OhioHealth Medical Minute: What is Consent?
When many of us hear the word "consent" we think about sexual contact or legal definitions. But consent, which is a voluntary, informed "yes" can be applied to everyday experiences and make them better.
One example from Eliza Sabo, program coordinator for the OhioHealth Sexual Assault Response Network of Central Ohio (SARNCO), is to think about your emotional bandwith.
Eliza shared the story of a friend asking her if she had the emotional bandwith to listen to her rant and decompress about a bad day. Eliza noticed that even though they've known each other for decades, her friend still asked - she didn't assume. And Eliza said that even though her voluntary, informed answer has been yes 99.8 percent of the time, she knows she can say no or offer other alternatives if she doesn't have the capacity that day, protecting both her time and her mental health.
"In anti-violence prevention work we use an expanded definition for consent as it relates to intimate interactions and relationships, but consent is also a key communication factor with family, friends, colleagues, community members and patients," said Eliza. "Consent is what I like to call an 'empowered choice' – each person gets to have an active role in the decisions, big and small, that have an impact on their life. It can be a healthy part of a variety of human interactions."
Eliza shared some example of how people can actively incorporate consent into their daily lives, which offers more choice to others as you interact with them:
- A good place to start is with awareness. What if this week, you became more aware of the different ways we hear and experience consent?
- What if you thought about how you felt when you gave consent and how you felt when you wanted someone to ask you what you wanted and they didn’t?
- Situations when you hear or say the words yes and no.
- Situations where you would have preferred to have been asked for consent or provided with anticipatory guidance.
- Situations where you might have asked for consent from someone else.