April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. As part of SAAM, Born This Way Foundation is posting a series of guest blogs from sexual assault survivors and awareness and prevention advocates. We want to ignite the conversation around sexual assault and end it. Today’s guest blog is an inspiring story from Jasmin Friedman-Enriquez, the founder of Only With Consent. Only With Consent is dedicated to stopping sexual violence through consent and health education.
Trigger Warning: This post contains descriptions of sexual assault. If you are in immediate danger, please call 911. Please call 800-656-4673 if you would like to speak with the National Sexual Assault Hotline or connect with their online hotline here.
When I was growing up nobody ever taught me about consent or sexual assault.
My parents talked to me about sex, and honestly they were pretty open about it. My mom even told me that it was okay if I had sex before marriage, as long as I felt ready and mature enough to do it.
I went to a private Catholic high school where sex was never talked about – and certainly not talked about as a regular and healthy part of life. I knew my classmates were having sex. If they weren’t going all the way, they were pretty close. But, as a whole, we never spoke about what it meant to want to get intimate with someone or how to do it in a way that respected our partner’s wishes or our own.
Halfway into my senior year of high school, a guy I was dating raped me at his grandmother’s house. He told me that if I told anyone about what happened he would ruin my reputation and I would get kicked out of school. His dad was a football coach. He was a football player. I was president of student government. I believed him.
He started telling people that we had sex and that I wanted it. At the time I didn’t know that a boyfriend could technically rape their partner because I thought rape only happened by a stranger. I knew what happened to me was wrong because I could feel it in my bones, but I didn’t know that it was rape.
When we talked about sex at home or at school we never talked about sexual assault or rape. The only information I knew about rape was what I learned watching the local news.
I didn’t know it wasn’t my fault.
I didn’t know I didn’t have to do it if I didn’t want to.
I didn’t know when I said no he was supposed to listen.
I didn’t know he raped me to take my power and control away from me.
I didn’t know I could report it to my school.
I didn’t know my school was supposed to help me if I needed it.
I didn’t know that I didn’t deserve what happened to me.
I didn’t know someone who said he cared about me could do something so traumatic.
I didn’t know how to cope with what happened.
I didn’t know how to look at myself in the mirror after what he did to me.
I didn’t know how to love myself after it happened.
I didn’t know.
Eight years later, I am doing everything in my power to make sure other people do know. I’ve dedicated my life to teaching people about consent, sexual assault, rape, communication, and supporting survivors through an organization I started called Only With Consent.
Every single person on this planet deserves to know that if they were assaulted, it wasn’t their fault. They deserve to know they have a choice of whether they want to participate in any intimate activity or not. They need to know that they must respect their partner’s decision to say “no” or “not now” or “not ever” – regardless of how badly they personally want to do it. They need to know that if they want to have sex or get intimate at all, it’s okay as long as they get consent, communicate openly, and respect themselves and their partner’s wishes along the way.
I’ve stood with survivors across the country, with President Obama and Vice President Biden at the launch of the It’s On Us campaign, and with Lady Gaga at the Academy awards to bring attention to sexual assault and rape. Will you take a stand against sexual assault and rape with us, too? Visit onlywithconsent.org to bring consent education to your community to make sure every person gets the education they need and deserve.