Each year on average more than 293,000 people (age 12 or older) are victims of rape and/or sexual assault. In other words, every 107 seconds another American is sexually assaulted. The number of victims is still staggering when you consider that sexual assaults have decreased by 19% from previous years.
It can be difficult for victims to come forward especially on college campuses where sometimes there is an assumption of consent if alcohol or other substances are involved. It can be disturbing to hear people ask, “Was he drinking?” “What was she wearing?” “How was he/she acting?”
It is equally disturbing to learn that others may have known about or photographed the incident and shared it via social media.
We need to focus our attention on the perpetrators and bystanders who believe style of dress, alcohol, or use of other substances is implied consent. It's not consent; it is a crime.
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary definition, "consent" is "permission for something to happen or agreement to do something." Northwestern University defines sexual consent as "sexual activity that requires consent, which is defined as voluntary, positive agreement between the participants to engage in the specific sexual activity."
The University outlines some ways in which consent is communicated. These include: "consent has not been given in the absence of clear, positive agreement; communicating verbally before engaging in sexual activity is imperative; and consent must be clear and unambiguous for each participant at every stage of a sexual encounter.”
We need to maintain open dialogue with students at colleges and universities to remind them that sexual assault is a crime. Bystanders who record the act may be liable too.
The legal implications are many but it comes down to respect. Respect for each other and respect for the victims. Remember, "No means no" and unconscious or silent does not mean consent.
If you see a sexual assault happen or think you may be a victim of assault, please contact local authorities immediately.