It’s All About Consent!
People with disabilities are 3 times more likely to be sexually assaulted than people without disabilities. (disabilityjustice.org) The statistics are devasting. There are things we can do to change these numbers and help create safer communities for all people. Teaching about consent is one powerful thing. Here are some of the basics to share with people in your life with disabilities.
Consent is everything! But what does it mean?
Consent means to agree to something. We use this word especially when we are talking about our bodies. Consent is about relationships between bodies. Consent is giving your permission or not giving permission.
Consent means you are in charge of your body. Your body is yours! You get to decide what happens to it. You get to set your own boundaries.
Boundaries are limits about what you are comfortable or not comfortable with. For example, you might be comfortable hugging a close friend, but you might not be comfortable hugging people you don’t know. That’s a boundary. You either consent to a hug or you don’t consent to a hug- it’s your choice, based on your boundaries. If you are unsure, pay attention to your body’s responses which could be, increased heartrate, sweating or upset stomach. That could be your bodies way of saying something is not right for you right now, and it’s better to say no, to not give consent. Better to be on the safe side.
It’s ok to say ‘No’ to unwanted touch. It’s your right to say ‘No’ when it comes to your body. Saying ‘No’ to touch or attention means you do not consent. If another person tries to force you, or if you are afraid, that is not consent. And you can not consent if under the influence of drugs or alcohol. If someone does try to touch you without your consent, you can say ‘NO’ loudly, or you can run away. In both cases, it’s important to tell a trusted adult. It’s also important to get consent from others, because everyone is in charge of their own body. For instance, if you want to hug somebody, ask first. Consent goes both ways.
To be clear: Yes means Yes, No means No. Anything other than an enthusiastic Yes, means a positive No!
It’s ok to change your mind when it comes to consent! You can give consent or agree to hugging one day and then decide the next day that you don’t want to hug. You have a right to say ‘no’ to something and then decide you actually would like to do it, so change your mind and say ‘yes’. We have to keep checking in about consent because people can change their minds about consent.
Lastly, the good news is -we can practice consent and get better at it. Practice saying ‘No’ loudly and clearly. Practice saying ‘Yes’ loudly and clearly. Practice asking others before touching them in anyway. Practice asking for consent even with the small things like: Would you like to play this game? Can I sit next to you? Do you want to hold my hand?
You are in charge of your body! No one has a right to do anything to your body that you don’t consent to. And everyone is in charge of their own bodies!
1. Consent (For Kids), Boundaries, Respect, and Being in Charge of You. Rachel Brian