April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. We’ve talked about making strong sexual choices before (+ the benefits of not having sex), but what happens if that choice is taken away from you? This choice has been taken from 1 in 2 women in Kentucky who have experienced sexual violence and 1 in 5 Kentucky women who have been raped. These numbers are staggering. So what exactly classifies as sexual assault?
Sexual assault is ANY *unwanted* sexual touching.
Unwanted is the key word here. It all boils down to one word: consent. Does he/she give their consent. No consent = sexual assault.
- Are they old enough? All persons involved must reach the age of consent. In Kentucky, this is 16 years old. If someone is under 16, they cannot legally consent (even if they say they want to).
- Are they in their right mind? If someone is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, they cannot legally consent (even if they say they want to).
- Are both parties willing? If someone says no, it is not consensual (even if sex has already begun).
- Was consent enthusiastically given? Consent is not given under pressure or manipulation. It is also not given under the influence of drugs or alcohol (see #2).
- Is it consensual this time? Both people must consent every time. Even if you are with someone you’ve had sex with before, if it’s not consent at the moment, it’s not consent.
- Is it a consensual the whole time? Consent is also reversible. You can change your mind, even if you’ve started something! It’s okay to say stop.
Maybe you’re reading this and thinking “Well with those qualifications, who hasn’t been a victim of sexual assault?!” Exactly- too many have. These questions are not too strict. Gaining consent is not too much work.
Or maybe you are reading this and realizing you have been a victim of sexual assault. There is help. The sexual assault hotline is 1-800-656-HOPE (4673). We also have a fantastic local resource in Silverleaf, who provides free counseling to sexual assault victims. If your assault recently occurred, it is considered a medical emergency and you need to go to the Emergency Department. Doing this isn’t deciding to report to law enforcement, it’s giving you time to make that decision (up to a year) and getting treatment to any physical injuries you may have.
Or perhaps even you are reading this and somehow didn’t realize how important consent is. The easiest way to get it in the future is simple: ASK. It’s not weird or awkward. It’s respectable and takes away any uncertainty.