Saying “No”: It’s Harder Than It Sounds

Dear Trish,

I went to Take Back the Night with some friends last week. I mainly went to be supportive but ended up realizing that I was sexually assaulted just like many of the people that got up and spoke. The assault happened during my freshman year after a night out with some friends. I didn’t think it was sexual assault because I had been drinking and went home with this guy that I had made out with a few weeks before. I thought that we would just mess around but not have sex. I told him ahead of time that I didn’t want to take my clothes off. I was surprised when it got to that point anyway. I didn’t feel like I could say “no,” so I didn’t. I guess I just froze. I felt responsible and ashamed. The shame has been eating at me for two years now. Was this a sexual assault?

Am I A Victim Too?

Trish says,

Saying “no” to sex can be hard, especially if you feel pressured by someone you really like. By the definition of consent, your experience does fall under the description of a sexual assault. If you are under the influence of substances, the law states that you cannot legally give consent. Because you told the guy ahead of time that you did not want to have sex, that should have been enough. Coercing someone or putting them in a situation where they don’t feel like they can say “no” is considered sexual assault. A person’s silence should not be considered consent. Silence or an absence of resistance does not imply consent. One must clearly agree to engage in sexual activity.

Effective consent is informed, freely and actively given. It comes about by using mutually understandable words or actions that indicate a willingness to participate in mutually agreed upon sexual activity. Consent for one sexual act is not consent for all sexual acts. Because an individual gave consent to a person on one occasion does not constitute permission for every occasion. Consent must be given in each incidence. Consent is not effective if it results from the use of threats, force, intimidation, coercion, incapacitation or a minor under the age of eighteen.

I’m so sorry that this happened to you, and I want you to know that Loras College has some policies in place that can help you going forward. There are also many resources on campus that can provide confidential help including Safety and Security, Health and Counseling Services, Campus Ministry and The Office of Student Development.

The Loras College student handbook outlines the policies and procedures of Title IX. Title IX states that: “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

If you have been the victim of sexual misconduct, or know of someone who has been a victim, Loras encourages you to report the incident. Incidents may be reported to any faculty or staff person on campus, including Resident Assistants. Any report of sexual misconduct, including non-consensual or forced intercourse, incapacitated sex, sexual exploitation, sexual harassment, relationship violence, stalking and verbal assault, will arrive at either the Safety and Security Office on campus, the Director of Student Life or the Title IV Coordinator for Loras College.

Unfortunately, the statistics for sexual assaults on college campuses are way too high. Thank you for sharing your story and making it easier for others to do the same. Please know that help is available and encouraged.


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