“I don’t think I’d want it to happen right now, it does not feel right”. He shrugged. “It’s fine, you will like it” he promised her. But, please I don’t want to!” she pleaded again as she tried to wriggle her hands off his. “I don’t think you understand what you want right now. You are drunk and I am going to bring you home okay” he pestered. She was starting to feel uncomfortable around her boyfriend, the one boy that was supposed to keep her safe that night. “Please don’t” she begged as he grabbed her by the waist and started unzipping her jeans. “Please!” she cried as she tried to fight him off. “Shut up” he ordered as he pushed her against the car seat, forcing himself on his drunk girlfriend while she cried and continued to beg him to let go of her.”
“No means no. It does not mean you have to try harder” – these were the words of Mdm. Vizla Kumaresan, clinical psychologist and lecturer at Monash University Malaysia during the talk titled “Yes Means Yes: The Importance of Consent Before Sex” that was held in conjunction with the YesMeansYes for Sexual Consent campaign that was organised by the Mental Health Ambasassadors of Monash University Malaysia. The campaign was a collective effort by all members to create awareness on the importance of receiving and giving consent before sex takes place– a component that has often been disregarded when it comes physical relationships especially between partners in a relationship. Held on the 12th April 2017 at the foyer of the university, the campaign was directed towards members of the university community regardless of gender, race and sexuality, all in the hope that in one way or another, they would be able to open the eyes of the community today on how important it is to consider consent as a huge part in engaging with someone, whether physically or emotionally. It was highly imperative that such an initiative was brought up because it cannot be denied that the idea of consent itself has been taken so lightly by people these days, often regarding it as something that is absolutely unnecessary especially in relationships where one assumes he or she is always going to be entitled to the other person’s body regardless if they want it or not. This is very damaging as it affects everyone though most of the time, women end up becoming the main victims. Consent is vital in every kind of relationship and its importance needs to be addressed and respected.
In the talk that was delivered by Mdm Vizla, she also emphasized that one should never assume everything is just a yes, even when “no” may not be the answer and while one may say “yes” to one thing, it does not function as an approval stamp for anything more because consent is an on-going process. For example, she may agree to kiss you, but she might not agree with you taking off her clothes while you kiss her. It is really quite simple. She also reiterated that it is always important to ask and to never assume things and if these things are taken lightly, such relationships could end up becoming abusive, both physically and mentally.
Purple ribbons were given out during the campaign as well – a symbolic of taking a stance against domestic violence, another issue that was addressed during the campaign. Miss Vaishna Santhar, training officer at the Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) was present to give a talk on “Recognising, Responding to and Referring Domestic Violence Cases” in where she highlighted the existence of WAO, a centre that helps and aid women who suffer from abuse, either from their spouses or siblings and function as a refuge centre for these women so that they would learn to pick themselves up again, get empowered and face the world with more courage and strength. It also houses children suffering from child abuse and constantly work governmental organisations as well as the police force to address such cases.
T-shirts as well as badges were on sale during the event as a part of the initiative to garner support. A march was also held before the start of the campaign where during each stop, brilliant performances were held by students, Sarah Ann and Jay Vee.
The campaign also had a few boards put up to gain feedback from students about what they would want from their romantic partners as well as statistics on domestic abuse that have taken place, like for example, did you know that on average, every 35 minutes, a girl or woman is assaulted in Malaysia? It is pretty terrifying to come to know of these numbers and still ignore the fact that domestic violence which is a lead up from the lack of ability to take “no” as an answer is very real and existent and needs to be addressed quickly before the number shoots up even more to the point where we might not even have control over our own bodies anymore. It was a great campaign with a great initiative and we do hope that more events like these do take place, especially when it concerns young people who may or may not be educated on such important issues like this one.
Article by Calvin Fernandez
Photos by Keith Fong and Tristan Chan