April 2021 is the 20th anniversary of Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month, and our attorneys at Robert Peirce & Associates, P.C. are joining in on the national conversation about the importance of consent and boundaries, as well as how they are integral to cultivating healthy relationships and preventing sexual assault.
What Is Sexual Assault?
Sexual assault is a term that encompasses several forms of nonconsensual sexual acts, such as:
- Unwanted sexual touching
- Forced sexual acts and penetration
- Attempted rape
According to RAINN, sexual assault is so prevalent in the United States that it happens once every 73 seconds. What’s worse is that assault is often normalized to the point that survivors are blamed for what happened. It cannot be stressed enough that survivors are never responsible for suffering assault; it is always the perpetrator who should be held accountable.
The Question of Consent
Consent is an affirmative agreement to engage in a sexual encounter or act.
For years, “No means no” was the phrase used to teach consent, but this phrase left room for perpetrators to claim that a victim was “crying rape” because they did not explicitly say no to a sexual act. As such, consent is now taught in terms of “Yes means yes,” a phrase that recognizes the nuances of different types of sexual violence.
It is important to note that people under the age of consent (16 years old in Pennsylvania) cannot give consent for sexual acts. Similarly, people who are asleep, unconscious, and/or under the influence of alcohol/drugs are not able to give consent.
Sexual harassment, abuse, and assault awareness initiatives often stress the importance of establishing personal boundaries, or personal rules. Boundaries are not only reserved for intimate relationships but apply to all relationships in life, such as with your friends, family members, roommates, coworkers, and acquaintances.
Many people may feel as though it is awkward to discuss boundaries with people they know, but most times, it is possible to determine a person’s boundaries by asking for consent. For example, do not assume that it is okay to hug your friends as a greeting. Instead, ask for consent: “It’s great to see you! Do you mind if I give you a hug?” If they say no, do not be offended; respect their boundaries. And remember, just because you obtained their consent to hug them once does not mean you have their consent to hug them every time after that. Ask for consent every time.
It is easy to see how both asking for consent and respecting boundaries apply to sexual behavior and contact. Clearly and directly obtain your partner’s consent before doing anything intimate, including kissing. Moreover, make sure to check in regularly, as everyone has the right to withdraw consent and change their boundaries at any time.
About Robert Peirce & Associates, P.C.
At Robert Peirce & Associates, P.C., our acclaimed attorney team has helped countless Pittsburgh residents successfully navigate the civil justice system after suffering sexual abuse and assault. If you or someone you love has been harmed, we want to help. We will stand by your side at every step of the process and provide caring counsel to address all your concerns.
Call (844) 383-0565 or fill out an online form to book a free consultation with a Pittsburgh lawyer.