By: Brittany Hofferber

“She was flirting with me all night, she was practically begging for it” 

“Well she never said no”, “I was so drunk I don’t remember anything”, “I won’t tell anyone about this”, “I could tell she was into me”, “What is the big deal? We just hu”, “She came onto me first”, “No one is going to find out”, “I could tell by the way she was looking at me you know?” 

I could go on and on, but these excuses and rationalizations are worth neither the space on our platform nor your time. The fact of the matter is, that is NOT consent. Just because a girl flirts with you or can “hang with the boys” does not mean she is there to have sex with you, kiss you, be touched by you, or violated by you, return sexual gestures, or submit to your agenda. When I was younger, these cases of sexual assault seemed so distant from me, they were part of this world, but a reality that I would never encounter. Even throughout my first three years in college being in a sorority full of young women and a part of the UVA social scene, I still felt this distance from the subject. I knew it was wrong and horrible, I knew it was out there, but it wasn’t here.  It wasn’t until I had my own personal experiences with the topic that I began to see how normalized the all too casual advances that women have to deal with are on a day to day basis- unnoticed and hidden behind the veil of the “college hookup culture.” 

It was for that reason that I first blamed myself for what had happened to me. I felt guilt. I felt shame and anger. More importantly, I was scared. I cried. And then, I opened up. I told my friends and the people closest around me and with their help, I realized, “what the &@#!? None of that was okay.” NONE of it was okay. And to think I was so quick to blame myself speaks volumes to the pattern of thought we are taught in a culture that silences its victims. I was at first apprehensive to share my story on this platform, for fear of judgment among the million the other reasons why women who have experienced assault choose to remain private. But to be silent in this position, to write an article about consent without full honesty, would continue the blissful ignorance for those who consider it an issue far removed from their reality, as I did. As human beings, this is an issue we must address and take personally. 

The Statistics

  • Every 73 seconds another American is assaulted (Morgen & Oudekerk, 2018).
  • 94% of women who are raped experience symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder during the two weeks following the rape (Rothbaum et al, 1992).
  • 55% of sexual assaults occur at or near the victim’s home (Planty et al., 2013)
  • 44% of lesbians and 61% of bisexual women experience rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner, compared to 35% of straight women (NISVS).

What is Consent?

The laws for consent vary from state to state and by the situation. This makes the issue of consent can be extremely confusing. Consent in the most basic sense is an agreement between two people to engage in sexual activity. In many states and college campuses, “affirmative consent” is a knowing, voluntary and mutual decision among all participants to engage in sexual activity (RAINN). In general, it is about open, clear communication that should be happening every single time, throughout every single experience (RAINN).

“Giving consent for one activity, one time does not mean giving consent for increased or recurring sexual contact.” I know that many of my peers feel this pressure that when they agree to kiss or even flirt with a boy, they are agreeing to more- this is not okay and not true. Flirting with a boy does not give him the right to kiss you, kissing a boy does not give him the right to touch you.  If you feel uncomfortable, you can change your mind at any point. This change MUST be respected by your partner (RAINN). 

When is Someone Not Giving Consent

  • When all of the examples above are taking place
  • When refusing to acknowledge “no.”
  • When assuming that dressing a certain way or flirting is asking for anything.
  • When having sexual contact with someone under the legal age of consent, as defined by the state.
  • When someone is incapacitated because of drugs or alcohol.
  • When pressuring someone into sexual activity by using fear, intimidation, or persistence.
  • When assuming you have permission to engage in a sexual act because you have done it in the past.

The Hol3health team recognizes all female-identifying persons as women and is committed to serving, representing, informing, and advocating for them all. I identify as a cisgender straight woman and will be sharing my experience as such. It is important to recognize that sexual and gender-based violence affects every gender, sex, and orientation, and the resources below are available to everyone

Resources for Survivors

  • RAINN, the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization, provides an amazing network of resources and community for victims of assault or those who want to learn more. 
    • Click here for their long list of resources 
  • National Sexual Assault Hotline. Free. Confidential. 24/7
    • Call 800.656.HOPE
  • National Sexual Violence Resource Center has a variety of tools for survivors, friends, and family including a large legal resource library.
  • Know Your IX is a resource empowering students to stop sexual violence and helps people know their rights and take legal action if needed. 
  • Podcasts: “Dear Sugar Radio”: If you are trying to understand what consent is and maybe understand your situation, this is an amazing podcast series answering letters from women who detail their sexual encounters and explores the complexity of their situations. 

Reference List:

Morgan, R., Oudekerk, B. (2018). Data Collection: National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice Programs

NISVS. (2010). NISVS: An Overview of 2010 Findings on Victimization by Sexual Orientation. Washington, DC: CDC. 

RAINN: Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network. What Consent Looks Like. Washington D,C. 

Rothbaum, B.O., Foa, E.B., Riggs, D.S., Murdock, T., Walsh, W. (July 1992). A Prospective Examination of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in Rape Victims. International Society of Traumatic Stress Studies. 

Planty, M., Langton, L., Krebs, C., Berzofsky, M., & Smiley-Mcdonald, H.. (March 2014). Female Victims of Sexual Violence, 1994-2010. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice Programs.

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