On Wednesday, Nov. 2, The Salt Lake Tribune hosted the event, Confronting Rape Culture: A Conversation About Consent. Five panelists; including Jessica Luther, Nunia Pena, Cara Tangoro, Saeed Shihab and Kiman Kaur came together to discuss the meaning of consent and improvements colleges can make when handling rape cases.
“The evolution of consent has been something that we’re witnessing within the movement of anti-sexual violence,” says attorney Nubia Pena. “We’re pushing, we’re demanding for consent to be something at the forefront of our conversations — that women be empowered and that when they say no, they mean no. Not like the Robin Thicke song, “Blurred Lines.” Not this pop culture idea of when a woman says no, she means yes.”
The panelists had different inputs on consent, but they all agreed that yes means yes and no means no. If a person is coerced into having sex, that is not consent, according to the panelists. They stressed that people should be asking each other for permission before engaging in sex, and that there should be boundaries set.
“In all the relationships we have, we are setting boundaries all the time and asking the other person in that relationship to respect them,”said journalist Luther.
Luther and fellow panelists say these boundaries should be taught at a young age, and that the public school system should do more to educate children about consent. According to the panel, many freshman coming into college don’t know or understand what consent means.
They also discussed Title IX, which is in short, a student’s civil rights in a tax-funded educational institution, and that colleges are not doing enough to protect these rights. Many rape cases that are reported at colleges often go without much action, according to the panel.
The Salt Lake Tribune has been covering sexual assault cases at colleges throughout Utah this past year, where many of the reported cases were improperly handled. Several students that reported rape at BYU were expelled for breaking the honor code. According to U student, Kiman Kaur, the U has work to do when it comes to educating about consent.
“I can say that the University of Utah needs a makeover on how we talk about consent,” Kaur said. “Most rape happens to people who know us. We need to talk about what’s happening and affecting our students here.”
Cara Tangoro is a defense attorney who brought another side of rape to the discussion. Throughout her years defending sex offenders, she realizes the criminal justice system is flawed. The innocent need to be protected as well as the victims, and that law enforcement must remain neutral.
“There are rules in the criminal justice system. In my opinion, law enforcement’s job is to be a neutral third party who is investigating, and they have to investigate the good, the bad, and the ugly—on both sides,” Tangoro said.
After the panel discussion, members of the audience were able to ask questions. The overall conclusion of the panel was that education is a key factor in understanding consent and that more should be done at the college level to create awareness of consent.