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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 

This day started out like many of my other days in university except that it was the day before I was leaving to go home for Christmas break.

I had a class or two to attend in the morning and then I was going on my first date. Well, we really weren’t going anywhere. We were just going to watch a movie and hang out in my dorm room while I packed to go home. Nothing special but I was excited and so nervous. I didn’t date ever in high school so this was my first.

Everything was going great. We were talking, watching a movie and getting to know each other all while I was packing.  I am really unsure of when things took a turn for the worse but they did.

I still remember how he felt on top of me. I remember not being able to scream or yell as I sat there looking at my unlocked dorm room door. Once in the past someone had just walked into my room and I was hoping at that moment it would happen again. I can picture how he looked. There are certain aspects I remember about him including blonde hair and both of his nipples were pierced. I cannot for the life of me remember what his name was.

It was painful.  After all, this was not the way I planned on losing my virginity. I am not sure how long it lasted but it felt like years. He just got up off of me and walked out the door.

I slowly got up and gathered up my clothing.  I walked to the showers and washed up while I bawled my eyes out. I went back to my room, took off the bed sheets, packed the rest of my things and headed off to my parent’s house, about a four hour car drive.

Everything else was a blur. I just remember I felt differently. I wasn’t sure how to act and I felt like everyone would see it on me – what had happened. After a few days, my parents knew that something was wrong.  I remember my dad asking me if I had had sex and I lied and told him yes. I didn’t want him to know what had really happened. I will never forget his response. His words were, “Promise me you will never have sex again.” I guess being a father and only having girls will make you want to believe that they will be virgins for a very long time.

I went further and further into a deep hole as the days went on. I didn’t know how to handle anything. I shut myself into my bedroom. I became antisocial, depressed, lonely and lost. I had no idea what way was up or down or even how to handle myself. I had completely lost who I was and was becoming this person that no one recognized. I still kept it to myself.

The only way I knew how to handle myself was to find the comfort in other men. It wasn’t until I met my husband that I knew my life had to change. I wasn’t sure how to do it or where to even begin but I knew it needed to be done.

I remember bawling while being intimate with my husband (boyfriend at the time). We would have to stop and he would comfort me and tell me everything was okay. I felt alone, like no one knew what I was going through. He was the only person that truly knew what had happened to me.

It took me another nine years to truly begin to heal. I kept it locked inside believing that it was my fault. That I was somehow to blame for what had happened to me. I was ashamed to tell anyone including family and friends for the fear of judgement that I thought they would have of me.

It was in the fall of 2014, when we made a huge move and started over. Life felt different. It was a new beginning for us which meant a new beginning for me. I decided to take back my life. I now had two children (aged six and three) and they needed me to be 100 per cent me again. They needed me to teach them how to love themselves and that was impossible when I didn’t love myself.

I started my blog, BeYOUtiful Rewritten, to show the world my transformation.  To start truly believing that what happened to me wasn’t my fault and that there was no shame in it.  I decided to finally announce that I was raped. Show the world that what happened to me didn’t define me. It was an incident that happened in my past but I was overcoming it and becoming a stronger person day-by-day.

I don’t want any other woman to suffer for 11 years before they realize that it wasn’t their fault!

I want you to know that you are not alone. This does not define who you are.  In no way what happened to you is your fault. You are beautiful, courageous, loved and most importantly, stronger than you realize.

— Guest post submitted by Samantha Laycock (follow on Twitter)

Would you like to share your trauma healing story on our blog? Please submit it to us online

Sexual assault in the workplace is a serious issue, an issue that has garnered a lot of extra attention as of late, with many big companies facing allegations and investigations right now. The media has been all over big brands in the last couple of months, for the stories of sexual assault happening among their employees or in the workplace.

In any case of sexual assault, it’s important to remember that there’s nothing rare about it, it’s how companies react to these allegations that can brand them as leaders or part of the problem.

FACT: sexual assaults are extremely common, 460,000 sexual assaults happen every year in Canada. Of that number, 33 out of every 1,000 sexual assault cases are reported to the police. Perhaps more importantly, only 2-4% of reported sexual assaults are determined to be false reports.

In understanding the statistics, companies should realize that in the majority of cases, these are very legitimate claims and need to be taken very seriously. However, some companies jump into PR mode when a sexual assault claim arises, and go on the defensive instead of putting their energy where it can be most effective—in care and compassion for the victim.

Brands are worried about losing credibility, but in going on the defensive, they end up hurting their business even more, and the victim too. A perfect example of this misstep, is what happened to Uber this past month. After a huge BuzzFeed investigative story was posted, it was unveiled that 6,000 complaints involving sexual assault were filed against Uber. Instead of going the compassion route, Uber posted a very defensive open letter on Medium, which proved only to cause more scrutiny towards the company, and re-traumatized the immense number of victims.

“Our analysis for all of these results shows five tickets that allege an actual rape occurred (0.0000009% of rides in the three years from December 2012 to August 2015) and 170 tickets with a legitimate claim of sexual assault (1 in every 3.3 million trips).” [Uber on Medium]

Needless to say, the response to the public concern over the high number of complaints, led to some serious scrutiny by many.

So Uber apparently thinks it’s okay to defend itself by announcing that only 1 in every 3.3 million passengers is sexually assaulted? Even if that number was 1 in every 3 billion, it would be one too many. Uber has an obligation as a company to ensure the safety of its passengers and to use figures like this as a form of defense is an insult to everyone who has ever reported such an incident. [The Next Web]

So how should a company react when a sexual assault claim is brought against their business or an employee?

  • Assure the person bringing forth the complaint that the matter is being seriously looked into. Walk them through the process and what will happen next, and be sure to offer support both on a professional level and through required HR resources or third-party resources (therapy, crisis lines, etc.).
  • Consult with your HR department and upper management on how to proceed with the situation internally and externally. Be sure to inform staff of the process occurring and provide the necessary support, as trauma can have a ripple effect within a workplace. The Government of Canada has some great resources on responding to trauma in the workplace, we also have additional resources on this on our website here.
  • In many cases, an external communication plan will be needed. If you don’t have the resources in-house, consult with both an HR and PR representative on how to address the situation publicly and with compassion and information.

If your company does not offer insurance-covered therapy with a certified trauma specialist, please check out our Therapy Grant Program for any employees dealing with the trauma associated with sexual assault. You can follow us on Twitter for more resources.

— Written by Amber Craig [Twitter]