Tag Archives: tbtn

Consent Culture

12 Apr

by Tiffany Sun

Consent is an important part of healthy sexuality and both people should be involved in the decision to have sex. It must be verbal, affirmative, voluntary, and continuous with each new act.

I’ve always thought of myself as independent and outspoken – never afraid to say “no” and never embarrassed to say “yes.” Naturally, the grayness of mutual consenting sexual activity always seemed somewhat removed from my life. Even amidst Georgetown’s strong hookup culture, I was pretty sure I could take care of myself and put the brakes on anything if I ever felt uncomfortable. However, I slowly began to realize that this was not the case; the lack of a consent culture, a culture in which mutual consent is the principal narrative of sex, on campus affected my daily life a lot more than I thought.

For one, I was frustrated with the fact that my hookups were usually quick to jump to the conclusion that my initial consent to making out with them was also an OK for them to do more. I was frustrated with people not respecting my “no” by trying to convince me otherwise. And most of all, I was frustrated with myself for not always knowing how to say “no” because I didn’t want to ruin the moment; wanted to avoid awkwardness; and wanted to please my partner. The bottom line being, the lack of a culture of verbal, affirmative, voluntary, and continuous consent made me feel vulnerable to sexual assault.

So how do we change this and create a safer environment, one that focuses on preventing sexual violence and promoting healthy sexual relationships?

First of all, participate in active consent! Ask your partner before each new act and respect his/her answer! In fact, you’re probably already doing it just by asking: “can we try XXX,” “is this ok,” “can I kiss you,” and “what do you want to do?” By giving him/her the agency and the chance to voice what he/she likes or wants, there is less room for miscommunication and you don’t run the risk of doing something your partner may not want to do. Basically, you’re looking for enthusiastic consent, “Yes! I want do that!,” that is, consent that is unambiguous, voluntary, informed, and without hesitation. As Erin Riordan previously said here, “consent is not the absence of a no; it is the presence of a yes.” Anything less is not consent and you should stop what you’re doing and accept their decision gracefully. Eventually, once you know your partner and his/her preferences well, you can begin to rely more on passive consent (although active consent is still encouraged). Secondly, when you witness nonconsensual sexual activity (such as when an individual is intoxicated or being pressured), put a stop to it! Step in and make sure that both parties are consenting adults. And finally, incorporate consent into your daily life outside the bedroom! A big part of creating a consent culture has to with asking about and respecting others’ boundaries. For example, try asking someone if they would like a hug before hugging them; don’t force/pressure a friend to try something if they don’t want to; and in general, accept that “no” means “no.”

Ultimately, while asking for consent may seem unsexy, awkward, or inconvenient, it’s better to err on the side of caution, especially with new partners or practices. Besides, there doesn’t have to be any awkwardness because in all seriousness, what is hotter than knowing your partner wants you just as much as you want him/her?

________________________________________________

If you find this post in any way triggering, please know that a wide range of resources are available.

Inspired by Tiffany and want to learn more? Participate in Georgetown University‘s Take Back the Night Week.

The Hard Questions

11 Apr

by Kat Kelley

No more than 2-8% of sexual assaults reported to the police are false. That means at least 92% of reports are true.

Kat Kelley here, a campus based Sexual Assault Peer Educator. Our programming is discussion based- we aim to meet participants where they are, and discuss the issues and nuances of interest to them. However, there are two issues that always come up- alcohol and “gray areas,” which students often struggle with, and which new peer educators often fear. However, to me, these aren’t “hard questions.” They are key questions. Students need to break down their own barriers and assumptions, and have a safe space to ask these questions, in order to fully support the movement. So this, is generally how the “hard” questions go:

Well what about false reporting? And then someone inevitably adds: “My brother’s friend goes to Ole Miss and he was accused of sexual assault, but he definitely didn’t rape her, but he had to drop out so they would’t expel him, and blah blah blah she ruined his life.”

Personally, I’m a little more worried about the one in four women and one in thirty three men who experience sexual assault, than the fraction of a percent of males who are falsely accused of rape, however… While I cannot speak on the case of your brother’s friend, and I’m sorry he experienced that, false reporting is rare. According to the Department of Justice, an estimated 2-8% of sexual assault reports are false. That means at least 92% are true. And, of cases not reported, but shared with the public, or within a friend group, fabrications are even lower. There is no incentive to false report- survivors are victim blamed and slut shamed (links), their stories are denied and invalidated. Survivors often feel re-victimized by the reporting process. The only benefits to reporting are justice, and holding perpetrators accountable. So while false reporting is already highly dis-incentivized, false stories are even more so.

There is no underground feminist business in false reporting. Women aren’t regretting hook ups or trying to get revenge. I’ll be the first to admit I’ve had regrettable hook ups, but being embarrassed and pretending to be texting when I walk past my booty call in red square, is completely different from feeling afraid, traumatized, as though my control, my agency, my power was taken from me. Additionally, when people hear that a survivor “drops charges” they often understand that as “it was a false report.” Those are not the same. Survivors frequently drop charges because of low rates of prosecution, or because they don’t want to have to tell their story another 30 times to audiences interrogating them, regarding them with suspicion and accusation, forcing them to relive the trauma- only to invalidate their story, and tell them they don’t have a case because they had slept with their perpetrator in the past or because they were wearing tight jeans and must have been complicit in their removal.

Well what about alcohol? I feel like that is a total gray area, because if drunk sex is rape then well everyone on campus is a rapist, aren’t they? And what if both people are drunk, how can they rape each other?

Legally, someone cannot consent while drunk, however no one actually thinks that drunk sex is inherently rape. Such rigorous laws are merely giving legitimacy to survivors, they are not tools to entrap the innocent. For example, in the Steubenville trials, the defense attorneys attempted to prove that the victim had been coherent- she had been able to voice her desire to return to a different party, and had been standing at some points. This was an attempt to prove the innocence of the perpetrators. Fortunately, rigorous laws ensured that her ability to stand and speak, despite her incredible level of intoxication, did not undermine her case. Alcohol is used intentionally by perpetrators to facilitate sexual assault. Now, I’m not saying that anyone who has ever bought someone a drink is a potential perpetrator. Perpetrators understand our rape culture and the way we view sexual assault. Perpetrators know what they can get away with. And so they use our sexual assault myths against us. “Taking advantage” of someone (which I am of course not condoning) is using alcohol to facilitate consent- getting people to have “consensual” sex because they are drunk. Sexual assault involves intentionally using alcohol to weaken the defenses, or to discredit their target. It is the different from facilitating consent vs. facilitating sex regardless of consent. There seems to be a widespread fear of “accidental rape,” which further perpetuates the myth of false reporting. This is a complete misunderstanding of sexual assault. Sexual acts and sexual assault aren’t separated by a fine line or a gray area. Sexual assault isn’t a hook up gone wrong or a misunderstanding. It is an intentional crime, motivated by power. Sexual assault is not an innocent person forgetting to ask for consent, and somehow not realizing that the other person is terrified, uncomfortable, and not participating. Sexual assault is disregarding someone else’s desires, and using force, coercion, power, or fear to engage in sexual acts with them. Gray areas do not exist. Consensual is consent. Sexual assault is sexual assault. If consent exists in a “gray area,” it is inherently not consent.

________________________________________________

If you find this post in any way triggering, please know that a wide range of resources are available.

Inspired by Kat and want to learn more? Participate in Georgetown University‘s Take Back the Night Week.

No One is Ever Asking For It

10 Apr

by Trevor Tezel

No one is ever asking to be sexually assaulted regardless of their attire, behavior, previous sexual history, or alcohol consumption.

A few years ago, 18-year old Jennifer Moore had been out drinking in New York City, when she discovered that her car had been towed. After wandering the streets for some time, she was eventually approached by an unknown assailant and brutally raped and murdered. Soon thereafter, Fox News pundit Bill O’Reilly and conservative commentator Michelle Malkin were discussing this topic on their show. The latter made the point that “At some point these young women have to take responsibility for putting themselves in vulnerable positions.”

Malkin’s remarkably offensive comments were panned by the media and blogosphere, and the incident gave Fox News and Co. a black eye.  However, her comments touched on a greater undertone that pervades many discussions of sexual assault. After reading about a case of sexual assault, some may privately point out steps that could have been taken by the survivor to “prevent” the incident from occurring. What we must understand is that no one is ever asking to be sexually assaulted regardless of their attire, behavior, previous sexual history, or alcohol consumption.

The first step in changing the dialogue is to change the language we use when referring to sexual assault. Too often, we use “survivor-based” language instead of “perpetrator-based language.” By shifting toward the latter, we can effectively place the blame where it solely belongs: on the perpetrator. After making her offensive statement, Malkin went on to say “Obviously, you don’t want to blame the victim.” (Which, for the record, she totally did.) The use of the term “victim” here is part of this outdated language. A more appropriate term would be “survivor” in order to avoid the stigma and perceptions of victimization. Also, when looking at policies that address the issue of sexual assault we should opt for the term “sexual assault risk reduction” instead of “sexual assault prevention.” The latter once again puts the onus on the survivor and implies that this is an issue that can be stopped by the survivor. The only person that can prevent sexual assault is the perpetrator.

Once we have our vocabulary straight, we can begin changing the culture around sexual assault. We can’t accept an outdated expectation that our safety is at risk if we’re not wearing the most conservative clothing. Clothing is a lifestyle choice and, oftentimes, a means of self-expression. “Survivor-blamers” like Michelle Malkin need to think long and hard about the implications for the free speech and individual liberties that they preach so much about when they argue that women are “putting themselves in vulnerable positions.” Furthermore, if we at Georgetown promote or even allow this perception to persist, are we truly creating a safe atmosphere in which students can feel at ease?

Another common misconception on campus is that if alcohol has been consumed, the survivor is at fault. This is absolutely untrue. Georgetown’s sexual assault policy, while not perfect, has clear language that indicates that even if alcohol was being consumed, a lack of consent is still grounds for punishment. By knowing and understanding these key facts, we can fulfill two goals: (1) educate survivors about their rights under the Student Code of Conduct and (2) change the culture that believes that alcohol consumption invalidates claims to sexual assault.

Finally, we should be clear that previous sexual history, or what is perceived previous sexual history, has no bearing on the acceptability of sexual misconduct or assault. Consent is key here, and a lack of it puts the blame right at the feet of the perpetrator. Taking into account previous sexual history absolutely ignores the key issue – any sexual encounters between two individuals should not progress based on previous history, not even if the two individuals involved have a previous history. Circumstances dictate that each encounter is a new one and must treated as such.

The example used throughout this article was a massive media story, but what we need to understand is that we and how we discuss sexual assault is the contributor to rape culture. What is undermining survivors and the safety of our community is not a major blow up on Fox or CNN but rather a question: What was she wearing? Was he drinking? Or a comment: “prostitutes can’t be raped,” “but they were married.” If we understand the power of our impact and our conversations, then as a campus community, we can change the attitude towards sexual assault.

By engaging in dialogue, educating ourselves and our peers about university policy (particularly with regards to alcohol), and recognizing that a safe campus starts with an attitude that solely targets the perpetrators, we will be well on our way to creating a Georgetown that is vocal and proactive on this issue,

Not to mention, we can try shutting up people like Bill O’Reilly and Michelle Malkin along the way.

________________________________________________________

If you find this post in any way triggering, please know that a wide range of resources are available.

Inspired by Trevor and want to learn more? Participate in Georgetown University‘s Take Back the Night Week. Tonight’s event is “It Happens Here.

All Rape is Real

9 Apr

by Audrey Denis

1 in 4 college-aged women and 1 in 33 men experience sexual assault. At Georgetown, our rates match the national average.

It’s Friday evening and a bunch of people on my freshmen floor are congregated in the common room after dinner, before going out, just chatting and catching up on the week.  Somehow the topic of sexual assault comes up, but more specifically the rape of a particular girl, although I can no longer remember if she was a Georgetown student. To be honest, I was involved in another conversation. I overheard one of the boys ask, “Yea, but was it real rape, or just like date rape or something?” and felt quickly sickened and disenchanted with my peers for a moment.

I return to this moment often when I think about the culture surrounding sexual assault. We may have scoffed at Todd Akin’s “legitimate rape” comment, but in our own community we hear people throwing around the concept of “real rape” all too often. We may like to think we are so much more sensitive, so much more aware, and twenty first century thinkers, but unfortunately, I’m not so convinced.

When we see the statistic 1 in 4 college-aged women and 1 in 33 college-aged men experience sexual assault, I wonder how many ask themselves “Yea, but was it real rape?” I’m afraid we all too comfortably do not internalize the unacceptable frequency of sexual assault because we cling to the crutch of disbelief. It wasn’t really rape.

We make survivors out to seem like petty, vindictive, spiteful girlfriends who report sexual assault to get back at their ex-boyfriends. Or, they are overreacting to some friendly well-intended conduct, hey that’s just college. Between alcohol and attire, we have come up with almost every excuse in the book to skirt responsibility; not just responsibility of the perpetrators, but the responsibility that we have to creating a safe community for all who live in it.

The truth is that the excuses we hind behind, the narratives of vindictive girlfriends and spiteful prudes, are anomalies if not just myths. We should never find ourselves asking, “Yea, but was it real rape?”

All rape is real. All sexual assault is serious. It doesn’t have to happen in a back alley at gunpoint perpetrated by a stranger for it to be rape. The fact that we comfort ourselves with the idea of date rape being less severe reflects an enormous deficiency in our culture. It shows a lack of respect for people’s bodies and choices. Just because you know someone, does not make you any more entitled to their body.

The statistic is much higher for women than it is for men. I believe it makes it harder for women to live in this community and speak about the reality of sexual assault. Not only are women threatened by the much higher likelihood that they will be sexually assaulted, but also by the unfortunate cultural circumstance that their experience will not be taken seriously.

Look around in the library, in class, in Leo’s, and think about the fact that statistically one in four of those women around you will probably be sexually assaulted before graduating college. Then tell them it’s not real.

________________________________________________________

If you find this post in any way triggering, please know that a wide range of resources are available.

Inspired by Audrey and want to learn more? Participate in Georgetown University‘s Take Back the Night Week. Tonight’s event is “A Screening of The Invisible War.

Sexual Assault is a Hoya Issue

8 Apr

by Clara Gustafson

90% of sexual assaults that occur on college campus are perpetrated by an acquaintance. Sexual assault is a not a women’s issue, it’s a Hoya issue

Sexual assault is a challenging topic to engage on. Depending on what kinds of communities you spend most of your time with, sexual assault can have an even greater taboo associated with it. Only a few years ago Georgetown University and the undergraduate student body faced a community rape case. Our code of conduct changed because of it. A survivor’s experience and vocalness about the event helped to make our community more supportive…on paper. There are some things that we do well around sexual assault at Georgetown, such as survivor services and initiatives like “R U Ready?” However, there is not a single discussion or awareness effort that reaches everyone on our Hilltop.

While I am not a survivor, I know them. I am tired, frustrated and sad to say that I know many of them, because I have more than 33 male friends and more than 4 female friends. These national statistics that you hear all the time are real here too, 1 in 4 women and 1 in 33 men will be survivors of a sexual assault. Georgetown is consistently at the national average, and we have not striven to be better than our peers in this way. We have not striven to frame sexual assault as an important issue that needs to be engaged on all levels. I am tired, frustrated and sad, because when I walk home at night I walk faster or cross the street if there are men (particularly tall or large men) walking behind me. Granted, sexual assaults committed by strangers are one of the many myths surrounding sexual assault. For example, in college only 10% of sexual assaults are committed by someone that the survivor does not know. However, the fact that I walk faster also indicates our community’s (and society’s) onus on me to somehow prevent the sexual assault. There is currently no pressure on the bystanders to intervene, especially in the party situation.

The other major bystander problem, in my opinion, is that survivors are the ones that have to talk about sexual assault. There are not enough voices out there from the 3 in 4 women and the 32 in 33 men whom aren’t survivors telling their story about how sexual assault affects their lives. Because sexual assault affects everyone, whether you acknowledge it or not. It affects how we interact with each other. It affects what I think I can wear out. It affects how I think I can look at other people, particularly men. I also walk around everyday getting catcalled and yelled at as I walk down the street- “be flattered.” No, sorry, that is not flattering. That is that person injecting themselves into my life, commenting on my being and clothes and poise without so much as a “Hi my name is…” It affects the ability of all of us to be the best men and women that we can be. In order to claim that sexual assault is not tolerated at Georgetown every first year that walks through those front gates must be held personally responsible for having a meaningful conversation with their peers (and some trained peer leaders) about how sexual assault affects our community.

We are what we decide and work hard to be. We have not yet decided to be a zero tolerance campus. We must hold each other to a higher standard to do that. There is much more that we can do to be a better community for each other.

______________________________________________________________________

If you find this post in any way triggering, please know that a wide range of resources are available.

Inspired by Clara and want to learn more? Participate in Georgetown University‘s Take Back the Night Week. Tonight’s event is “How do we talk about sexual assault? A conversation with the editors of Feministing.”