March 15, 2016

NDLOVU | Reflections on Consent

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It’s especially scary when, on the front page of the news, there’s a mugshot of someone you frequently see in your dorm, the dining hall, parties or classes being charged with rape. My heart goes out to the courageous women who survived these ordeals and rightfully reported them. Whenever I hear about these terrible crimes, I cannot ignore the small voice that says, “it could have been you.” Sexual harassment is happening to us individually on the daily, even if we do not realize it, and we must realize this in order to truly help others. Wolf-whistling, cat-calling and lurid up-and-down gazes are so commonplace that most women just brush them off and move on but such sexual gestures indicate that regarding women as sexual objects still persists. Furthermore, it may seem like the recent highly-publicized Wolfgang Ballinger and Xavier Eaglin rape crimes are isolated exceptions within a peaceful, liberal and crime-free campus but the shocking fact is that 5% of women on college campuses in America are victims of  rape or attempted rape every year (Kilpatrick, Resnick, Riggierio, Conoscenti, & McCauley, 2007; American College Health Association, 2013). This needs to change.

Sexual violence is, in many ways, still condoned today. Perpetrators pointing to a woman’s “mini-skirt”, “drunken” or “flirtatious” behavior as a reason for excusing their unacceptable crimes is a form of slut-shaming apparent in situations such the Bill Cosby case. Women should not feel obligated to avoid going out or dress a certain way because certain members of society cannot act responsibly by controlling themselves. This refusal to believe that consent is not optional is driven by this misogynistic belief still prevalent in our society: that women are confused individuals whose “no” or even silence could be interpreted as a “yes.” NO MEANS NO. When a woman flirts, dances with or kisses you at a party, that does not mean she has issued out a license to her body. No one is entitled, under any circumstances, to sex.

Unfortunately, no matter how much awareness is raised through programs such as Consent Ed, Every1 Campaign, Tapestry and the Vagina Monologues, some people are still going to disregard consent. Therefore, we must continue encouraging sexually assaulted women to report the crime. I hope that the recent cases on campus of women speaking out against their assailants encourage more women who have been shunned into silence to do the same and in this way help to put an end to the cycle of rape. Let’s make our campus a safe place for growth and learning for all people by taking on the role of active bystanders who have zero tolerance for such crimes.

If you are a witness or a victim of sexual assault please contact 911 or Cornell Police at 607-255-1111 and Gannett Health Services at 255-5155 for assistance immediately.