College is a time of self-discovery, and for many of you it will be a time and a place where you explore your sexuality. But a truly important part of that journey is understanding consent.
The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has an Affirmative Consent Policy, which means they define what consent is, and, very importantly, what consent is NOT. In short, consent is a freely given and ENTHUSIASTIC YES to EVERY STEP of sexual contact.
Things to remember about consent:
- Consent can be taken back at ANY time.
- A “yes” to some things doesn’t automatically mean a yes to everything.
- Consent can only be given by someone who fully understands their actions. Someone under the influence of drugs, alcohol, someone under the legal age, or someone unconscious or asleep can’t give consent.
- It is not consent if the person feels threatened or afraid of saying “no.”
- It is not consent if the person said “no” many times, but was asked until they were worn down or guilted and eventually said “yes.”
- Just because someone doesn’t say “no,” does not mean they mean “yes.”
When taking part in any sexual activity you need clear consent. If your partner seems quiet or not into it, just stop and talk to them. Proceeding with sexual activity without consent is called sexual assault.
And consent is sexy! Consent is the best way to know that everyone is comfortable and having a good time. Consent is the key to exploring your sexuality in a safe, respectful manner. How better to get to know your own preferences than to explore in a culture of consent?
Much like other campuses around the country, we are still growing a clear culture of consent on our campus. Studies show that sexual assault does happen on campuses, and it happens at higher rates to women and transgender or gender non-confomring individuals. But that does not mean it doesn’t happen to men either! Sexual assault is defined by the Univeristy of Illinois as “any sexual act directed against another person, without the consent of the victim, including instances where the victim is incapable of giving consent.” Assault can happen to anyone by anyone. This is why understanding exactly what consent is and what it is not is so important.
Don’t think it’s just sexual contact that’s wrong. Included in the Sexual Misconduct policy at Illinois is Sexual Harassment. Anything that falls under the Sexual Misconduct policy is subject to discipline by the university.
Sexual assault is NEVER the victim’s fault. If you have been affected by assault, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has resources available to help. We Care can connect you with the right people to report an incident, who to talk to about what happened, and they also provide prevention training. They’ll listen, respect, and believe you. They also have resources for friends and family of assault survivors with simple steps to help you be there for your loved one.
If you want to build a culture of consent on campus, the first place to start is with your friends and partners. Establish clear communication and consent for any touching, even hugs! Be there for the people around you, respecting them and listening if they have something to tell you. And always remember there are people here at Illinois who are available to help. A culture of consent isn’t something that will happen on its own. Each of us must do our part to make our campus a safe, supportive place to learn and grow.
AAU Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Sexual Misconduct (2015). Association of American Universities (AAU). (2015, September 3). https://www.aau.edu/key-issues/aau-climate-survey-sexual-assault-and-sexual-misconduct-2015.
Add Consent to Your Teen’s College Checklist. National Sexual Violence Resource Center. https://www.nsvrc.org/blogs/add-consent-your-teens-college-checklist.
At illinois we care. https://wecare.illinois.edu/help/support/.
Her Campus (2018, April 30). Creating a Culture of Consent on Your Campus. womenshealth.gov. https://www.womenshealth.gov/blog/campus-culture-consent.
Human Resources. Sexual Misconduct – Campus Administrative Manual. https://cam.illinois.edu/policies/hr-79r/.
Written by: Maurissa