Saying no

West Side Story Editorial Board believes it is vital that the student body is knowledgeable about consent and the consequences of sexual violence.



West High should be more knowledgable about consent.

Editorial Disclaimer: This is an editorial. While based on facts, its purpose is to share conclusions and opinions derived by the WSS Editorial Board.

Why did this happen to me? When can I be okay? What did I do to deserve this? These are only a few questions that survivors commonly ask themselves in response to sexual violence. With 51% of reported sexual abuse coming from teenagers, it is vital that students at West High understand and respect consent. 

Consent is the permission for something to happen or the agreement to do something. In regards to sexual situations, consent consists of two people agreeing they are comfortable with each other and are ready to proceed in a physical relationship. Learning what is and isn’t consent is important to your own and others’ well-being. 

What qualifies as consent during sexual activity? Consent must be freely and verbally communicated in an enthusiastic way. Anything less does not provide consent, no matter how people attempt to defend themselves. Someone intoxicated or incapacitated by drugs or alcohol can not give consent. Pressuring someone into sexual activity by using fear or intimidation is not consent. Using manipulative or guilt-tripping tactics is not consent.  If consent is given to one activity, it does not mean consent is given to another. Assuming you have permission to engage in a sexual act because you’ve done it in the past is not consent.

The widespread lack of knowledge creates a toxic culture surrounding the discussion of consent. When talking with friends or peers, the topic is often not taken seriously or with enough care. The phrase ‘believe the victim’ is normalized but we often don’t consider what it really means. Over time, some people even drop their support for a victim. They may say it was a mistake or say the assaulter would never do such a thing. In addition, people have irrational fears of fake reports, worrying that an accused’s life could be ruined from then on. However, these cases are extremely rare. Researchers from the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network agree that only 5% of all sexual assault reports are false. Yet, 80% of sexual violence cases go unreported, resulting in a greater culture of silence. 

The complex structure of the legal system only increases the difficulty in reporting cases. The lack of physical evidence is often an insufficient amount of proof for courts, and the principle of innocent until proven guilty can backfire on many victims. With this knowledge, many are terrified to go to the police, fearing the emotional toll on themselves.

Part of this emotional toll comes in the form of survivor’s guilt. The victim may blame themselves for not being clear, being too suggestive, seeming like they want it and not being able to stop it. Seventy-four percent of victims experience self-blame; however, it is the assaulter that is at fault for disregarding consistent communication with the victim and ignoring comfort and safety within the relationship.   

Practicing consent can prevent seriously harming another. It’s important to teach others the worth of consent and apply it to your own interactions. Consent should not be a choice and it is necessary for making everyone feel comfortable and safe.