Today, President Obama addressed a report from the White House Council on Women and Girls detailing the epidemic of sexual assaults on college campuses (click here to read USA Today article).
EPIDEMIC is the key word. While some people may respond with, “Epidemic is a bit extreme,” research shows 1 in 5 women are sexually assaulted while in college. 20% is an epidemic!!
What if you found out 90% of women who have experienced sexual activity in college were sexually assaulted according to the definition “Sexual assault is sexual contact without consent”?
While speaking on hundreds of college campuses, I have periodically asked the following question of females on campus:
“If we had 100 college females in this room who have experienced sexual activity during college, what PERCENTAGE would say “Yes” to the following question:
Have you had a partner sexually touch you without your consent? If you told the person to stop and the person did, the answer would still be a “Yes” because the sexual contact already occurred without your consent.“
Student say AT LEAST 90% of their friends would say, “YES.” In fact, the most common answer is, “Duh, of course almost every female has experienced that.”
While we acknowledge my asking the above question to student audiences is not of the same scientific validity of scholarly research, the fact that the answer is so high and considered “Common Sense Knowledge” should wake everyone up to how ingrained in our society the epidemic of sexual assault is.
While the report from the White House Council on Women and Girls mainly focuses on female survivors, please know that sexual assault happens to all genders.
The report from the White House Council on Women and Girls states:
“Sexual assault is pervasive because our culture still allows it to persist,” the report says. “According to the experts, violence prevention can’t just focus on the perpetrators and the survivors. It has to involve everyone.”
The biggest cultural aspect of sexual assault NOT being focused on in the media coverage of this epidemic is CONSENT: requesting and receiving consent.
As college students share with us from around the country, most people only think of consent when they hear a “No” and do NOT think they need to actually request consent first. “No” puts the onus on the survivor instead of the person engaging in the sexual activity – the perpetrator.
Example: If Jordan sexually touches Taylor, first Jordan should request and receive consent to do so. Just because Jordan may believe Taylor wants the sexual contact, Jordan cannot absolutely know without asking first.
Part of the solution for this epidemic is to teach everyone realistic, romantic “How To” skill sets for ASKING FIRST & Honoring the Answer. Plus, teach “WHY” each person should care enough to take the right actions – beyond “because its against the law.”
What is the WHY? Every person DESERVES for each sexual experience to be consensual (wanted, free given, between 2 partners of legal age who are of sound mind).
When you believe everyone deserves a CHOICE before someone engages in sexual activity with his/her body, you are more likely to INTERVENE when you see someone not honoring that basic right.