Consent: Yes Means Yes

The reality of sexual assault is that it’s not what most people think.

This mother sent her daughter off to the University of Utah with all the tools she knew to give her, but in the middle of her freshman year that young woman says she was raped by a friend. They've asked us to hide their identity, but this family is sharing their story, hoping they can keep another student from going through the same painful experience.

When you talk to this mother you can feel her heartbreak.

"She can never get her safety back or feel completely safe," the mother said.

All she ever wanted was to protect her child but she says her daughter's trust was stolen from her. To protect her identity, we’re calling this young woman Jane.

"It started with when I went to an event with my sorority," Jane said.

She said after she came home from that event she got a text from a friend. He was upset about a break-up so she told him he could come over and talk. When he got there Jane said he was drunk and aggressive. Within minutes she said he was pressuring her to have sex.  Something she says eventually happened against her will.

"I got a phone call about 3:30 a-m from my daughter, and she said mommy help me," Jane’s mom said.

Jane said she called her mom just 9 minutes after the boy left her dorm room.

"It was kind of, I know I kind of just broke down. Like I freaked out, because I told him that I didn't want to have sex with him. I called my mom and she drove down from Layton to the university to come take me to the emergency room," Jane said.

Good4 Utah got copies of Jane’s complaint to the school and university police. A rape kit was done and police were called. Jane and her mom say those few hours were a whirlwind.

"I think she was so traumatized she didn't know exactly what to do and I honestly had no idea what to do either at that point," Jane’s mom said.

According to documents, the schools title nine office began an investigation, so did police.

"I think I was still in shock for months afterwards," Jane explained.

The university found enough cause to remove the young man from campus but the district attorney didn't have enough evidence to prosecute a criminal case. We talked to Blake Nakamura in the Salt Lake County District Attorney's office to find out why.

“The biggest issue that comes up almost in every single one at some point is whether it was done consensually or not," Nakamura said.

According to the report by the university, Jane told the boy “no.”

"This person admitted that she said no multiple times." Jane’s mom said.

But the boy also claimed, Jane’s body language said something different.

“In the course of these investigations, it's a combination often of the verbal and nonverbal that becomes very problematic," Nakamura said

Jane said she hasn't been the same since the incident.

So if a situation like this is not prosecutable, what can we do? Experts say it comes down to knowing personal boundaries before it goes too far.

"So not waiting for someone to say no or push you away but asking ahead of time, is this ok? Do you enjoy this? Are you comfortable with this?" said Alana Kindness with the Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault (UCASA.)

"The guys should just go for it and it was up to the girls to put the brakes on," Kindness said.

And if we don't talk to our kids about consent, she said what they see online, on TV and in movies could end up being their teacher.

"It gives that very harmful message that girls don't really mean what they're saying," Kindness said.

But how do you begin to have a conversation with your kids about healthy relationships?

Kindness said, “I think there's so many ways we can do that it's never going to just be one conversation.”

And it doesn't have to be that topic many parents dread.

"There are very fundamental conversations and then I think you build from there," Kindness explained.

The talks should start when your child is still very young. Psychotherapist, Lisa McCrohan agrees. She's broken it down into 5 things you can start doing with your child today.

First, teach by example. Begin asking your child for consent.

“It’s everyone's responsibility to be proactive to be aware of the impact our behavior is having on somebody else,” Kindness said.

It's as simple as changing the statement "give me a hug" into a question... "Can I give you a hug?" let them make the decision.

Second, teach them that their "no" matters. If they tell you no, or that they are uncomfortable with something honor their feelings.

Third, let your child know, in any circumstance, their "yes" can become a "no" if they're no longer comfortable with what's going on.

“It’s reminding them that they are in charge of their bodies,” Kindness said.

From a game of tag to a conversation, when a child becomes uncomfortable, Kindness says, they should express that immediately.

If they do become uncomfortable with something, move to the fourth step, seek to understand why. This lets a child know their voice and their feelings matter.

"Just really empowering them and strengthening them and giving them self confidence," Kindness said.

Fifth and final step, keep their regard top of mind. Children want you to listen to them and respect them. When you do, they'll learn that behavior and use it in their own life experiences.

All 5 steps Kindness says, you can start right now. Jane's mom says she hopes parents will.

"What I hope is that parents understand, when they send their children to school they need to make sure they are completely prepared,” she said.

Not just with pepper spray and self defense but knowledge and the confidence to stand their ground.

The big take away from experts is this; teach your child, boy or girl, their body matters, their boundaries matter, they matter. Make sure your child understands how their actions affect others. Make sure they can recognize when someone is uncomfortable, and if that happens address it.

This piece originally appeared on good4utah.com. Click here to read the original article.


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