Creating a culture of consent

Perspective on sexual assault needs to change

Story: Editorial

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Most sane people with a drop of common sense agree sexual assault is horrible and inhumane. Fortunately, the past few years have shown an increased awareness towards rape culture, especially on college campuses and in the media.
Michigan State University’s introduction of the Office of Institutional Equity last year was a step toward progress. The office was opened to handle sexual assault cases and other harassment related issues.
But laws, classes and fancy offices won’t do much if we don’t start from the root cause. Ourselves.
It’s not uncommon to hear whispers in the hall insulting someone’s attire for being too slutty, their behavior for being too flirty or they’re character for allegedly having too much sex. Slut, whore, skank are labels thrown around casually. Comments such as “that exam raped me” are part of our everyday speech. Perhaps, the most disturbing norm among this generation is the unintentional victim blaming. It’s not as common to hear victims directly blamed for their assault as it used to be, but people continue to propose judgmental “what if” scenarios.
“I’m not saying it’s their fault. It’s horrible what happened. But if they hadn’t been drinking…” Sound familiar? These sorts of statements only perpetuate rape culture and justify, even if unintentionally, the perpetrator. Even seemingly light-hearted jokes can be devastating triggers to an assault victim.
Our job, as members of society, is to be supportive of one another. Period. That means not questioning the clothes, lifestyle, blood alcohol content or beliefs of a victim of any crime, sexually related or not. To mock victims gives power to those who seek harm. It is the fuel they need to burn the progress that’s been made in eliminating rape culture.
More disturbing than our attitudes on assault are the ones we unwittingly express toward consent.
Issues of consent don’t just relate to sex. Consent should be required for any type of touch, whether it’s your aunt trying to hug you or your friend grabbing you as you walk down the hall. Many people are uncomfortable with being touched, even if it’s just casual, and we need to learn to respect each other’s boundaries.
We as a community need to be more aware of consent. Because the less we talk about it, the more young people are going to be taken advantage of. When we are more concerned with judging the victim than punishing the perpetrator, when we ignore other people’s wishes, or touch them at all without consent, we are allowing ourselves to be on the same side as the assaulter.
Consent is not a special bonus, it is a basic human right.

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