Yes means Yes

What consent is, and how to ask for permission.

Yes means Yes

#MeToo.This phrase appeared on most people’s social media feed in October. The phrase was posted on Twitter 1.7 million times, and from 85 different countries, and was posted on Facebook by 4.7 million people. The #MeToo campaign aimed to raise awareness for the widespread problem of sexual assault and sexual harassment. #MeToo started after news broke that movie producer Harvey Weinstein allegedly assaulted, harassed or raped at least 64 women. The campaign didn’t just bring awareness to the issues, they showed that it was an epidemic. It showed that almost everybody knows someone who has been sexually assaulted or harassed. After people saw how big the issue was, the question shifted to why it is so widespread, and how these situations could be prevented.

Of all sexual violence cases, 72% of the victims knew the perpetrators, and of cases where the victim was under 18 years old, 93% of victims knew the perpetrators. In the overwhelming majority of sexual violence cases, the victims trusted the person who was doing the harm because it was a friend, acquaintance, significant other, or family member. Another reason the problem is so widespread is that young people aren’t taught what is appropriate in these situations, how to communicate how they are feeling or how to ask for consent. Emma Petersen, an advocate for the Rape/Domestic Abuse program of North Platte, said the best way to prevent sexual assault and harassment in relationships is to know how to communicate effectively, and know how to listen. “Young people should figure out what they are comfortable with, communicate that to their significant other, and set boundaries.” Petersen said people who cross small, insignificant boundaries, such as playing with your hair after you asked them not to, are more likely to cross larger boundaries such as sexual assault.

Many organizations, such as rape and domestic abuse programs, have changed the way they present how to ask for consent. People used to say, “No means no,” which implies that a situation is only rape if the victim explicitly says “no,” which is not correct. These organizations have shifted to teaching “Yes means yes,” and “Maybe means no” instead. This new way of teaching tells people that you need a verbal, enthusiastic “yes” before you should proceed with sex. People should always look for nonverbal ways that the person may communicate their being uncomfortable, and ask them if they want to continue in that situation. Petersen said all instances of rape, and other sexual violence, is not about anything other than control over the other person; after many instances of these crimes, the perpetrator will say that they could not help themselves for some reason or another, but realize that it is not about attraction, it is about control and power over another person. In many young relationships, one person pressures the other into having sex, when the other knows they aren’t ready, which is rape, but most people don’t realize it.

After a person has been raped, assaulted or harassed, they should seek medical attention if needed, and report it if they are comfortable with talking about it. If that person wants to stay anonymous, they can; many people do this for many reasons like they don’t want to be in a victim blaming situation, or they don’t want people to find out. In every instance, the victim should make sure they are safe where they are, and take any measures they need to become safe. They should also do anything to make them feel safe, and well again.

If you have been raped, sexually assaulted or harassed and need to talk to someone about it, call the anonymous rape and domestic abuse crisis line at: (308) 534-3495.