’t wait to see all the awareness you’ll spread!