By Kayla Woody, House of Hope DVPI Prevention Specialist
Picture yourself out with friends on a Friday evening, and you follow them to the local club in town for some drinks and harmless fun. When you arrive at your destination, the first thing you want is a beverage. Do you get that beverage from the bar yourself, or do you let a friend grab it for you? Or maybe you are even offered a drink by an admirer that sees you walk in. Do you accept the drink, or do you say, “No thanks”?
Believe it or not, when you accept a drink, either from an acquaintance that you know or from someone that you don’t, you place yourself at high risk. Alcohol is the most frequently used substance to assist in sexual assaults. The American Addiction Centers reported that around 69 percent of sexual assaults involve alcohol use by the perpetrator and about 43 percent the victim personally using alcohol. Whether it happens because the victim has become intoxicated by the amount consumed or the use of a “date rape drug” that has been purposefully used to create a situation where the intended victim of an assault is vulnerable, alcohol is often the device used to take advantage of the victim with ease.
A common response when alcohol is involved during a sexual assault is that it somehow lessens the crime, as if the perpetrator was not aware of what was happening and is somehow less responsible for their actions. The blame and responsibility normally falls on the victim. This is a huge, false assumption and is incorrect. Research shows just how alcohol can be used to target victims. Alcohol is not responsible for the choices a person makes, and it is never an acceptable excuse for a sexual assault.
Sexual assault is defined as sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the victim. To prevent these types of acts from happening, we must understand what consent looks like and sounds like. Consent is beginning to have more emphasis in our culture than ever before, but what often gets left out of the discussion is how to go about obtaining and providing the consent without the fear of “ruining the mood.”
Consent also isn’t just one question. There needs to be an atmosphere of comfort and trust that you create throughout any experience. Just because you do not hear “no” does not mean the person is consenting. Planned Parenthood provides a great idea on how to remember the idea of consent. They use the main phrase “I love FRIES.” This stands for Freely given, Reversible, Informed, Enthusiastic and Specific. Some ways to ask for consent are:
- Would you like if…?
- Would you enjoy if…?
- You wanna…?
- I was thinking about. … How does that sound?
- Does this work for you?
- Are you enjoying this?
- Is this OK?
Consent is never implied by things like past behavior, what you are wearing, where you go, who you are with or if you have consented previously. There has to be clear communication every single time. Even couples who have been in long, committed relationships or who are currently married must first get consent before acting.
It is important to understand that anyone can be a victim of sexual assault, no matter their gender, sexual orientation, age, race or economic status. To be able to make changes and put a stop to sexual assault, we have to educate ourselves and also help educate others. April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and is a great time to reach out to local organizations like CPN House of Hope to find ways on education and prevention.
If you or someone you know is experiencing sexual assault, intimate partner violence, and/or stalking and would like more information, please contact the House of Hope at 405-275-3176 or visit us online at facebook.com/cpnhouseofhope.