April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and this year's theme is "I Ask" because 'asking for consent is a healthy, normal, and necessary part of everyday interactions' according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. While sexual assault and harassment are major issues we are still working hard to prevent, I love this year's theme because it challenges every single person to intentionally ask for consent, every single time.
Growing up, we are conditioned to allow cordial access to our space and bodies as a sign of respect or kindness. C'mon, I can't be the only one who was told as a kid to give everyone a hug when arriving or departing a location like family gatherings, church, or holiday celebrations! Any sign of refusal was met with a threat only a kid would be frightened by but that stigma follows us as we get older. Now, as an adult, I feel compelled to hug people who extend their well-intended arms towards me, for fear of being labeled angry, standoffish, rude, unprofessional, or stuck up. Don't get me wrong, I love people! I believe most of the people who want to exchange hugs are well meaning and want to express their affection, appreciation, or respect. But, that's not the point of this article.
It wasn't until I began working with a client, where everyday, ordinary consent was a normal part of their culture that I realized that it's acceptable to not want a hug. I learned that whether or not I wanted to receive a hug was 100% dependent on how I was feeling at that time. In fact, it was with this client that I learned that saying 'No' to a hug wouldn't result in being labeled angry, standoffish, rude, unprofessional, or stuck up. For me, that was huge! It was in working with this client that I learned a lesson that has changed what consent means to me.
I have always belie