From the moment the opportunity to interview Jasmin Enriquez came up, I knew I had to be involved. Jasmin, who grew up in Southern California, is the founder of the non-profit organization Only With Consent. And after speaking to Jasmin, I realized how much we have in common as fellow survivors who are both working to spread awareness of sexual assault.
During high school, Jasmin was raped by someone that she thought loved her. She did not understand what had happened. She knew that she felt disgusting; that something felt wrong “in her bones,” but she didn’t know why. She couldn’t speak to anyone about it, fearing she had broken her Catholic values by “having sex before marriage” – which of course, was not the case.
“I never imagined I would be raped. I thought that happened to people who were walking down the street, not something that could happen by someone who loved you.”
Years later, in college, she was raped by yet another man she believed cared for her. It wasn’t until Jasmin was in a class on the subject, at age 18, that she realized what both of her experiences were. Jasmin had lived through years of confusion, disgust, not even wanting to look in the mirror before she realized that there was a word for what had happened to her: rape.
I had a similar experience, not realizing for months what had actually happened to me. Over the phone, Jasmin and I wondered about how many other people were out there who had been raped and did not even know it. Women and men who feel a sense of self-loathing and confusion over their experience, with no understanding as to why they feel this way.
And this is where Only With Consent comes in.
Jasmin started Only With Consent in college “by accident,” with Jasmin just wanting to get more people to talk about sexual assault. After a while, she finally got a response from her Student Government, and this is when she had the idea to start a club. The club started working with the student government to raise awareness and improve education about sexual assault and consent on campus.
Upon graduating, Jasmin had put so much work into the organization that she couldn’t give it up. So she decided to turn it into a non-profit organization in 2014. The long-term goal of Only With Consent is to create a system that educates people on consent, from infancy to adulthood.
“I want to teach about consent in schools and reinforce it in the community. I want it to be a conversation. I want people to become passionate about asking their partner for consent.”
She wants to raise children with an understanding of their own bodily anatomy, teach them age-appropriate consent education, and teach parents how to talk to their kids about consent. She wants consent education to begin at infancy, continue all the way through high school, through college, and even in the workplace.
“It’s a problem most people don’t understand or talk about openly. I think it’s necessary that everyone get an education about consent, regardless of age, background, anything. The best case scenario is that we educate every single person about consent.”
Currently, Only With Consent, which Jasmin runs with her husband Mike, works with universities, teaching workshops and doing talks. They also work with local community centers and have taken part in major public events like Comic Con and San Diego Pride.
The response has been positive. “Most people said they wish they’d had this message when they were younger.”
Below are highlights from my conversation with Jasmin.
What advice would you give survivors who are struggling to cope?
“The most helpful thing for me personally is trying to remind myself to have self-compassion along the way.” She encourages people to find things that heal them. For Jasmin, cooking is very therapeutic. She also suggests therapy if you wish, or talking to someone in your community – “just talking with somebody helps.”
How did you end up on stage with Lady Gaga at the Oscars?
“I was interviewed for the documentary The Hunting Ground, and when the Oscars were approaching, the team reached out to us to ask if we wanted to take part. The community on The Hunting Ground stayed in touch after the making of the film, supporting each other and thinking of ways to help the community.”
What was the main thing you took from that experience?
“That there are so many people who have a story. It was one of first times I felt not alone in what I was going through, in a public space, and I hoped that through that, other people realized that they’re not alone and that there’s a community out there that supports them too.”
Any advice for survivors who want to heal through some sort of expression, like Only With Consent, or through something artistic?
“Just start with whatever feels right for you. Take it one day at a time. If it feels like something that’ll be big, cool, but even if it’s just something creative, a form of expression for you. Starting somewhere. Start where you feel moved and it’ll grow as you express yourself, you might share it with friends or community. Just do what feels right – when I share my story I feel like I’m connecting to others, I always remind myself that I’m doing Only With Consent to help myself and help others along the way.”
Do you suggest that survivors speak out about their experience as a way of healing?
“Do whatever feels right for you. Some people can’t speak out for different reasons. Most importantly I want them to know they’re not alone and it’s not their fault. I wouldn’t say there’s a right or wrong way to go about it…We are in a community together and we all want to see each other be ok and succeed.”
Born This Way Foundation works to promote and recognize bravery and kindness. Any final words on these themes?
Bravery: “To anyone who has experienced sexual assault, you are brave. Getting through every day can be sometimes difficult and that in itself is an act of bravery, to me.”
Kindness: “If you have experienced sexual assault, be kind to yourself, know it wasn’t your fault. I didn’t treat myself well for a long time – it took me a long time to take care of body and understand I deserve to be healthy and deserve love; I deserve things I had convinced myself I didn’t”.