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We shoulda had these 'consent' conversations a long time ago

Avital Norman Nathman is a freelance writer whose work places a feminist lens on a variety of topics, including motherhood, maternal health, gender, and reproductive rights. Her work has been featured in Bitch magazine,,...

The 12 things we really wish someone had told us about rape when we were younger

The media is yet again talking about rape because Brock Turner — another young, white, privileged college student — sexually assaulted an unconscious woman behind a dumpster. While it would be amazing if rape would just go away, the reality is that we live in a country where rape culture is real and very serious. So we wondered...

What do our daughters need to know about rape?

"Rape is never your fault. It doesn't matter what you were wearing, who you were with, what you were doing, how intoxicated you were. Rape is not about sex. Rape is about power — someone taking your autonomy away from you. There is never any excuse for that.

"It's OK that rape is hard to talk about. It's OK to get angry and upset about it. And if it happens to you, you have to do what's right for you. Everyone will say 'report it!' right away, and I wish you could, but the reality is that you can't always because of the prevalence of rape culture in our society. Universities threaten to expel you. A higher up will fire you. Our criminal justice system is corrupt and fails those it's meant to protect. But even given all of that, you are not alone. Report it if you can, tell a counselor or therapist or your parent or ombudsperson.

"We live in a world where you have to set physical and emotional boundaries with everyone, no matter how close. I hate that you have to do it, that you have to protect yourself. This is even true of friendships, because of it happens to you, there will be people who won't believe you, who blame you. There will be people who are cruel.

And finally, for every person who doesn't believe you or blames you, ten more stand by you. You are not alone." — Naseem Jamnia

"That it exists. So many young kids don't know it exists — and it's not always a stranger. I feel knowing is the important first step. Also, talk to them about consent and boundaries." — Gloria Malone

"Rape is sex you don't want to have. Period. Full stop. However that happens. Yeah, even if in the moment it's you 'choosing' not to say no because it seems like the fastest and safest way to get out of the situation.

"We do things to keep ourselves safe. That doesn't mean we're not being forced or manipulated into the choice. I trust you to know what you have to do to stay safe, whatever happens to you. And however you need to describe it to you or me later, I believe you." — Rowan Beckett Grigsby

More: It's not 'romance' when a 13-year-old boy gets raped

"Rape is real and rape is terrible. I hope that it never happens to you. My advice to you is to call out people who make jokes or comments that seem permissive of sexual violence. Call them out on it early. Make a stand. Because people that say those sorts of things need to be challenged. The culture that surrounds rape is toxic and ingrained so deeply that excising it is not going to happen in my lifetime. It may not even happen in yours. But when you change even one person's mind, that is a mighty thing. And when you stand with a group of humans who all know the truth that you know about the way in which society treats survivors and allows predators to walk free, the strength you will gather from those people and the safety that you will find will be priceless." — Seraphina Ferraro

"Rape doesn't need to be intercourse. You don't need to remember it. If you are coerced or forced into a sexual act, drunk or sober, it is rape. You are not consenting." — Danielle Corcione

"That they shouldn't do it. That if it's done to them, it's not their fault. That it's not something that happens to us, but something that is done to us. That I love them no matter what anyone does to them. That the only one ever responsible for rape is the rapist. That the only cause of rape is rapists. That any rape survivor's suffering is theirs, but it is not wholly unique. That there is help and healing to be found in others. That rapists exist in the world, but that we cannot live as though one is waiting to pounce around every corner. That we must all work together to build a culture in which the creation of rapists is minimized to the greatest extent possible." — Seranine Elliot

"Rape can occur in any dynamic. Sure, it can be a stranger, but it can also be a boyfriend, a girlfriend or a spouse. A wedding ring doesn't take away the label." — Shannon Luders-Manuel

"All women — from daughters to grandmothers and everyone in between — need to know that if their consent is ever disregarded, the fault rests squarely on the person who chose to violate their humanity. They also need to know that while slut shaming, judging and blaming victims is an easy psychological protection device ('She got raped because she wore that/went there/got too drunk, but that'll never happen to me because I don't wear things like that/go to places like that/get that drunk'), it will never keep them immune from sexual assault. All it will do is help to perpetuate damaging media misrepresentations and cultural conditions that allow rapists to continue committing their crimes with relative impunity. The only thing that will help keep women safe is our collective willingness to challenge and change rape culture through activism, organizing, writing, art, active solidarity to survivors, holistic consent education and accountability from perpetrators." — Jennifer Pozner

"People from every background commit rape. You can't spot a potential rapist on the basis of his appearance. It doesn't matter how nice he seems, how well-dressed he is, who his family and friends are or what his racial background is.

"Contrary to the letter submitted in support of the Stanford rapist by his female friend, there isn't such a thing as a rapist who is not a 'real' rapists. Rape is rape; rapists are rapists. Just like all rapes are 'legitimate rapes' (I'm looking at you, Todd Akin), all rapists are 'legitimate rapists.' Period.'" — Dr. Rebecca Hains, Salem State University

More: In what universe is it OK to slut-shame a teenage girl?

"They need to know that it should be discussed openly without shame or fear. It's important to demystify the crime in order to dismantle dangerous and destructive rape myths, huge perpetrators of broad inequalities." — Soraya Chemaly

"I believe our daughters need to know that changing the way they dress or act does not prevent rape. So much has been heaped upon them about what they could have changed — a short skirt, a different walk home, something they said to their acquaintance or friend. Let's change that mentality and focus our energy on educating men not to rape." — Dakota Kim

More: The 13 things we wish fathers were telling their sons

"You don't owe anyone anything. Not for a ride home. Not because your friend's date brought a friend who likes you. Not because you've been texting for days and they traveled all the way out here to see you and it's going to be a waste of their time; that is their fault, not yours. Not because you woke up with him on top of you already; unconsciousness is not consent. Drinking and smiling and kindness and clothing are not the word "yes" and misinterpretation is not your fault. You never owe anyone anything because of what you are wearing. Clothing can be a form of expression, but it is not a form of consent. A lot of people will believe that they are entitled to something from you, some kind of validation, whether it is a smile or a kiss or a phone number or your attention on the street or your body on a night when you don't want to give it, when you're exhausted: please believe me that you do not owe any part of yourself to anyone. You are entirely yours. Even if you feel that something of you has been taken, you are still wholly here. You are still entirely you. I am still here. I am still me. It wasn't my fault. Believe me. I believe you. It's not your fault." — Kait Burrier

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