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What does the term “consent” mean?


Consent is an essential part of maintaining boundaries and respecting another’s person’s decision. Giving consent is about being informed, reserving the right to say ‘no’, and knowing you have choices. Talking about consent isn’t just limited to dating or personal relationships. Consent is a part of our daily lives in what we choose to share, how we express our wants and needs, as well as what we communicate to others our limits from what we can handle to what we find unacceptable.

Consent is defined differently within each state in the U.S. when it comes to relationships. The main goal in teaching consent, especially in middle and high school, is to reduce sexual violence and harassment to address unacceptable behavior head on. Columbia University researcher John Santilli recently conducted a study which found that teaching what he termed “refusal skills” in high school had the potential to cut chances of sexual assault in college by nearly half. This statistic is encouraging especially as additional research has found that children and young adults are at a risk for assault long before they enter into adulthood.

The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey Report found that 1 in 5 females and 1 in 7 males who have experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner first experienced some form of intimate violence between the ages of 11 and 17 years old. These first experiences with violence can come from not only intimacy but from witnessing relationships within the dynamic of their family, domestic violence in the home, or perpetuating abuse from external sources such as media or culture at large. Adolescent girls experiencing dating violence often are more likely to demonstrate mental health or behavioral risks such as substance abuse, an increased chance for suicide, exhibit eating disorders, or irresponsible sexual tendencies.

Many of the same rules for consent are applicable outside of a dating or intimate relationship, such as consent to providing data or personal information like financial information when making a purchase or disclosing records that contain private details an individual has a right to limit access to. With consent playing a major role throughout society it is easy to teach consent at any age, with appropriate points to highlight depending on a child’s level of maturity.

8 general rules for consent

  1. Consent should always be given freely and voluntarily
  2. ‘No’ always means ‘no’ whether it is verbal or non-verbal
  3. Receiving a ‘yes’ response after being coerced does not demonstrate consent
  4. A ‘yes’ received should always be positive, enthusiastic, and affirm that the person being asked for consent has an understanding of the question being posited
  5. For consent to occur, there must be an opportunity given to them to say ‘no’
  6. Consent to be withdrawn at any time and it’s okay for people to change their mind
  7. Consent is ongoing. Just because something is agreed to one day doesn’t mean that it is okay to assume consent will be given tomorrow
  8. Silence or not responding is not consent

How do you manage student well-being concerns?

Impero EdAware helps to manage concerns involving an absence of consent or when personal boundaries are not respected. Whether the circumstances involve harassment, dating violence, abuse, inappropriate behavior or a side effect from a trauma where consent was not given Impero EdAware helps gather teams around a child to support their well-being. Through ease of communication to raise attention for an incident with senior administrators, keep records for potential legal disputes, and tracking the mental health of survivors in their process of recover. Impero EdAware works to provide resources to handle each incident with care and compassion when needed most.

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