Everyone knows that rape is something our society deals with every day. According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, 1 in 5 women and 1 in 16 men are sexually assaulted while in college. There have been actions taken to help prevent rape, such as teaching girls how to protect themselves and having mandatory rape seminars for college students. But these actions aren't enough. There is clearly something more that needs to be done.
I think we need to start teaching everyone about consent. We are focusing too much on how to prevent rape (by telling people how to protect themselves) when we should be focusing on teaching people the importance of consent. It is important that everyone understands that rape is not simply someone saying no, it is specifically someone not saying yes. You need to have consent - have that person say yes - before you should feel comfortable touching them.
Consent is not something that is easy to teach if it is not instilled in us from when we are young. So I think we need to start teaching young kids the importance of consent if we ever have a chance of changing these statistics about rape.
I know that sounds like an impossible task, and most people probably immediately think I'm saying we should teach children about rape in general, but that's not what I'm talking about. I think we need to start smaller than that.
We need to start teaching children about consent through the people they touch and the people who touch them. Like hugging.
I was home for the holidays, and I have a little four-year-old cousin who I see almost every day while I'm home. I play with her throughout the visit and we have a great time. But when the visit is over, her parents always tell her that she should give me a hug to say goodbye. This is where the idea about consent came to me. Sometimes she doesn't want to give me a hug when it's time to leave, and sometimes she runs up to me and wraps her arms around me without being told. Every time she doesn't want to give me a hug, her parents try to coax her into it and tell her that she should give everyone a hug goodbye.
This is where learning about consent starts. If my little cousin, or any kid in the world, doesn't want to give you a hug, don't take offense to it and don't try to coax them into it. If they don't want a hug, they don't have to get one. This teaches them that their body belongs to them and that they can choose what they want to do with it.
I also want to say that coaxing someone into something is not consent. If you try to get a child to hug you, and after a while they do it, that is not showing them that they have autonomy over their body. It is, instead, showing them that it is okay for people to try and get them to do something even if they don't want to. And if they eventually give in, that's even better.
But this isn't okay.
If someone was coaxed into having sex even though they really didn't want to, one person would feel like they gained consent, but the other person might feel used and feel like they didn't have a choice in the matter. This is rape.
If we continue to tell our children what they want or don't want to do with their bodies, we will continue to have situations like this and deal with issues of rape. It starts when they are young.
So don't tell your child to give someone a hug after they have already said that they don't want to. Teach them about consent and tell them they are the only person who can decide what they want to do or don't do with their body. Children are really impressionable. It doesn't take much for them to learn things. My little cousin can learn how to take pictures and put them on a Snapchat story by only being shown once. That's really all it takes to teach them about consent, too.