Today, I want to take a look at what consent is. This entry comes courtesy of my friend Blair Robertson. In it, she shares her daughter’s experience, as well as some hard hitting truths. If you have been abused, raped, sexually assaulted, or otherwise traumatized, this may be triggering. If you find yourself being triggered, please stop reading and do something to care for yourself instead. Your safety is of utmost importance. As usual, all links are set to open in a new window/tab. – Amanda
“SILENCE DOES NOT IMPLY CONSENT.” Those were the words written in all capital letters in the packet of material given to my daughter when she first went to Sarah Lawrence College. The incoming students were sent to a workshop on sexual abuse on campus, where they mostly cautioned against drinking too much, and explained the security shuttle buses they could access at night. Male and female students both attended the workshop, both heard the words, both received the packet of information.
So my daughter lived in a bubble of “safety” on the campus there, a place where sex is openly talked about, where LGBT people can feel free expressing their feelings to their partners, where gender identity is explored openly, and gender pronouns are used carefully.
Then, her senior year, she was out at a dance with some friends. They were drinking- -not too much, and over the period of the entire evening. She met a male student who seemed nice, and who latched on to their group for the evening. He asked if she was gay, and she told him she was. He replied, “That’s cool.” Not long after, he started saying he was going to miss his last train home, and wouldn’t have any place to stay. My little Southern daughter, with all the hospitality bred into her, said he could sleep on her floor. She thought surely he’d say no, but he followed her home. Once in her room, it took him all of 15 minutes to rape and brutalize her. My daughter, who is ever so political and quick to speak up for issues and rights of people, froze. She couldn’t say anything at all, she was so horrified. She looked at him, and knew not to fight, her little 5’1” fibromyalgia-ridden body no match for his well over 6 foot build. About halfway through, she managed to say “no” twice, but to no avail. After he went to sleep, she was able to escape into the night, with no shoes, no wallet, no keys, no phone.
All that is to tell you that the DA refused to press charges. Nobody did a blood alcohol test on her at the hospital, and the DA contended that she invited him in and didn’t say no. I was informed by the assistant DA that Sarah Lawrence’s contention, all in caps, on their policy statement, that “Silence Does Not Imply Consent” is not a legal policy, that it won’t stand up in court, that no jury would convict him.
So what is consent? The young woman at James Madison University recently was so drunk she couldn’t function, had three huge athletes rape her, film it and spread the video around the school, and they called it “consensual.”
Therapists all know about what is called “dissociation.” Wikipedia describes it thusly: “In psychology, the term dissociation describes a wide array of experiences from mild detachment from immediate surroundings to more severe detachment from physical and emotional experience. The major characteristic of all dissociative phenomena involves a detachment from reality, rather than a loss of reality as in psychosis.” Many victims immediately block what’s going on, dissociate, when the terror takes over and they are unable to function or fight. Any jury hearing such a case would have this explained to them, quite easily and understandably, by an expert witness psychologist.
The student from James Madison, the little 14-year-old Daisy Coleman, were too drunk to be able to give consent. Daisy couldn’t have given consent if she had wanted to, because of her age.
Consensual sex is NOT a male climbing on top of a woman/girl/man/boy, and because of his/her greater strength and determination, doing what he wants , whether or not she says no. Consensual sex is asking, and being told, clearly, YES, and, if at any time during the following proceedings, the answer changes, stopping immediately. This applies to dates, strangers, lovers, marital partners. It applies when the “victim” is unable to consent due to alcohol or drugs, or when the “victim” is unable to understand the meaning of the act. Consent is ALSO not obtained by coercion or manipulation, of any sort.
Consent does not have to be a written contract, but it may be coming to that, in today’s rape culture. If people are unwilling to communicate before the sexual act and receive a clear go-ahead, then there is no consent. Regardless of the Westchester County’s dismissal of the legality of it, SILENCE DOES NOT IMPLY CONSENT.