E4C – “Eager for Consent” Part I

What exactly is sexual assault and misconduct? The survey released by the Association of American Universities provides a detailed account of what falls under the umbrella of “sexual assault and misconduct.” It identifies behaviors such as sexual harassment, stalking, and intimate partner violence, as well as two types of sexual contact (penetration and sexual touching), and four tactics – physical force, drugs and alcohol, coercion, and absence of affirmative consent.

Growing up, you think sexual assault and rape is something that will never affect your life. You believe that it is something that, should you ever encounter it, it wouldn’t be more than once.

This world of ignorance is bliss, isn’t it?

I’m 19 now, a sophomore in college. I admit to being one of those kids who thought I would never have any real connection to sexual assault. Because I was immune to this problem, right?

Boy, was I wrong. As I sit here writing this today, a plethora of instances come to mind. In a perfect world, I would be able to say that I don’t know anyone who has been sexually assaulted or raped. But the world we live in is far from perfect, and I don’t just know one person who has been sexually assaulted and/or raped, I know a lot of people who have been.

One of the big questions concerning sexual assault is why victims don’t come forward and report their assaults. There are the obvious reasons: “I didn’t think it was that big of a deal,” “I’m ashamed and embarrassed,” or “It’s really not something I want to talk about.” But those aren’t the only reasons victims don’t come forward.

Sometimes, because of the society we live in, victims don’t even realize they’ve been sexually assaulted until quite some time after the incident has occurred. I have a very close acquaintance who was sexually assaulted. Not once, but three times. This acquaintance, who for the sake of anonymity we’ll call by the gender-neutral name “Alex,” was sexually assaulted for the first time at 16 years old. The following two assaults occurred over the next 3 years. It wasn’t until months after the third incident that Alex even realized the severity of what had happened.

Alex was “lucky.” Alex was never raped; nearly raped, but the assailants were never able to finish.

I wish I could tell you that Alex is my only acquaintance who has been sexually assaulted, but I can’t.

The society we live in makes sexual assault okay and, depending on the severity, normal even. The movies we watch and the music we listen to objectify people – not just women – and proclaim that sex is more important than anything else – even if it is unmemorable. Why anyone would enjoy this kind of forced sex on another person, I do not know.

Questions? Comments? Want someone to talk to about sexual assault? Feel free to email me at: erika.banoun@arlingtonpublicnews.org