Catherine, 19

The campaign 4 consent is very important because boys and girls need to be taught about consent and the exact definitions of sexual assault, serious sexual assault and rape due to the confusing messages about sex that they get from things such as pornography, films. There is a sexual violence epidemic in the UK; according to UK Feminista a third of teenage girls experience sexual violence from a boyfriend. The best way to prevent this violence would be to educate the youth about consent and exactly what sexual violence is so that more of them have healthy sexual relationships. There are far too many rape myths in our society that need to be dispelled so that people know exactly what is acceptable and unacceptable behaviour and therefore are less likely to engage in unacceptable and illegal behaviour. Additionally, we need to dispel these rape myths so that sexual assault and rape survivors understand immediately afterwards that what has happened is a crime and do not let common misconceptions about sexual assault and rape affect how they view what happened to them.

As a survivor of 6 serious sexual assaults and one attempted rape as well as 2 occasions of indecent and sexual assault, I know all too well how important it is that we teach boys and girls about consent.

As a result of the fact that I was never taught about consent and the exact definitions of sexual assault and serious sexual assault, as well as what healthy relationships are like, the first time it happened to me at 17 I did not realise that I had been taken advantage of whilst drunk.

Unfortunately, as I did not realise until much later that I was assaulted, and was in denial for a long time about what happened, I thought it was okay for men to touch me, kiss me and have dry sex without my consent. Later, this turned into me thinking that it was fine for men to penetrate me with their fingers without my consent after I had been seriously sexually assaulted once and to coerce me into sexual acts. I thought that this was all okay behaviour even if I felt uncomfortable about it and admitted to myself that I had been taken advantage of; I never labelled it sexual assault.

Despite being a feminist, when it happened to me I denied that I had been sexually assaulted because I thought that because I did not say no, and did not struggle, I was not assaulted. However, on each occasion I was very intoxicated, and unable to consent. Additionally, I never intended to partake in any sexual acts with these men and was always taken by surprise when they attacked me as I had not expected it. Furthermore, on a couple of occasions the men asked if it was okay to do something, however I did not reply, and yet they went ahead with it anyway until I eventually stopped it.

Thus, it is very important to teach consent within a “yes means yes” context as people are not always confident enough to articulate a no, and men do not all seem to realise that silence means no consent. I think that at University there is a big problem of students taking advantage of other students when they are drunk.

I strongly believe that if I had been taught about consent within a “Yes means yes” framework and had been taught the exact definitions of sexual assault and serious sexual assault it is much more likely that I would have reported to the police the people who did this to me, and I could have got counselling and help much sooner.

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