Consent: A Simple Word that Means So Much

By I’yonna Taylor-Smith
Jambar Contributor

April was Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and the topic can be touchy for many.

According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in three women will experience sexual violence within their lifetime.

NSVRC also states that in colleges across the United States, two out of three women will experience sexual violence within their time enrolled. Of those two-thirds, 90% of the cases are not reported.

Of the reports, 81% of women and 35% of men reported Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder following the incident, which can last for years.

When coming into college, one topic every student should learn about is consent, NSVRC advises.

While some people argue that students should already know what consent is, statistics prove that that is not always the case.

Through April 23-26, 2019, Youngstown State University held a “Let’s Talk Consent” table with the Director of Title IX Kelly Beers.

Beers said the purpose of the table was to make sure that students know what the Title IX office is and are familiar with its role on campus.

“As the campus office responsible for educating campus about consent, responding to and assisting students who have been victims of sexual assault and investigating cases of sexual assault when requested, I felt it was important to make sure students know that we exist and what we do,” she said.

Between 2015-2017, YSU had 30 reported assault cases which included rape, fondling, stalking, and domestic and dating violence, according to the 2018 Annual Security and Fire Safety Report.

Twenty of these reported cases happened in the residence halls on campus.

Kyra Lowery, a senior communication major and resident assistant in Kilcawley House, said she believes that consent is especially important in the residence halls.

“Consent just allows any party involved to make sure all participants are there willingly,” she said.

Lowery said it is important that students are taught consent so that everyone is safe.

Beers said she believes there are some things that more people need to understand about consent.

“Probably the most difficult part for folks to grasp is the idea that consent isn’t just a ‘yes’ or a ‘no.’ It’s an ongoing agreement between partners. Someone can say yes and change their mind. Someone could agree to try something new and then stop in the middle of that something new because they don’t like it. Someone could agree to something once and then never agree to it again,” she said.

“Each partner needs to be in tune with the other partner(s) by talking, yes, even though it’s awkward, but also by paying attention to their body language,” Beers added. “Are they reciprocating? Are they enthusiastic? Are they smiling, laughing, moaning or otherwise indicating they’re enjoying themselves? That is part of the ongoing agreement.”

Consent can be applied to everything that happens in someone’s everyday life.

“It’s important to recognize that consent applies in many other parts of a relationship. That should all be something that partners discuss up front, so that there is a mutual agreement about how and when these things are okay or not,” Beers said.

She said the purpose of consent is to have a shared understanding of what all partners are interested in.

“I know that the current conversations about consent focus on sex and ensuring that both partners want sex, and agree to all the things that will happen during sex. From kissing to touching to what kind of intercourse to whether or not a condom is required, all of that needs to be mutually consensual,” she said.

Students can anonymously report a sex or gender discrimination in any university-sponsored program or activity, sexual assault and non-consensual sexual touching, stalking, relationship violence, including dating and domestic violence and sexual harassment in the YSU Portal or by going to the Title IX office in Tod Hall.