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Romeo Jackson believes the best way to teach young people about consent and sexual violence is to put the concepts in a context they can understand.
For example, they need to understand how consent might be sought and given in a crowded club when both people are drunk, said Jackson, a graduate student in the University of Utah's Department of Educational Leadership and Policy.
"I think we need to then fit our conversations into what students are actually doing and experiencing in their lives so it's not a metaphor or an abstract thought," Jackson said.
Those conversations need to be happening, Jackson said Monday at a Hinckley Institute of Politics panel on rape. The panel kicked off the U.'s Women's Week, which this year is aimed at examining the normalization of rape in society and how people can disrupt that.
Educating young people even before college as a means to prevent sexual violence was a topic discussed by the four panelists Monday but they said what that education looks like is important. Instead of asking youth if they know what consent is, educators and advocates should be asking them how they get consent and how they learned to get it, said Stephany Murguia, the Rape Recovery Center's outreach and access coordinator.
"It gets you to thinking we're all socialized to not get consent; we get it in shady ways because we're too shy or we're at the club," Murguia said.
Additionally, comprehensive sex education should be part of that conversation, panelists said, as should a discussion about how to read nonverbal cues indicating someone does not want to have sex.
"We need to be teaching [youth] about consent and then expanding that to teaching the whole culture about how to respond to sexual assault," said Julie Valentine, a Brigham Young University College of Nursing assistant professor.
But panelists Monday highlighted a number of barriers to transforming the way sexual violence is addressed and how systems respond.
For example, Jackson noted that many women have a negative experience reporting to police especially if they are women of color and pushing someone to report the assault isn't always the best approach.
"People push people into reporting crimes because we think we'll know more about something existing but that won't happen; we know it's rampant," Jackson said, adding that there needs to be better way to meet different communities' needs.
One of the biggest barriers, however, is that so many people don't understand what the aftermath of rape feels like, said Rachel Alicia Griffin, a U. Department of Communication assistant professor.
Society already has scripted, compassionate responses for the death of a parent, she said, or someone's car being stolen.
But there isn't one for rape, she added.
University of Utah Women's Week events
Tuesday • 4-7 p.m., Social Work Building, Okazaki Community Room (Room 155-A). There will be a screening of "Private Violence," followed by a presentation by the filmmaker and a panel discussion.
Wednesday • 12:30-1:30 p.m., Olpin Student Union Building, Saltair Room. Writer and activist Staceyann Chin will deliver a poetry and spoken-word performance.
Thursday • Noon-1 p.m., Olpin Student Union Building, East Ballroom. Chin will host a workshop about how she counters the narrative of violence against women.