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No doesn’t mean yes or maybe


When someone says, “No,” it doesn’t mean “yes” or “maybe.” It means emphatically, “No.” When a person is forced or manipulated into unwanted sexual activity without their consent – and this includes persons who are unable to give consent or not – that is sexual violence. “The absence of no is not a yes.”

            Consent means they are agreeable to it.

            Sexual assault can happen to anyone from the youngest to the eldest of people. Sometimes it is perpetrated by a stranger, but most often it is someone who is trusted, an acquaintance, a family member, someone with high standing in the community, perhaps. It includes:

  • Rape
  • Incest
  • Child sexual abuse
  • Intimate partner violence
  • Sexual exploitation
  • Human trafficking
  • Unwanted sexual contact
  • Sexual harassment
  • Exposure
  • Voyeurism

“Sexual violence impacts health in many ways and can lead to long-term physical and mental health problems,” says the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). “They are often fearful or anxious and may have problems trusting others. Anger and stress can lead to eating disorders, depression, and even suicidal thoughts.”

Some victims may speak up immediately. Others may never say anything to anyone. The horror of what they have experienced can affect the way they recall it. And it affects the people around them, too. White House data advise the economic costs per rape range between $87,000 and $240,776 per rape for medical services, criminal justice expenses, health service fees and the loss of contribution of the victim.

The National Sexual Violence Resource Center advises prevention is possible by focusing on the root causes and changing what cultures consider normal.

A child who has been abused may wet the bed, have stomach aches or headaches or sore genitals. The child may be fearful, sad, moody, act out, or refuse to be left alone with certain people. The child may show inappropriate sexual behavior with objects or other children. They also may have a not-age appropriate or developmentally appropriate knowledge about sexuality.

Girls are more likely to be sexually abused. Boys are more likely to die from their abuse. All children under the age of 17 can be sexually abused. Those between 14 and 17 reportedly are the most likely to be abused.

Everyone can help. An engaged bystander is someone who steps in when they see or hear behaviors that promote sexual violence. They help to create a safer environment.

“Engaged bystanders help create healthy communities and help others build safe and respectful environments by discouraging victim blaming, changing social norms that accept sexual violence and shifting the responsibility to prevent sexual violence to all community members,” advises NSVRC.

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