Just yesterday a student at Warwick University, in a blog post for the student newspaper and online website argued that he didn't need consent lessons. For those unfamiliar with the story, George tried to argue that he didn't need sex education at University because he knew enough about it already he argued and found the prospect of I heart Consent sessions offensive. There are many, many issues with his article including amongst other things his stance that Russell Group University students should know better. However the photo to accompany the article is perhaps the most concerning part of his argument. The photo is of himself holding a piece of paper that simply read: "This is not what a rapist looks like". So tell me George: what exactly do you think a rapist looks like?
Rapists don't come with a standard set of characteristics whether personal characteristics or physical attributes. There is no particular equation or formula to working out a rapist's background nor is there any evidence to suggest that any particular personal trait makes you any likelier to be a rapist. Rebecca Reid summed it up best in her article for the Telegraph earlier today (15/10/15) when she wrote: "Rapists are not a type. Rapists are not like pirates. They don't dress a certain way or have a modus operandi. There are of course a very small subsection of criminals, like serial killers, who are serial rapists. But they do not make up the majority of rapes."
In summary, a rapist is neither black nor white or any other colour, religion or heritage in particular. A rapist is neither male nor female nor any other gender specifically. A rapist isn't always poor or rich beyond measure: they could be from every form of profession imaginable from blue collar to white collar to unemployed. 80% aren't strangers in dark alleyways - they are someone you know personally. Stood on a line a rapist could never be singled out due to their looks, characteristics, background or job. They are singled out by the choice they made, a turning point in their lives where they decide to cause harm on another, ignoring the others right to consent. And choices unlike physical attributes aren't something you can see in a picture.
In life every crime is some form of a theft: theft of life, property, liberty, innocence or land. This is best explained in the book The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini: "There is only one sin, only one. And that is theft. Every other sin is a variation of theft... When you kill a man, you steal a life. You steal his wife's right to a husband, rob his children of a father. When you tell a lie, you steal someone's right to the truth. When you cheat, you steal the right to fairness." In a rape the survivor loses their sense of security and safety, they are deprived of things most of us would take for granted.
So please take heart dear George. Consent sessions aren't designed to belittle you or presuppose that you have ever had any intention of carrying out such an awful act. They are designed and implemented to empower you and give you autonomy over relationships (and not just intimate ones) for the rest of your life. Consent sessions aren't just there to help support women: they are there for everyone and I can't stress this enough. Because ultimately there is no guarantee in school that you will be taught about consent, the legal definition of rape or the traits of domestic violence. Very few are given the right information to know who to contact should they need help. Consent sessions should you want to take part in them are a chance to learn, grow and develop. The harsh reality is that PSHE School education is a lottery, and there are very few winners.