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There’s no room for guesswork when it comes to sexual consent

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There’s no room for guesswork when it comes to sexual consent

Sexual consent is mutual. It’s explicit. Retractable. Specific. Independent. Informed.

Kenon Brinkley resigned as student body president last week amidst accusations that he sexually assaulted multiple women — women who stood and delivered emotional accounts of alleged interactions in which Brinkley violated the terms of their consent.

In all of these women’s stories, they gave consent for a specific sexual encounter. That consent was retracted the second their pre-discussed expectations were breached.

The second the condom was removed without her knowledge.

The second she asked to stop and was ignored.

Maia Cuellar was the first woman to come forward with her story. Cuellar said she will not pursue legal action against Brinkley, and although legal definitions are murky, Cuellar is steadfast in describing her encounter as a rape.

Some students and Wichitans have said Cuellar’s use of the word “rape” is stretching the truth — making a bad sexual experience into more than it was. By doing that, they are defining the experience Cuellar allegedly had, based on their own assumptions and beliefs.

We are not the judge and jury of someone’s personal experience. Sexual assault is not something black and white, regardless of the public’s “I believe her” or “I don’t believe her” inclination to rush to judgment.

“Why now?” some have asked. “Why not contact the police?”

Again, it’s not a black and white issue. There could be any number of reasons someone may not immediately report an assault, or want to pursue it legally — often, because they’ll be met with disbelief, called a “whore” or “slut,” or because it will immediately change people’s perception of them.

Sexual assault does not have to be reported for it to be “real.”

The most intimate details of these women’s personal lives have been irreversibly placed in the public domain.

Some say Brinkley’s accusers have destroyed the reputation and future of a smart, involved young man who put himself on the front lines of fighting for social justice. They say, barring legal action, that this issue has no place in the court of public opinion.

But when Brinkley won the student body presidency, he became a public figure. When he assumed that role, his actions and mistakes were put under the microscope.

Student leaders are elected to be advocates. The student body president is supposed to be someone you can confide in. Someone you can trust.

These women’s claims have not been verified. We do not know Brinkley’s side of the story. But he resigned almost immediately after the allegations came out, and has yet to say anything else publicly.

Cuellar is just one of at least 13 women who say Brinkley abused them in the past, Cuellar said. She and two others, Jozie Caudillo and Emily Raine, spoke to a crowded room during Wednesday’s Student Senate meeting. They told their stories of abuse and put their sexual histories out there for everyone to see.

As the Wichita State community comes to terms with the events of last week, it’s imperative that we take the guesswork out of consent.  

Consent is a mutual, explicit, specific, independent, and informed decision made by adults embarking on a sexual encounter. And yes, it can be retracted.

Source for terms of sexual consent: Wichita State Community Psychology Association

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