The absence of a ‘no’ is not enough: why we need to talk about sexual consent - Centacare Brisbane

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Latest News & Updates

During Sexual Violence Awareness Month, Centacare is working with local communities to increase awareness and education around sexual consent.

In July this year, the Queensland Government introduced draft laws proposing changes to the definition of consent. Under the changes, the law will expressly state that a person cannot be thought to give consent just because they do not say “no”.

There were 4,859 recorded victims of sexual assault in Queensland last year. Almost one quarter of victims were aged between 15 and 19 years.

Centacare Family and Relationships Services Director Di Swan said that sexual violence is absolutely something that can be prevented.

“As a community, we don’t always provide young people with information about sexual consent and negotiating romantic or sexual relationships as part of sex education,” said Ms Swan. “Doing so has the potential to contribute to the prevention of sexual violence.

“While it may be awkward or embarrassing to talk with young people about sex and relationships, research shows how important it is to initiate discussions about ethical and respectful relationships from a young age. This gives young people the skills to discuss, negotiate and articulate their own sexual boundaries and to respect those of others.

Burnett Today Managing Director Daniel Pelcl said the newspaper was pleased to support Centacare by publishing a five-part education series covering various aspects of sexual violence.

“Sexual violence is something we can help reduce by increasing our awareness and understanding of what sexual violence is and that everyone has a part to play in doing this,” said Mr Pelcl.

The following information is taken from Week Four of Centacare’s five part series on sexual violence, published in Burnett Today.

What is sexual consent?

Sexual consent is an agreement to participate in a sexual activity. Sex, sexual exploration and intimacy without consent is sexual assault, rape and a crime. Consenting and asking for consent is all about setting your personal boundaries and respecting those of your partner and checking in if things aren’t clear.

It’s important to ensure that the person you’re with is happy and comfortable, because non-consensual sexual activity (anything from touching, kissing to penetration) is against the law. The emotional consequences of non-consensual sexual activity can last a lifetime.

Sexual consent needs to be:

  • Freely given – implied or coerced “consent” isn’t real consent
  • Reversible – can be withdrawn at any time
  • Informed – consent requires knowing what’s going on
  • Willing – it must be yes, not maybe
  • Specific – consenting to one thing does not mean yes to other things.

No one can give sexual consent if:

  • they are under the age of 16
  • they are asleep or unconscious
  • they have been threatened, intimidated or coerced
  • they are incapacitated by drugs or alcohol
  • a person in authority is misusing the trust inherent in their position
  • they change their mind — earlier consent doesn’t count as consent later
  • their wishes or nonverbal cues to stop (like pushing away) are ignored
  • they have consented for one sexual act, but not another sexual act
  • they are pressured to say yes
  • their capacity to consent may be inhibited due to a learning disability or mental health issue.

 How do you know if you have consent?

  • ask yourself if the other person is capable of giving consent
  • ask questions such as ‘Are you comfortable with me doing this?’, ‘Do you want me to stop?’, ‘Do you want to have sex or would you like to wait?’
  • check with the other person before you start a new type of sexual activity
  • look at their body language and facial expression to see if they are willing and comfortable
  • if the other person seems unhappy, or you are not sure that they are consenting, stop.
  • silence, or the absence of a “no”, does not guarantee that somebody is consenting
  • a clear, affirmative and freely-given “yes” indicates consent.

If you have experienced sexual violence, support is available

If you have experienced sexual violence, it is important to remember that it is not your fault.

Centacare Family and Relationship Services offer a safe and supportive space for those impacted by sexual violence. We can help you develop strategies to manage the impact of violence on your life.

To find out more about how we can support you, call us on 4162 5439.

Should you or someone you know be in immediate danger please call 000.