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Consent and Sexual Assault

When it comes to sexual activity and sex, you have the right to decide when you do it, where you do it, and how you do it. For any sexual activity to happen, both people need to consent, or say yes, willingly and freely. Sexual activity does not just mean sex, it includes kissing, hugging, making out, cuddling, and touching someone’s body in a sexual way.

So, how do you know if someone wants to make out or have sex? You have to ask! For example, if you want to touch someone’s bum, you could say something like, “Is it okay if I touch your bum?” and if they say “YES!” it’s bum touching time. If they aren’t sure or don’t say anything that means the answer is no. In other words, anything other than yes, means no.

We know that consent can be a lot more complicated than just saying “yes.” People don’t always talk about touching/sex before it happens. Many people communicate non-verbally, through eye contact and body language. Unfortunately, non-verbal communication can sometimes lead to misunderstandings, if you are unsure, stop and ask.

A few things about consent

Important things to know about consent

1) If someone thinks they received non-verbal consent for sex but the other person really wasn’t interested, then it could lead to rape or assault if they act on their mistaken belief. Charges can be laid in situations where someone did not give their consent to sex or sexual activity.

2) You have the right to change your mind at any point and the sexual activity or sex has to stop. Not stopping when the other person wants to stop is called sexual assault. There is no excuse for not stopping, and part of consent means listening to and respecting your partner.

3) Trying to turn someone’s “no” into an “ok, I guess so” is called sexual coercion. Coercion is when someone keeps asking even after hearing no, or tries to threaten or bribe the other person by saying things like, “if you loved me you would” or “my ex would do this with me, why won’t you?” Sexual coercion is disrespectful and is a form of sexual assault.

4) Nobody has the right to ask you to consent to sex when you are under the influence of alcohol or drugs. People sometimes make different choices after using drugs or alcohol than they would usually make. This is why we are not able to give informed consent if we are using drugs or alcohol. Getting someone drunk or high in order to have sex with them is assault.

Age of Consent
For more info on age of consent, check out the Youth Rights button on the Sexuality page here.
How to ask for Consent
We don’t often see examples of how to ask for consent in the media. Asking for consent can sound sexy and ensure that everyone is having a good time.

Here are some suggestions to help you get started:

  • “Would be okay with you if… ?”
  • “I’ve always wanted to try ___ what do you think?”
  • “This feels good for me, does it feel good for you?”
  • “Are you comfortable with this?”
  • “How do you feel about this?”
  • “Do you like this?”
  • “What are you comfortable with?”
  • “What do you like?”

Sexual Assault

Sexual assault is when there is unwanted sexual contact or sexual attention, this includes coercion and harassment. It is never your fault if you have been sexually assaulted. It can be important to talk to someone about what has happened.

Coercion

If someone doesn’t say “yes”, coercing them into any sexual activity is sexual assault. Coercion is when someone pressures the other person to turn their “no” into a “yes”. This can include pressuring someone to sext or send sexy pictures. Just because people are in a relationship does not mean that they are owed sex any sexual activity. Although it might not feel great to have someone say no, it’s important that we respect that decision. Keep in mind that sexual activity is not just about ‘sex’. Sexual activity includes kissing, hugging, touching, etc. so any unwanted physical contact or sexual attention is assault.

Coercion also includes getting someone drunk or high in order to have sex with them. When people are drunk or high, they make decisions that they would not normally make. This also means that getting someone’s consent when they are not sober isn’t truly consent. The number one date rape drug is alcohol. A person that tries to get another person drunk or high in order to have sex with them is breaking the law. You have the right to press charges if you feel like you were taken advantage of even if both people were drunk or high. Just because someone chooses to use alcohol or drugs does not mean they are asking to be assaulted.

Support and Resources

Help is out there

If you have ever dealt with or are dealing with sexual assault it is never your fault and it can be important to talk to someone. The Klinic Sexual Assault Crisis Line is a great resource that people can call if they need to talk. It is open 24/7 and free to call from anywhere in Manitoba. Their phone number is 1-888-292-7565 or (204) 786-8631.

Klinic also offers free drop-in counselling within Winnipeg.

Here are some other resources:

In Manitoba:

Klinic Sexual Assault Crisis Line (open 24/7 and free to call): 204-786-8631 or 1-888-292-7565 (outside of Winnipeg)
Klinic drop-in counselling

Websites:

www.klinic.mb.ca
www.thatsnotcool.com
www.dawn.thot.net/safe.html
www.whiteribbon.com

Questions About Consent

How do I ask for consent?
 We don’t often see examples of consent in the media so sometimes we may not know how to ask. Asking for consent works by checking in with the other person about the sexual activity you’re interested in doing. It will feel more comfortable if you put it into your own words.  Asking for consent can sound sexy and ensure that everyone is having a good time.

Here are some suggestions to help you get started:

  • “Would be okay with you if… ?”
  • “I’ve always wanted to try ___ what do you think?”
  • “This feels good for me, does it feel good for you?”
  • “Are you comfortable with this?”
  • “How do you feel about this?”
  • “Do you like this?”
  • “What are you comfortable with?”
  • “What do you like?”
What if they say no?
The truth is we are all told no at some point in our life.  It may not feel good if someone says no when we ask for consent, but it’s important to always respect their answer.  For any sexual activity to happen, both people need to consent, or say yes, willingly and freely. When it comes to consent only yes means yes.

I was sexually assaulted. What do I do?
If you have ever dealt with or are dealing with sexual assault it is never your fault and it can be important to talk to someone. The Klinic Sexual Assault Crisis Line is a great resource that people can call if they need to talk. It is open 24/7 and free to call from anywhere in Manitoba. Their phone number is 1-888-292-7565 or (204) 786-8631.