As you may have heard Taylor Swift just won a sexual assault lawsuit against a former radio host for groping her at a meet-and-greet event in June 2013. This case and Swift’s victory is relevant for sexual assault victims in so many ways. Today we would like to use this case to address some important sexual violence factors for you to keep in mind while you’re in college.  

Why? Because college is a place where you will need to adapt to a new social life, requiring you to meet new people, make new friendships and maybe even romantic relationships. You will be exposed to a new environment, new ways of thinking and people with different cultural backgrounds, beliefs and personalities. The combination of all these factors can make anyone more vulnerable to interpersonal violence, including sexual assault.  

So what is defined as sexual assault? This term refers to any sexual contact or behavior that occurs without explicit consent of the victim. In Swift’s case, the ex-DJ grabbed her bottom after putting his hand under her skirt without her permission. Without her consent.  

The fact that Taylor Swift agreed to pose with David Mueller for a photo, didn’t mean she was agreeing for him to put his hand wherever he felt like it. Consent must never be assumed or implied. 

That is why you should always remember that regardless if you’re in a long term relationship, a brand new one or a casual date clear communication and respect is key to develop healthy interactions. Just because you are in a relationship or agreed to go on a date with someone doesn't mean that you always have consent to have sex or touch your partner. Intimate partner rape, date rape and acquaintance rape are the most common forms of rape. It's always okay to say “no” and it is okay to change your mind as well. Consent may be withdrawn at any time, and when it is withdrawn all sexual activity must stop immediately. 

You may feel that asking for consent to "make a move" makes the situation too formal. But it doesn’t need to be. It can be as simple as, “Is this OK with you?” Or it can be as hot, as creative, and as sexy as you want to make it! Whoever is the initiator should be the person asking for consent and it should be mutually agreed upon. Talking about sex with your partner is helpful and sexy. About how far you want to go. How fast or slow you want to go. What you like to do and you don’t like to do. You can try saying some of the following: 

  • I'd really like to hug / kiss / touch / ........... you. Would you like to?
  • Do you like it when I do this? Do you want to do it to me?
  • Is it OK if I take off my shirt / top / bra / pants ?
  • What would do you like me to do for you?
  • ·     I love it when you kiss / touch / ........ me there.

Another point we want to discuss is the nature of the perpetrator. Of course Taylor Swift did not expect someone groping her in the middle of her meet and greet, where she had a bodyguard with her and where she felt safe. But unfortunately, that is how most sexual assault crimes happen, in situations where the perpetrators often know the victim, not involving some stranger in the alley.   

With this we’re not saying that you shouldn’t trust anyone, but we just want to reaffirm the importance of clear communication and becoming an UPstander when you see something fishy happening to someone else.  

Lastly we want to acknowledge that Taylor Swift was awarded exactly $1 for her victory in civil court Monday, but the award could represent much more for victims of sexual assault. Swift's victory is a great demonstration to other victims that there is strength in coming forward and pursing justice. 

Swift’s trial even showed how some defense lawyers would try to undermine the credibility of victim but she refused to let that happen. At one point, rejecting an accusation that she had misidentified Mueller, she said: "I'm not going to allow you or your client to say I am to blame." At another moment, she said: "I know exactly who did this. It is not alleged. It is a fact.” 

According to RAINN, the largest anti-sexual violence organization in the United States, two out of three sexual assaults in the country go unreported. The top three reasons for people not doing so are fearing retaliation, not believing the police will help and considering it to be a "personal matter". RAINN reported that its national hotline saw a 35 percent increase in use from Friday to Monday, which is a good sign that victims feel comfortable coming forward.  

Changing the idea that sexual assault is associated with shame is also a positive result of the ruling for Swift’s case, because this kind of crime is never the victim’s fault.  

In closing, college will open the door to many new experiences and if we all work towards having respectful interactions we can help to create a safer campus for all.

 

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ADDITIONAL RESOURCES:
National Sexual Violence Resource Center
Rape Abuse Incest National Network (RAINN) National Sexual Assault Hotline
Rape Victim Advocates
National Latin@ Network
Black Women’s Blueprint
Immigration Advocates  Network
LGBT National Help Center
National Black Justice Coalition
Black Transmen Inc.
National Organization of Sisters of Color Ending Sexual Assault
TransWomen of Color Collective

 


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