Title IX Office tackles topic of consent in dating

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BYU Title IX Coordinator Tiffany Turley addresses consent and good dating practices with students in the Wilkinson Center Varsity Theater during an event focused on asking for consent in dating. (Aubry Black)

Just Ask. These two words were the focus of Tuesday night’s event hosted by the Title IX Office about consent and safe dating practices.

Title IX Office Coordinator Tiffany Turley spoke candidly to students about why and how to ask for consent in relationships. “We feel like if we can have conversations about consent, it will lessen the number of reports that come into our office,” Turley said.

Turley began her presentation by explaining the unreliability of body language.

She brought two volunteers to the front of the Wilkinson Center Varsity Theater and had them stand across the room from each other. After whispering a message into one of the volunteer’s ears, Turley had that person try to convey her message to the other person without using words. It was a game of charades, and the other volunteer did not guess the message.

This demonstration was used to show that in most cases, actions are not enough. Turley said the most reliable way to know what someone wants is to ask.

The next slides of the presentation displayed the different concerns students have with asking questions such as, “can I kiss you?” These concerns include it being too awkward or ruining the moment. Some people say that “it’s just a kiss,” not realizing everyone feels differently about a kiss.

Turley’s response to these concerns was the common sense rule of intimacy: “If you’re not comfortable talking about it, don’t do it,” she said. She used this rule to explain people should never do anything they would not be comfortable talking about with the person they are in a relationship with.

When asked who in the audience was married, more than a dozen students raised their hands and confirmed that consent should take place in marriage as well.

Turley said if someone is in a relationship and they ask for consent and the other person sometimes says no, it actually strengthens the relationship. This is because asking for consent shows the person respects their partner.

She then talked about the cultural norm for many at BYU, especially women, to just go “along with it” if a guy decides he wants to kiss.

A student in the audience shared an experience where she was kissed by a friend who did not ask for consent. She felt guilty afterward for not saying no and allowing it to happen.

“I feel like especially women, and me personally, have a hard time knowing about and making sure people ask me for consent,” graphic design student Melanie Morales said. “I feel like it’s really easy to feel like it’s weird or awkward to say no.”

The presentation also focused on a more serious topic: sexual assault and consent.

The corresponding slides outlined the real and severe impacts of sexual assault, including a loss of trust in individuals, PTSD, depression and thoughts of suicide.

Turley mentioned three places on campus students can turn to for help: the Title IX Office, BYU Counseling and Psychological Services and Sexual Assault Survivor Advocacy Services. Confidentiality is a key part of each office and no information is directly shared with the Honor Code Office, which was a concern of several audience members.

She took time at the end of the presentation to answer questions students had, many relating to how to help a friend who has experienced sexual assault.

Nefi Valdez, a cybersecurity major, was glad he attended the presentation. “I think it’s really an important issue that a lot of people need to learn about and it’s always good to refresh what you know and learn more,” he said, adding that it was cool to learn about resources on campus.

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