“NOT ASK­ING FOR IT” – A pretty face does NOT rep­re­sent con­sent

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By Faye Chantelle Mon­de­sir

On Septem­ber 22nd 2015, the Ir­ish Times pub­lished an ar­ti­cle about a cam­puswide cam­paign with the aim of high­light­ing the is­sue of sex­ual as­sault among stu­dents, to be launched by the UCD stu­dents’ union. Ac­cord­ing to the ar­ti­cle, the in­tent of the ‘Not Ask­ing For It’ cam­paign was ‘to of­fer stu­dents the op­por­tu­nity to de­scribe their ex­pe­ri­ences of sex­ual as­sault when con­sent was as­sumed but not given,’ a state­ment made by the union vice-pres­i­dent and grad­u­ate of­fi­cer Hazel Beat­tie.

The ar­ti­cle went on to quote Beat­tie say­ing that ‘in her ex­pe­ri­ence, con­sent is a prob­lem is­sue among the stu­dent pop­u­la­tion and that a mind­set of as­sumed con­sent, es­pe­cially when drink is in­volved, leads to sex­ual as­saults. Au­thor Louise O’Neill, whose lat­est novel ‘Ask­ing for It’ ad­dresses the af­ter­math of a rape in a closeknit Ir­ish com­mu­nity, launched the cam­paign on Oc­to­ber 8th, 2015.

Beat­tie’s cam­paign plan would in­volve three el­e­ments; The first be­ing fo­cus groups, where stu­dents would be in­vited to tell their sto­ries of sex­ual as­sault.

The in­tent was for the sto­ries to then be printed anony­mously on posters and stuck up around the cam­pus un­der the ban­ner head­ing, “Not Ask­ing For It”. The fi­nal part of the cam­paign was to in­volve a sur­vey in the se­cond se­mes­ter, which would at­tempt to record the num­ber of stu­dents who have been the vic­tims of sex­ual as­sault.

Last month’s mur­der of Ja­panese na­tional and steel pan player Asami Na­gakiya in Trinidad dur­ing car­ni­val stirred peo­ple from within the Caribbean and through­out the Di­as­pora. Since then a team of Caribbean and UK Na­tion­als have picked up the ‘Not Ask­ing For It’ ba­ton. Fiona Comp­ton has been the St. Lu­cian face for the UK birthed ini­tia­tive and the lo­cal and re­gional cam­paign leg kicked off this week in full ef­fect, with per­sons vol­un­tar­ily pass­ing on the mes­sage and rais­ing pub­lic aware­ness and con­scious­ness of the rights of women world­wide.

Na­gakiya’s un­timely and tragic death was placed within the pub­lic light due to the out­cry-seem­ingly fem­i­nist and morally dis­crim­i­na­tory re­marks made by then Port of Spain Mayor Kee. His state­ments al­luded that the Ja­panese vic­tim au­thored her own mis­for­tune due to her mode of dress, be­ing a car­ni­val cos­tume at the time of her mur­der.

‘Women have a re­spon­si­bil­ity to en­sure they are not abused dur­ing the Car­ni­val sea­son. It’s a mat­ter of, if she was still in her cos­tume - I think that’s what I heard - let your imag­i­na­tion roll”, was the state­ment which ini­ti­ated sheer out­rage world­wide among women world­wide. The mayor then re­signed due to pub­lic out­cry over his com­ments.

The group be­lieves that while com­ments like this and oth­ers may have trig­gered the dis­gust and dis­ap­proval of many, that the Mayor him­self is not the is­sue. They be­lieve that Mayor Tim Kee res­onated the sen­ti­ments of many men and women Caribbean-wide and around the world, which seem to sug­gest that if a woman car­ries her­self in a cer­tain man­ner, that she is invit­ing rape or even death by mak­ing her­self tar­get to such fem­i­nist abuses.

Though the in­ten­sity of the flames has since sub­sided, vic­tim-blam­ing re­mains an is­sue through­out the masses. For this rea­son the team has launched the “NOT ASK­ING FOR IT “cam­paign within the Caribbean and by ex­ten­sion Saint Lu­cia.

The drive con­sists of ef­fec­tive medi­ums such as a se­ries of var­ied me­dia rang­ing from videos and mu­sic pieces, to photo di­aries and TeeShirts, which all en­deav­our to erad­i­cate the vic­tim-blam­ing cul­ture. An­other aim of the drive is to put into per­spec­tive ‘be­ing re­spon­si­ble for one’s self’, ver­sus ‘be­ing at fault if one is at­tacked. ‘

Ac­cord­ing to ac­tivists, theirs is not a cam­paign to en­cour­age ir­re­spon­si­ble be­hav­iour, but rather a move­ment to end the stigma which un­for­tu­nately states that a woman may in some form en­cour­age the un­ac­cept­able be­hav­iour of vi­o­lence in­flicted upon her.

Saint Lu­cians have joined an in­ter­na­tional cam­paign against sex­ual as­sault and rape.

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