TESTIMONIAL: Consent is an excited and happy yes

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TESTIMONIAL: Consent is an excited and happy yes

Emily Rabasto - The State Hornet

Emily Rabasto - The State Hornet

Emily Rabasto - The State Hornet

Claire Morgan, Editor-in-Chief

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I’ve started to notice that there’s a weird phenomenon happening in discussions around sexual assault: people are always mentioning this idea of a “gray area.”

But to me, the idea of “gray area” is, quite frankly, bullshit. Consent is a yes or no question.

Over the summer a friend from out of town visited me, and I wanted to show her what Sacramento nightlife was like.

We started out at some city staples and moved to less popular bars. We were having a great time, trying drinks and eating appetizers at every place we went.

By the end of the night, we had made it to my absolute favorite bar. Though it’s not the nicest or cleanest, I always know that there’s going to be at least a handful of people I know there.

This night wasn’t any different — I ran into three of my good friends, one of them, a man I casually dated before. We hit it off, as always.

He’s older than me, he was in a band when he was younger and now he bartends in a city bigger and greater than Sacramento. To me, a 22-year-old girl who is typically attracted to any boy in a tiny rolled up beanie or dirty Vans, that mystery and excitement enveloped me, and the fact that he wasn’t a total asshole was a plus.

It sounds like any fun indie movie waiting to happen. But it wasn’t. The rest of the night was a total disaster.

I’ve been a victim of sexual assault before. I know what it feels like to be in a position where you can’t give consent. But this situation was different, I felt like I couldn’t tell anyone because the whole thing felt like my fault, even though it wasn’t.

I hadn’t been drinking that much that night. I was buzzed, but I was still mostly in control and could make good decisions.

I went home with him. It was just like any other night, until I started to feel uncomfortable. I was still a little drunk from bar hopping when he suddenly got on top of me on the couch.

I went along with it because I didn’t want to cause a stir. We had done nothing than made out before — mostly because I think the age gap between us is too much — and I was hoping he wouldn’t try to push things further than that.

But he did. I started to feel significantly uncomfortable, and I mentioned that I should go and check on my friend. But he urged me to stay with him, and since he was at my house I couldn’t force him to leave.

“Maybe you should go,” I said. “I’m getting tired, I wonder how my friend is doing.”

My body language indicated that I was not interested either. Every time I inched myself away he would inch himself closer.

I don’t know why I didn’t just get up and tell him leave. It’s something I blame myself for every single day. I know how to say no. But I didn’t.

Things persisted. I didn’t want it to, but I didn’t outright say no. After he left, I blocked his number and told my friend that I just didn’t want to talk about it.

The more I think about it, the more I realize that it’s not my fault. If I were getting those signs from another person, I would have stopped. He chose to ignore my pleas to go home and stop what we were doing.

This isn’t the first time I have been in situations like this. It’s happened with boyfriends, with friends, and sometimes I’ve said no, and sometimes I haven’t. Every time I let it happen, I blame myself for it because it’s a “gray area.”

So many other people go through this struggle of feeling guilty because they didn’t explicitly say no — I know this from stories I’ve heard from friends, coworkers and even casual acquaintances.

But assault is black and white, consent is a yes or no question. I did not say yes. I did not consent. That is assault. There’s nothing “gray” about it.

Consent is more than persisting because the person hasn’t explicitly said yes. Consent is an excited and happy yes.  

It’s time we victims stopped feeling ashamed and start taking control of being victimized. I refuse to let the “gray area” hold me back from speaking out and knowing what happened to me was wrong.

Above all else, it’s time we start listening to survivors. There is no such thing as a “gray area” when it comes to sexual assault.

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