"I Ask!" Sexual Assault Awareness Month

By Malinda Williams
Executive director of Community Against Violence (CAV)
Posted 4/18/19

You already know sexual harassment, abuse and assault happens. It happens often and close to home - to children, teen, adults and elders. While this reality can be overwhelming, it's important to …

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"I Ask!" Sexual Assault Awareness Month

Posted

You already know sexual harassment, abuse and assault happens. It happens often and close to home - to children, teen, adults and elders. While this reality can be overwhelming, it's important to remember that sexual abuse is preventable, when we all do our part.

April is National Sexual Assault Awareness Month and communities everywhere are standing up for sexual abuse prevention and sharing prevention information tools from the National Sexual Violence Resource Center's "I Ask!" consent campaign. There are free materials for youth and adults, in both English and Spanish, at NSVRC.org/SAAM. The site has information sheets for teens and adults to help give guidance and examples on what consent means and how to ask for it. They also include handouts and fact sheets about digital consent, whether texting, sexting or sharing and posting online with social media.

For parents, there are tips on teaching your children and adolescents consent, to help them feel more comfortable having open communications with you as they begin having romantic relationships. (It is ideal to begin teaching small children and model-asking for consent in normal, healthy, typical everyday things: "Is it okay if I give you a hug?")

The following is directly from the center's "I Ask" materials:

What is consent?

When someone gives consent, they're giving permission for something to happen or agreeing to do something. This means they need to know specifically what they're agreeing to -- so make sure what you're asking is clear. For example, "Do you want to mess around for a while? Like cuddling and making out, but not having sex?"

When and how to ask for consent

Always ask for consent before you begin any sexual activity, including kissing, cuddling and any kind of sex -- even if your partner consented in the past. Ask in a way that makes it clear it would be OK if they said "No" -- otherwise you might be pressuring them to do something they don't want to do. For example, "Do you want to go back to the bedroom or hang out here and watch movies?"

What is not consent?

Your partner may not tell you "No," but that doesn't mean they're saying "Yes." If someone says nothing, "Um… I guess," or an unsure "Yes," they're likely communicating that they don't really want to do the thing you're asking about. In these cases, you don't have clear consent. Check in with your partner about how they're feeling -- or suggest another activity. For example, "You seem unsure, so why don't we just watch TV tonight?"

Nonverbal cues

Pay attention to your partner's body language. If they pull away, tense up, look uncomfortable, laugh nervously or are quiet or not responding, you should check in. For example, "You don't seem too into this. Do you want to stop or take a break?"

Dealing with the 'No'

Sometimes your partner will say "No," and that's OK. Reassure them that you're glad they can be honest with you. For example, "That's OK; maybe we could do that some other time."

Why consent matters

Talking about what your partner wants to do ensures sex is consensual and makes it more enjoyable. You'll feel more confident about what you're doing, and your partner will feel comfortable getting close to you.

Every adult has a role and responsibility in preventing sexual violence. Use these tools to help create safer environments, stop problem behaviors and model healthy attitudes.

Malinda Williams is the executive director of Community Against Violence, Inc. (CAV) which offers free confidential support and assistance for adult and child survivors of sexual and domestic violence, dating violence and stalking; community and school violence prevention programs; reeducation BIP groups for domestic violence offenders; counseling; shelter; transitional housing; and a community thrift store. To talk with someone or get information on services available, call CAV's 24-hour crisis line at (575) 758-9888 or visit TaosCAV.org.

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