October is the month of frights. We spend time decorating our homes with caution tape, webs, and danger signs, surround ourselves with scary movies, and finding the perfect costume to disguise ourselves. The mysticism that surrounds us this month is reminiscent of a wide scale problem we often shy away from talking about. This October, as we recognize Relationship Violence Awareness Month, I ask you to take the mask off of domestic and interpersonal violence, so we can have an honest conversation about something that is truly terrifying.
The Centers for Disease Control reported that with every minute that goes by, 24 people are victims to sexual assault, domestic violence, and stalking. Unfortunately, most of these cases are not reported. As a society we have formed a collective silence over domestic abuse and intimate partner violence. High profile cases, like that of NFL’s Ray Rice, paint a single view of relationship violence and put further blame on the victim. Instead of asking why he hit her, much of the focus shifted to why his partner, Janay Palmer, didn’t leave.
As a Master’s of Public Health (MPH) student at UNC-Chapel Hill, I had the great pleasure of being able to work with the Center, a team of my peers, and UNC faculty advisors to evaluate some of the Center’s school-based prevention programs. Instead of a thesis, the MPH program requires students to do year-long Capstone projects with local organizations, and five of us chose to work with the Center.
I was excited to be able to do my Capstone project on sexual violence prevention because I’d been interested in the field for a long time, but I hadn’t had the opportunity to work with a rape crisis center before. I was also really excited about the project itself: we evaluated the fourth and fifth grade Safe Touch programs, which focus on bystander intervention and cyber- and sexual bullying, as well as the seventh grade Start Strong program, which focuses on addressing gender stereotypes, differentiating between flirting and sexual harassment, and bystander intervention.
Consent is the voluntary, informed, mutual, honest, and verbal agreement exchanged amongst individuals. The only way to know if another individual has given consent is if they explicitly say so. Consent cannot be given if coercion, manipulation, threats, intimidation, pressure, or alcohol or drugs have been involved. Asking for and obtaining consent shows that you have respect for both yourself and your partner.
Speaking of consent, come out to Local 506 on Saturday, November 22, for ONE LINE: Consent Dance Party. We’ll celebrate consent at a fun dance party with Lady DJs Fifi Hi-Hi, Playplay, and Queen Plz.
And in other consent-themed news, check out this awesome campaign from UNC students, Sex Equality Consent. They asked students what consent means and why it matters. Here are a few answers! Check out their Facebook page for more.