Filed under: Sexual assault
April is Sexual Assault Prevention Month. One essential step to prevent misconduct or missteps with your sexual partners is to openly and clearly obtain consent. What is it? Consent is spoken permission to continue moving forward with the sexual experience. Consent is an enthusiastic, verbally expressed “Yes! I want what is happening to keep happening!” Verbal consent is important because it’s unmistakable.
If you’re not sure how to ask for consent, consider some of the following:
- Can I kiss you?
- Is this okay?
- Are you enjoying yourself?
- Do you want me to keep going?
- How far should we go?
A positive verbal answer to any of these questions—“Yes!” “Yes please.” “Keep going.”—is consent, meaning you’re both on the same page about the sexual experience. In addition to asking for verbal confirmation, get in tune with your partner’s body language. Is he or she making eye contact and responding to your gestures?
In some situations, an individual isn’t able to consent to sex, such as when drugs or alcohol are involved. They impact decision-making and impulse control.
Also remember that lack of a “No” doesn’t mean consent. When a person feels in danger, he or she might become immobilized with fear and not actively resist or say no. Don’t mistake absence of resistance for consent.
You must obtained consent with each and every sexual encounter, regardless of your sexual history with your partner. Everyone is entitled to a change of mind, so it’s important to keep checking in with each other throughout the whole experience.
The DoD Safe Helpline is available 24/7 as a free, anonymous, confidential sexual assault resource for the DoD community. You can call, text, or chat with Helpline members. They will answer your questions and connect you with resources.
Military Sexual Trauma (MST) is a serious issue. Afterdeployment.org describes MST as “among the most serious violations a person can experience.” Both men and women can experience MST, which can include sexual harassment and/or sexual assault.
Sexual harassment refers to unwelcome and/or threatening verbal or physical behavior of a sexual nature.
Sexual assault is any kind of sexual behavior without consent.
Survivors of MST experience a variety of symptoms ranging from relationship problems, intense emotions, feelings of numbness, memory problems, sleep issues, and more. See this factsheet from Veterans Affairs for more information on symptoms.
MST can impact your mental and physical health not only at the time but even years later. It’s important to know that you can recover from this traumatic experience, but seeking professional help is essential for recovery. If you or someone you know has recently experienced a sexual assault, follow the steps identified in this factsheet. Active-duty Warfighters can get help at the Department of Defense’s Safe Helpline, which provides a wide variety of support for sexual assault, from basic information to their telephone helpline. Veterans who have experienced MST can locate help at their local VA Facility Locator and/or call the VA Information hotline at 1-800-827-1000. To hear about other veterans’ experiences with MST and locate more vet-centric information, check out the VA’s website on MST.
In addition, afterdeployment.org has created some factsheets that provide more information and resources on MST, including one on the facts about sexual assault and harassment, the emotional stages of recovery, and reporting and legal issues. Finally, for information about reporting and what the Department of Defense is doing to help MST, check out their Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military (see the 2013 report here).