Thanks To A New Bill, If You Don't Verbally Say Yes, It's Rape
It was my last semester of my senior year of college and my very last Greek week. I was 21, and in an effort to protest having to participate in Greek week to begin with, I thought it was a good idea to start drinking heavily.
I proceeded to essentially drink my body weight in alcohol and blacked out long before the day ended. At some point, my sorority sister and I ended up at our friend’s fraternity house, and I was left with him in his room to sleep it off. I only have one memory from being in his room: a hazy thought of seeing him above me, but nothing more.
When I finally woke up, I knew something had happened, but I did not and still do not have any memories other than that brief flash. I found my sorority sister, and when I told her what I thought happened, she was shocked. This was our friend; he was my roommate's little bro, and someone we had always considered to be safe.
I reported it to the student health center and was tested and counseled, but never filed a police report with the school. I still regret not filing, but at the time, I didn’t feel like I could do anything about it; that anything I did do would really become a hunt into my own salacious history -- that was not something I wanted to experience.
I just wanted to graduate and move on. I didn’t really understand how investigations into sexual assault transpired, but the thought of it freaked me out.
A bill signed by Governor Jerry Brown would have made all the difference in the world for me during my senior year. This new piece of legislation will change the way college campuses in California prevent and investigate sexual assaults.
Under this new legislation, the definition of consent requires “an affirmative, conscious and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity.” Someone who is drunk or under the influence of drugs, unconscious or asleep now cannot legally consent to have sex.
Silence or lack of resistance does not grant consent to would-be attackers. A woman who is unconscious or under the influence is incapable of providing consent and that is not news to most people. However, for some men, if she doesn’t say “no,” they assume she means “yes.”
It’s a horrible and disgusting reality, and one I never truly believed to exist until it happened to me. This is a reality I hope will change with this new legislation.
My feelings on the matter are completely firsthand, and in my case, my attacker was a true predator.
My friends and I remember being at parties and him pointing at obviously intoxicated girls, saying, “Yeah, that girl is super drunk. I’m getting laid tonight.” I never took him seriously, and I am sure my friends didn’t, either. However, if he took advantage of me when I was unconscious, I am sure he did it to other women.
If I could go back, I would have reported it to the police. At least by coming forth as a victim, I could have done my part in protecting other women from becoming his victims, as well.
My biggest fear at the time was that since I had no memory of the event, maybe I did consent or somehow brought it on myself by being such a drunken mess.
I understand now that there was no way I could have consented to sex, and any decent man in a similar situation would never have proceeded or taken advantage of a woman while she was unconscious.
Nothing is more private than your body, and whether or not you choose to share your body with another individual is something all people should have control over.
I put myself in a horribly unsafe position -- I recognize that. However, being taken advantage of as I was is something that should never happen to anyone.
I think this piece of legislation is a powerful step toward protecting women and men throughout the state. I hope it will be used in the positive way it is meant to, and not as a way to trap or falsely accuse innocent individuals.
Rape is a very serious, prevalent issue. With one in six American women experiencing some form of sexual assault and 80 percent of those victims being under the age of 30, it is a very real experience for so many of us.
I can only hope this bill will be proactive in reducing the number of rape incidents on university campuses and throughout the state.
Photo Courtesy: We Heart It