Boiled down, the language of the law underscores a few key things about sex and consent, despite whatever myths you may have come across about rape. It comes down to this:
A person not saying "no" doesn't mean s/he is saying "yes." They might, for instance, be too uncomfortable or scared to speak up. They might be figuring out how to get out of the room. They could be completely trashed and not know what's going on. They might be wondering what the hell is happening.
Silence does not equal consent. Silence can mean a million different things: fear, bewilderment, bad intentions, confusion, and so on. On either side of a sexual situation, pursuing or being pursued, you can't afford to assume you know what the other person is thinking.
If you hear "no", take it as a red light and don't dare run it. Some people buy into the mistaken idea that people say no just so they don't come off as "slutty" when they choose to be sexual.
What to do About It
If you think you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, please do one of the following:
- Seek counseling from a professional who knows something about sexual assault.
- Connect with the sexual assault crisis center or other student resources at your school.
- Talk to someone you trust about it.
- Call the Virginia Family Violence & Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-838-8238 (v/tty) to be connected to a sexual assault crisis center near you.
Sidebar for guys:
You probably know the kind of guy who never takes the hint, who probably wouldn't stop pursuing sex with a woman even if she clubbed him with a hammer. Some guys - even good-looking, popular guys who seem to get all the girls - can be purposeful, serial violators.
If you know of a guy like that and you want to do something, you can talk to him, a counselor or your local police department; you could be saving countless women from sexual assault. If you see a guy in action that you think might be trying to pressure a woman, find a way to intervene; it could make all the difference. Call the local sexual assault crisis center for more information on how you can help.