I know this is a subject that has been rehashed on every college campus recently, but that doesn’t mean everyone truly understands what consent is. You do not have to do anything you do not want to do. It does not matter if you have hooked up with this person before. It does not matter if you have been dating for two years. Without consent, you have nothing. Let me make myself clear: consent is everything.

This has happened to too many people I know. A person, typically a man in the events I see, will give a girl unnecessary compliments. He is expecting to speak enough in order to deserve a smile or a phone number. Perhaps he will grind against her on the dance floor without bothering to even speak to her beforehand, or receive an affirmation. That is not to say at all that men cannot be victim to sexual assault, or that women can be the assaulter, because the tables most certainly can turn. However, the tangible experiences I have seen in my life thus far have largely been male predators and female victims. Unfortunately, with Brock Turner’s release from prison, this issue is brought back to our attention. After only serving half of his already laughably short sentence of six months, he is out in the world. I was with my eighth grade boyfriend longer than he was in prison for sexually assaulting a woman. That is entirely unjust and insane. Brock Turner is a registered sex offender, yet he is able to return to his life after only three months.

Everyone believes they know what they would do if they watched their friend have something slipped in their drink. Everyone believes they would walk a friend home if they were drunk, in order to keep them away from the person that had been standing a little too close throughout the evening. The scary thing is that sexual assault still takes place in the day and age in which we live. It may seem awkward or unimportant, but it is absolutely necessary to receive your partner’s consent before any intimate act. Only a “yes” can allow the act to continue. A “maybe” is insufficient. A “no” does not mean “convince me.”

I am deeply pained to know that I have friends and acquaintances who are survivors of sexual harassment and assault. I want everyone who is struggling to know that they are enough, and they did not deserve this. Regardless of the situation, no one deserves that pain. These men and women are strong enough to survive, and are not solely defined by this tragedy. This subject will be covered until this is no longer an issue. Until the rape culture that this society displays disappears, this will be an issue we need to discuss as a society. I want everyone to be educated about consent as well as how to help a victim of sexual assault. Let’s create a safer world for men, women, and everyone in between.