learning about consent

One of the purposes of the choice of “Be Heard” as the theme of the Binghamton Women’s March was to listen to perspectives that have often been silenced. One of the most powerful speeches was about sexual assault.

With the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements in the news, I have also been having some discussions about consent and assault/harassment with my daughters, who are in their late twenties and early thirties.

The Women’s March speaker who was a survivor of sexual assault said something that really articulated the issue of consent for me, something along the lines of she is not sure if she said no, but she was very sure she did not say yes. She did not give consent.

Her words crystallized something for me so that I understood better what my daughters and other younger women have been saying. As a woman in her later fifties, I wasn’t really brought up with discussion about consent. We were trained to be vigilant about making sure no one drugged our drinks at a party and about staying away from dark or isolated places, but not about what to do if a date or acquaintance pressured or overpowered or coerced us into unwanted sexual behavior.

I understood over time that it was never about what women wore or if they had been drinking or if they knew their attacker. Women who are assaulted are not at fault for their assault. No means no.

What I hadn’t understood until now was the extent to which no means no is not enough. Women may freeze or shut down in fear when faced with sexual aggression and may not be able to say no. They may not be able to leave the situation without the threat of violence against them. Asking “why didn’t she just leave?” is akin to asking “why was she wearing that?”

The questions are placing blame on the victim rather than on the perpetrator.

All forms of abuse and harassment are abuses of power. Sexual abuse and harassment are no different.

Consent needs to mutual, ongoing, and enthusiastic from all participants. Anything less makes what should be a caring and loving encounter into an abuse of power.
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Join us for Linda’s Just Jot It January! Find out more here:
https://lindaghill.com/2018/01/22/jusjojan-daily-prompt-january-22nd-2018/

 

 

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Black dresses/Golden Globes

I watched the red carpet and the Golden Globe Awards ceremony last night. I admit that many of the nominated films aren’t available in area theaters and many of the television shows are on platforms or channels I can’t access, but I am interested in award shows for cultural reasons.

This year was especially interesting for its part in the ongoing efforts to finally make lasting change in the areas of gender equality and sexual harassment/abuse. As was widely reported prior to the the ceremony, women were wearing black to call attention to these issues. In the days leading up to the ceremony, some commentators wondered aloud if that was too frivolous a protest.

It was not.

The questions from reporters on the red carpet, usually centered on which designer made your outfit, presented opportunities for women nominees and presenters to highlight the issues, demands for systemic change, and efforts underway to address the problems, including a legal fund just started to assist victims of sexual harassment/abuse across all walks of life and types of workplace.

Many of the men joined in the efforts as well, wearing “Time’s Up” buttons in support of the effort and adding their own comments to the discussion. Some of them also wore all black, replacing the usual white shirt with a black one under their tuxedo jacket.

The emphasis continued during the award ceremony itself. Some presenters pointed out gender inequity in the industry. Many of the winners spoke passionately about telling the stories of people who have been underrepresented and unheralded and emphasized that things were going to change in our society to make it fairer and more just – and that the energy for change would not flag as it sometimes has in past efforts.

The highlight of the evening was Oprah Winfrey’s acceptance speech for the Cecil B. deMille Award, which was hopeful and inspirational. The text of the speech is here.

I’ve interviewed and portrayed people who have withstood some of the ugliest things life can throw at you, but the one quality all of them seem to share is an ability to maintain hope for a brighter morning, even during our darkest nights. So I want all the girls watching here now to know that a new day is on the horizon.

May that day dawn soon.
*****
Join us for Linda’s Just Jot It January! Find out more here:
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