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In the age of #metoo, people seem to be left with more questions than answers, and among the most popular question I hear lately is “what is consent”?

Believe it or not, there is a lot of debate around consent lately, especially with the media circus highlighting the revolving door of accusations surrounding people in the public eye. But fear not, consent is actually very simple and I am going to (hopefully) make it even more clear and dispell some of the myths surrounding consent.

First thing’s first, and this is of utmost importance — consent is not about saying “no”, it is about saying “yes”. This is not up for debate. If someone doesn’t tell you to stop, it does not mean you are invited to keep going. Carrying out a sexual act without consent is what is called sexual assault.

According to the Criminal Code of Canada, sexual assault is any sexual activity without consent, regardless of whether there are physical injuries or a weapon used. [Calgary Communities Against Sexual Abuse (CCASA)]

A common myth surrounding the #metoo movement is the claim that victims may be lying about being sexually assaulted. Here is the truth about that one — only two to eight per cent of rapes are falsely reported, the same percentage as for other felonies. [1]

Even if you have a relationship with someone, consent is still required. Sexual assault is not about “stranger danger”, 86 per cent of sexual assault victims know their perpetrator. Also, a person under the influence of drugs or alcohol cannot consent to sex. Further to that, committing sexual assault while under the influence of drugs or alcohol does not excuse the crime.

If a person’s decision-making abilities are impaired by drugs or alcohol, they are not able to consent to sexual activities. Being under the influence of drugs or alcohol is not an excuse to commit a crime; a person is still responsible for their actions no matter how inebriated they are. [Calgary Sexual Health]

Consent is all about communication and that communication needs to happen every time. Giving consent to kiss is not giving permission to have sex. Having sex with someone is not giving permission to have sex every time. Another thing to note is that you can change your mind about consent at any time.

For more resources on consent and sexual assault, check out these resources:

[1] Rape Victim Advocates 

First, a shout out of gratitude to Susan Rochow, Registered Psychologist with Eckert Psychology and Education Centre, for being a guest facilitator!

Our meet-up conversation this month took us through three main topics:

Ongoing #MeToo coverage and its effects on us, what actions are taking place

At times it’s overwhelming and at times we need to learn how to “put it away” so that it doesn’t trigger us. Some suggested they have to compartmentalize the discussions or avoid listening to the news. Others commented that it has opened up the ability to talk about abuse and harassment more openly. Still others shared their frustration with the difference between all the talk, but question what we’re actually doing to create change.

Learn to be assertive. Many of us tend to be nice, use humour or avoid inappropriate comments. One question to ask is, “Why is okay for you to feel uncomfortable in those situations but it’s not okay for the other individual to be offended – or uncomfortable?”

Various reactions stem from fight or flight. We are either avoidant or aggressive. Assertive might look like this: “Hey buddy, I love you (depending on the situation!), but when you say or do that, it makes me really uncomfortable and I’d like it if you would not do/say that.”

For those who are frustrated with lack of action or ‘what next’, we were invited to reflect on the idea that what we do in our meet-ups IS part of the action.

Trauma impacts our triggers

Trauma changes the brain, whether it’s a brain injury from a car accident to surviving war, or an experience with physical or verbal abuse. The type of trauma doesn’t really matter.

We have pre-conscious memory, usually until we’re 4 or 5 years old. We’re learning more and more about kinaesthetic and emotional memory as well. While some of the words can sound big, it basically means that even though we may not remember consciously, trauma experienced in the womb or as a toddler impacts us and creates triggers we may not understand, even into adulthood.

The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel Van Der Kolk is a recommended read, to help us understand our brains and why we get stuck and feel like we’re on a hamster wheel in our trauma.

Self-Care

When asked what each of us do to look after ourselves, these were some suggestions*:

  • While you’re healing, release yourself from the responsibility of how others react or respond to you.
  • Peer support – like our meet-ups.
  • Structured sleep, pay attention to your sleep hygiene.
  • Nutmeg, turmeric/curcumin are good for relaxation, sleep enhancement, inflammation reduction.
  • EMPowerplus Formula (vitamin/mineral supplement). A few attendees knew what this was and use it – overall health formula. It is available at natural or health food stores, or online. We must include a disclaimer here, that we are not endorsing this product, just sharing the information from our meet-up.
  • Naturopath to discuss personal sensitivities and nutritional needs.

Check out this resource re: the container exercise we learned at the end of the evening. As many found it beneficial, you may want to try it, too!

Other Resources:

Safe Place Relaxation Techniques 

The Body Keeps the Score – by Bessel Van Der Kolk
Getting Past Your Past – by Francine Shapiro
The Haunted Self – by Der Hart Van (Author),‎ Ellert R Nijenhuis (Author),‎ K Steele (Author)
*These suggestions were expressed by those at the meet-up and are not necessarily an endorsement by BFF.
Next week we launch #BF4ME – a holistic approach to removing excuses and taking control of our healing journey! If you aren’t on our email list but would like to find out more, please sign up here.