When can no “no” = yes?

When someone does not clearly communicate a lack of consent to sexual acts. At least under the law, according to the King County Prosecutor’s Office.

I don’t closely follow sports, but you’d have to be living under a rock in Seattle to miss the story of UW basketball star player Venoy Overton allegedly providing alcohol to two 16 year old girls and engaging in sexual acts with them. 

You can read the Seattle Times’ story of his arrest for providing alcohol here: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2014433742_overton09m.html. Please note that he has not been charged with sexual assault, because:

King County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Carol Spoor called the case “highly problematic” because the girl participated in sex acts under “situational pressure.”

State law, Spoor wrote, “places the burden on the victim to clearly communicate a lack of consent to the suspect, which she did not do.”

Most of the articles on this incident focus on the loss to the team of this player, at least for the Pac-10 tournament.  However, UW basketball coach Lorenzo Romar is quoted as saying he’d put Overton back on the team roster should they be invited to the NCAA tournament (otherwise known as “March Madness”).  Because his guy made a mistake, and this is a teachable moment.

As a teacher, I’m all for the teachable moment. Some mistakes, however, are more far-reaching than are others, and I am also all for appropriate consequences. For the girl who feels coerced, this experience will likely be deeper and longer-lasting than any repercussions felt by either the Huskies or Overton.

Every teenager and young adult will face “situational pressure.”  (Heck, EVERY person will face situational pressure, over and over, in their lifetimes.)  These instances can feel like being stuck between a rock and a hard place: the choice often seems to be between going along with the group or not having friends. How do we help young people recognize what they want for themselves, honor that, and still live fulfilling social lives? 
This should be a teachable moment for young people, male and female, about consent.  But we won’t be seeing that in the sports pages — or any other media pages — anytime soon. Sexual assault is the social-issue wolf disguised in the individual-sheep’s-problem clothing.

Madness, indeed, is not limited to March.

PS – Learning to assert boundaries is sadly lacking in too many teen girls today. This kind of sensible savvy is practiced in Strategic Living’s For Teen Girls Only Self Defense classes. Next session will be April 2 in Burlington WA, and then April 9 in Seattle on the UW campus.

When we talk about date rape in my self-defense classes, I usually begin thusly:

Once upon a time, in a galaxy not at all far away, conventional wisdom said that rape was committed by lonely, horny guys.  Such a guy would encounter a woman who dressed a bit too provocatively and acted a tad too flirtatiously, and “lead him on.”  So of course he couldn’t control himself and whoops! his penis fell into her.

Little did I know that a judge in Manitoba was telling the same story! Except that Judge Robert Dewar was taking this tale literally when he declined to give a convicted rapist any jail time (the prosecution asked for 3 years incarceration).  Why?  Because he felt that “sex was in the air” at the moment and whoops! the poor guy couldn’t control it.

Read the article here:  http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/breakingnews/rape-victim-inviting-so-no-jail–rape-victim-inviting-so-no-jail-116801578.html

This article is a pretty good example of how sleight-of-mouth can downplay the gravity of the offense.  For instance, defense attorney Derek Coggan stated that his client was just “insensitive to the fact that [the victim] was not a willing participant” in that night’s sexual intercourse. After all, no force was used, no weapon shown, and they were both drinking.

Last I checked, rape was defined as sexual penetration where one party is not a willing participant.  Being an “insensitive guy” isn’t a crime.  But being a rapist is.

The defendant will, however, have to write a letter of apology to the victim. Whew!  I was beginning to worry.

All women may be at risk of sexual assault, but risk is not evenly distributed across the ages. Younger women are at higher risk, with those ages 17-24 and in college at the peak of peril.

Among the several reasons that younger women are at higher risk is that they are more often more trusting, and more easily misled. So when I read this article on why some* men in their late 30s/40s say they prefer to date younger women, the similarities were quite impressive. Each respondent phrased their answers more agreeably, but each one came down to “because younger women are easier to control.”

Some select quotes, and my interpretations:

They don’t (yet) have a laundry list of what they want in a partner, in a career, in a life. . . . I think that kind of attitude appeals to thirty-something guys who want a relationship to really be on our terms.

Interpretation: Because she doesn’t have strong opinions of her own (or I can safely ignore them and she’ll go along), I get to call the shots.

They tend to be untainted by experiences that have hardened older women. Like when a woman’s been lied to a lot after years of dating, she always thinks you’re lying to her. And that’s a turnoff. Younger women are less cynical and that’s a big draw.

Interpretation: I can get away with lying to her.

She’s interested in the here and now, in going out, in having fun. It may sound like a cliché, but it’s reality. I’m not anti-marriage, I’m just anti-agenda.

Interpretation: I’m not really anti-agenda, I’m for my own agenda and only my agenda.

You can play ‘cruise director’—show her all your secret favorite places that she probably hasn’t experienced yet. They’re easier to impress and very willing to be escorted around.

Interpretation: I get to call the shots.

In short, it’s all about the power.

And that is the connection with sexual assault. I’m not asserting that the guys interviewed for this article are rapists, not at all. What I am saying is that there’s a LOT of overlap in what these middle-aged men were looking for and what most serial acquaintance rapists are looking for. So if you are a young female, and find that you’re attracting attention from somewhat older men who are happy to take control (however they care to phrase it), please give some thought to your own desires and plans (your “agenda”), and how you express them.

Nobody will give you power and control over your own life. You just have to take it.

These critical life lessons are covered in Self Defense 101 as well as the intensive Self Defense Weekend Workshop.

*This definitely un-scientific survey reflects the views of only a small group of men specifically selected to make a point (and a pseudo-news story), and is not intended to make global assertions about Mankind.

Not much is life is covered by a real guarantee, especially when it involves violence and assault.  These tips, however, if diligently followed by would-be perpetrators, WILL WORK!

I’ve read variations of this now on several sites, including Girl with Pen (who attributes authorship to Colleen Jameson) and The Huffington Post’s Ellen Snortland (whose book Beauty Bites Beast is THE “why-to”book of self-defense). 

Sexual Assault Prevention Tips Guaranteed to Work!

1. Don’t put drugs in people’s drinks in order to control their behavior.

2. When you see someone walking by themselves, leave them alone!

3. If you pull over to help someone with car problems, remember not to assault them!

4. NEVER open an unlocked door or window uninvited.

5. If you are in an elevator and someone else gets in, DON’T ASSAULT THEM!

6. Remember, people go to laundry to do their laundry, do not attempt to molest someone who is alone in a laundry room.

7. USE THE BUDDY SYSTEM! If you are not able to stop yourself from assaulting people, ask a friend to stay with you while you are in public.

8. Always be honest with people! Don’t pretend to be a caring friend in order to gain the trust of someone you want to assault. Consider telling them you plan to assault them. If you don’t communicate your intentions, the other person may take that as a sign that you do not plan to rape them.

9. Don’t forget: you can’t have sex with someone unless they are awake!

10. Carry a whistle! If you are worried you might assault someone “on accident” you can hand it to the person you are with, so they can blow it if you do.

And, ALWAYS REMEMBER: if you didn’t ask permission and then respect the answer the first time, you are commiting a crime- no matter how “into it” others appear to be.