Consent is a crucial part of any successful relationship. Though it's always been important, things like the Me Too movement have brought more light to how crucial it is for every relationship.
When the Me Too movement gained traction, many individuals who had committed sexual abuse were ousted. Since then,the topic has gained more air time and more survivors have felt safe enough to come forward and tell their story.
“The Me Too movement is not a women’s movement, it is a survivors movement,” said Tarana Burke, founder of the Me Too movement, at a Q&A held by Preventing Sexual Assault (PSA).
Each person defines consent slightly differently, but the main themes hold true. Consent is "freely given, reversible, informed, enthusiastic and specific," according toPlanned Parenthood, someone who is "drunk or high, asleep or passed out, below the legal age of consent or much younger than you, or disabled in a way that affects their ability to understand you" cannot give their consent.
Without consent, any relationship, sexual or otherwise, has the potential to become very unsafe and unhealthy for everyone involved.
"Consent means mutual respect, without it, a healthy relationship would be impossible," said Ancy Joy, a senior journalism and architecture double major at the University of Maryland.
Consent is not a one-time thing; it is an ongoing agreement. Anyone involved in a relationship can revoke consent at any time, which is why before getting involved in any relationship, it is important to always stop and ask your partner what they are comfortable with and, in turn, explain what you are comfortable with. Set boundaries to ensure a safe and healthy relationship.
PSA, a student-run organization at the University of Maryland geared toward supporting survivors and changing rape culture, is a great resource for anyone who wants to learn more about consent, sexual assault prevention and general sexual empowerment at UMD.
"Consent is the most critical part of any hookup in any form, and it is vital to creating a safe, fun time for everyone involved," said Nikki Cavender, senior landscape architecture major at UMD and director of planning at PSA, "Consent is a clear conscious yes… Consent is hot!"
Right now, only ten states and the District of Columbia require consent to be taught in K-12 schools, while 32 other states require an abstinence-based sex education program. Since schools aren’t teaching you the importance of consent, it is important to look for that information yourself and get educated. Sites likePlanned Parenthoodand theMe Too Movement are great places to get informed and are available anytime.
For resources regarding help rather than general education, UMD'sCARE to stop violence and theOffice of Civil Rights and Sexual Misconduct are resources available to students to report any form of harassment and learn what constitutes sexual harassment. CARE's crisis line is available 24/7 during the regular semester at 301-741-3442. CARE also offers interactive workshops for classrooms, student organizations, Greek organizations, residence halls, departments and off-campus establishments.
“CARE peer educators, student presenters, and staff members are highly skilled and thoroughly trained to provide free, unbiased, and informative workshops on topics such as consent, healthy relationships, bystander intervention and more,” said Hafsa Siddiqi, the media relations manager for the Office of Strategic Communications
"If you don't feel protected and safe on your campus, then you are empowered to do something about that," saidBurke. Learning about consent and understanding why it is so important is the first step in fostering a safe sex environment for you and the people around you.